Kwaku Kushindana wants readers to believe that he is taking the high road in his decision not to vote despite being a "political junkie" [Outlook, Oct. 3]. Yet his non-vote is not a principled stand on the political process but rather a petulant whine that politicians are pandering to interests other than his.

The Democrats, he complains, do not put a "high priority" on the concerns of black voters, while the Republicans are an even worse choice because of their "neglect of black issues." Yet even assuming that all black voters have the same concerns, Kushindana's complaint is not a high-minded statement on the process but instead a run-of-the-mill criticism over how the pot of government goodies gets divided. His stand is no different from the stands of the interest groups he complains are corrupting the process.

There is a case to be made for not voting, but it is a different case than Kushindana's. One could, for example, conclude that because neither major party exhibits fiscal discipline, neither is worth voting for. Or that the continued intrusion of the federal government into the lives of its citizens is a bipartisan effort, and thus one's vote for either party is wasted.

But to assert, as Kushindana does, that both parties are unworthy of his vote because of their neglect of his own narrow interests is the height of hypocrisy. Kushindana says he'll be glad when the election is over, and we'll have "the best political leader that money can buy." Too bad politicians didn't realize that Kushindana's vote was up for bid.

-- Eric Winig

Montgomery Village


Kwaku Kushindana could not be more wrong in his characterization of the role of electoral politics in modern African American thought. Reliance on electoral politics isn't a creation of 1960s black political elites. Rather, it has been a favorite engine of progress for more than a century.

During Reconstruction, blacks braved white terror to cast votes and elect candidates. The NAACP's formation in 1909 gave new strength to winning back the franchise and gaining political power. And throughout the 1960s, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) made voting a mechanism of change and pursued the right to vote and to participate in politics.

At its founding conference in April 1960, an SNCC member noted: "Now we can show we understand the political implications of our movement -- that it goes far beyond lunch counters. We are convinced of the necessity of all local areas joining in the campaign to secure the right to vote. No right is more basic to the American citizen, none more basic to a democracy."

The SNCC encouraged black congressional candidates in Mississippi; Albany, Ga.; Selma, Ala.; Danville, Va.; and Enfield, N.C., and aided school board candidates in Arkansas. In 1965 the SNCC helped form two political parties, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the Lowndes County Freedom Organization in Alabama.

No one can read about that powerful political legacy and declare that casting a vote is an "unthinking mantra," or that exercises in social service can ever substitute for aggressively pursuing social justice.

-- Julian Bond


The writer is chairman of the NAACP.