(Part of) The Reason Why Blacks Vote Democratic

In 1972 Richard Nixon won 18 percent of the black vote, according to New York Times exit polling.

In 2008, John McCain won 4 percent of the black vote.

The conventional explanation for this has something to do with civil rights and Democrats and the “Southern strategy” followed by Republicans. And, to a large extent, the explanation is probably right.

But part of the reason African-Americans have been trending Democratic recently has as much to do with chance as with fundamental political shifts.

Democrats have had the good fortune of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The two most influential, recognized Democrats of the past two generations are incredibly popular amongst blacks. Bill Clinton was so well-regarded by African-Americans that Toni Morrison called him “the first black president”. Today Barack Obama is even more popular amongst blacks than Clinton (the fact that he actually is “the first black president” might have something to do with this).

Republicans haven’t had such luck. No Republican presidents have been relatively popular amongst blacks since Eisenhower’s time. And even he lost the black vote by a 3:2 margin.

Imagine if Republicans nominated Colin Powell in 1996. He might have cracked the black vote and won 25%; that was how well Michael Steele ran in his 2006 Senate campaign. Or he might have utterly broken the alliance between blacks and Democrats and taken more than 90% of the black vote.

That would have changed politics forever. But as luck would have it, the exact opposite happened. Barack Obama, not Colin Powell, was nominated by the Democrats and elected president. Today it looks like Democrats have locked up the black vote for another generation.

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This entry was posted in Barack Obama, Clintons, Election Analysis, Race and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to (Part of) The Reason Why Blacks Vote Democratic

  1. EC says:

    Blacks vote Democratic because they are liberal on economic and social issues (except on gay marriage). Coming largely from poverty, they understand deeply the importance of economic justice, and having been an oppressed minority, they understand more than anyone else (maybe with the exception of Jews, who are also a historically brutally oppressed group) the importance of equal rights. Black churches, more than any other churches, focus on the concepts of justice, social liberation, and equal rights.

    So the reason for blacks being Democrats has little to do with personality. It’s about needs, and at least as importantly, their liberal values. Even when black Republicans run against white Democrats, they almost never get more than 25% of the black vote (just as you mentioned with your Michael Steele example). I don’t see how Colin Powell could even remotely have gotten anywhere near 90% of the black vote, let alone 35%.

  2. EC says:

    Blacks vote Democratic because they’re liberal on economic and social issues (other than gay rights). It’s not because of any specific person. Generally coming from poverty, they understand the importance of economic justice, and as a historically oppressed minority, they understand more than anyone else the need for equal rights. That’s why even in a race where the Republican is black and the Democrat is white (like Maryland 2006), the black Republican will get no more than 30% of the black vote (Steele got 25%).

    So I disagree with you on your contention that Powell could possibly have gotten 90% of the black vote. Most blacks simply would not identify with him on much ideologically.

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