Politics & Media
Sep 02, 2016, 09:57AM

Democrats Haven't Tricked Black Voters

There's just no way they can vote Republican.

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"To win, the Republican Party needs to appeal to all segments of the electorate," Dick Morris and Eileen McGann write in their screed Armageddon: How Trump Can Beat Hillary. You'd think they elaborate on how Trump could improve his numbers with women, or Hispanic voters, or how he could appeal to… well, all segments of the electorate, like they said. But instead, they insist, "The process has to start with an answer to the question: How do we get white turnout back up?" Then they natter on about white voters for a while.

Morris is a notorious tool, but he's a symptomatic tool. For the Republican Party, "all segments of the electorate" is the same as "white voters." From Ronald Reagan's racist, sexist fantasy of welfare queens, through George H.W. Bush and Willie Horton, on to Tea Party birtherism and Trump's vicious fantasy of hurting immigrants this week, the GOP has defined itself—not exclusively, but importantly—as a party of white identity. People of color are invaders and despoilers of the one true United States; they are takers, not makers, sucking righteous America dry. The GOP has, for decades, appealed to voter's white identity. Trump’s amplified that strategy, but he didn't invent it.

You wouldn't know that the GOP was a white identity party from Crispin Sartwell's recent piece at Splice Today. Instead, Sartwell argues that white liberals are generally racist—which is certainly true. He also argues that the Democratic Party frequently takes black voters for granted—which is also true. "The entrapment of black voters in the Democratic party has been a disaster," he concludes. But how exactly did that "entrapment" come about?

Black voters weren't fooled into joining the Democratic Party; Lyndon Johnson didn't hypnotize them. The reason black people vote for the Democrats in large numbers is straightforward. The Democrats frequently fail to address black issues, and local officials like Rahm Emanuel in Chicago consistently support a racist police system, but Democrats also ask for black people's votes. They want to expand the social safety net, which disproportionately helps black people, because generations of racism has left black people on the whole poorer than whites. Democrats want to raise the minimum wage, which disproportionately helps black people. Democrats don't try to throw blacks off the voting rolls, the way Republicans have done in recent years. For all of these reasons, black people consistently do better economically under Democratic administrations.

This doesn't mean the Democratic Party is good or not racist. On the contrary, it’s quite racist, and has shown little real inclination to deal with the issue of police violence or mass incarceration. But, nonetheless, when black people vote for the Democrats, they're making a rational choice between a party that occasionally tries to address their concerns, and a party that demonizes and stereotypes them, and is ideologically organized around treating them as subhuman outsiders.

Sartwell suggests that the problem is the two-party system. But there's no reason a third party wouldn't also be racist—or even more racist, given fringe parties in Europe. And if black voters decided as one to vote Green, all they'd do is ensure Democratic losses and install a permanent Republican majority. That's how a winner-take-all system works. Black voters who realize that haven't been tricked. They're simply using their votes as wisely as they can, given bad options.

The dedication of black people to the Democrats undermines efforts to change the GOP, Sartwell argues; he points to Rand Paul, who’s talked about incarceration a bit. The assumption that black voters should flock to the Republicans because one Senator has made vague gestures in their direction is presumptuous. But overall, the truth is, when Republicans are less racist, they do better with voters of color. George W. Bush, who pushed for immigration reform, and whose compassionate conservatism was at least rhetorically more friendly to marginalized people, won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. He won nine percent of black voters—which isn’t good, but looks great compared to Trump. It should shock no one that the most openly racist presidential candidate in modern history is doing unprecedentedly poorly with black voters. Black voters and voters of color do not mindlessly vote Democratic. They vote by making calculated and generally rational judgments about which candidate, and which party, hates them the most.

"The fact that black voters have voted over 90 percent Democratic for decades leaves them almost wholly without power," Sartwell insists. That's completely backwards. Black voters have limited power because they live in a racist country. Faced with two racist parties, black voters make the best of a bad deal, and vote for the person who is not screaming fascist gibberish and flirting with the KKK. For white people, whether progressive or conservative, that can be an uncomfortable thought.

  • So true! Additionally, the Washington Post has a long piece today on the North Carolina election law that recently got struck down. The GOP wrote that law and had one purpose in mind: to keep blacks from voting.

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  • Key sentence from WashPost: "Key sentence: "A review of these documents shows that North Carolina GOP leaders launched a meticulous and coordinated effort to deter black voters, who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats. The law, created and passed entirely by white legislators, evoked the state’s ugly history of blocking African Americans from voting"

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  • Fortunately, I'm white. So I had a picture ID when I went to buy an allergy medicine. Too bad about blacks, can't buy smokes, use EBT, get cold medicines, buy liquor. This is all nonsense, you know. Everybody knows it's all nonsense. South Caroline offered free rides to people who needed to go someplace and get an ID. Something like twenty-three people asked for the help. The real thing is to allow mulitple votes by dead democrats. We get that. Don't, whatever you say, forget it. We get that.

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  • Right, not Republican. But I want to register once again that American white leftism has not in fact ameliorated the race problem. And I want to say: if black people want any political power, they are going to have to develop alternatives to the Democratic party. And they desperately need to. And the Civil Rights movement got coopted by the white power structure.

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  • So, again, Crispin, I think this is not a very insightful or helpful way to discuss this issue.// Third parties are a chimera as a solution. Third parties, as I say in the piece, could easily also be racist...and moreover, voting third party in a winner take all system gives the advantage to the other side, which in this case means a white identity party.// Progressivism in the U.S. has been importantly multi-racial, and the democratic party is in fact multi-racial. That doesn't mean it's not racist (it is racist) but black people can, and have, influenced it in important ways.//Again, the problem is not the Democratic party, or the Republican party, or the two party system. The problem is racism (exemplified in this thread by Richard.) Addressing that is really hard and intractable, but I don't think it's made easier or better by misidentifying the problem.

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  • So, Noah. With the exception of showing the voter ID issue is bogus, what did I say that's racist? Or is just disagreeing with you that causes you to come out with your only answer?

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  • what i would say is that if folks keep doing what they've done, they'll keep getting what they've gotten. race, i predict, will look about the same in fifty years in the us. i think it actually looks about the same as 50 years ago. i actually think you're down with that.

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  • I may already have said this to Noah, but he's asked for it again: In '67 and '68 I went to Mississippi to do civil rights work when people who talked like Noah were pissing themselves at the thought of going south of Cincinnati. A person of absolutely no talent, distinction or accomplishment can still not be a racist. It's easy. It's so easy anybody can do it and a lot of people do. In fact, so many people do it that there's no distinction in it. So people like Noah have to accuse the maximum number of their fellow citizens of racism in order to think of themselves as an anointed small minority of righteous. It's okay, Noah. Everybody sees it. The accusation of racism is the only thing the left has to opposes those who are concerned about voter fraud, which the left needs. You know, urban precincts turning out 110% of registered voters. Anyway, Noah, you're busted. Have been for years. And, in fact, I'm probably not the first person to tell you.

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  • Richard, you come into thread after thread to defend racism and racists. I'm sure you have other good qualities, and may have done good work in the past. But at the moment, on this site, in comments over and over again, you align yourself with white supremacists. if, as appears to be the case, accusations of racism make you uncomfortable and upset, there is a simple remedy: stop spouting racist horseshit. Then people won't get the impression that you support racist horseshit.

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  • Crispin, I think race is a really intractable problem. I think that black activists and struggle have changed things in many ways, though not enough. One thing that has unfortunately remained pretty consistent over time is white progressives condescendingly telling black people to adopt tactics that are more congenial to the progressives—whether that means supporting Democrats, or supporting some other party, as the case may be.

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