Earth to Democrats: Black votes count!

I began this piece the other day and should have posted it then. I’m late to the party. I was responding to a commenter who wrote:

It’s really sad how much the talk circles around race.

It’s a constant reminder how far we haven’t come.

Even though I knew that to be true, this campaign is just a daily reminder.

The comment was in response to me quoting Thomas Schaller. The irony is that much as I liked what Schaller had to say the other day I’m highly ambivalent about him. I’ve been railing against his Whistling Past Dixie plea for Democrats to abandon the South and turn Southern racism into a (p.18) “burdensome stone to hang around the Republicans’ neck” for a very long time.

Democrats are too quick to hang that racist label on Republicans, and tactical ideas like Schaller’s miss the point don’t they? Back when Schaller wrote his book I was advocating that we should instead address our own racist past as highlighted by Republican Bruce Bartlett in, Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past, and redouble our efforts to fight racism whenever and wherever we find it.

You’ve got to wonder if Hillary’s not getting away with her nonsense now — party bigwigs, where are you? — because of our own record of putting strategy before substance! (Speaking of which, I can only hope Ms. Genardo is wrong about John Edwards not endorsing because he’s holding out for a Cabinet position.)

Now I’m no expert on demographic shifts and voting patterns but these days events seem to be taking on a life of their own. And I’m left wondering if, hoping even, that with Blacks having moved back to the South, this religious, rural, evangelized, conservative Southern region that flipped from Democrat to Republican might surprise everybody and just as quickly flip right back.

Voter stats from the Georgia primary in February show an unprecedented surge of black and young Democratic voters:

— Democrats cast nearly 53 percent of the 2,007,544 ballots counted on Feb. 5.

— Within the Democratic primary, African-Americans cast 55 percent of the vote. This is the first time that’s happened. White voters made up just a tad less than 40 percent of the Democratic vote.

— White voters made up 96 percent of the Republican presidential primary vote.

— African-Americans cast 30 percent of all votes on Feb. 5. In November 2006, with gubernatorial candidate Mark Taylor at the top of the Democratic ticket, black voters cast only 24 percent of all ballots. This is the number causing Republicans to lose sleep.

— In addition to juicing turnout among black voters, the Feb. 5 primary showed signs of a shift in party preference among the state’s youngest voters. You read above that Democratic voters accounted for 53 percent of all ballots.

But 61 percent of voters 24 and under picked up a Democratic ballot.

— Young voters are notoriously unreliable, but young African-American voters — 24 and under — had a voter turnout rate of 26 percent. That’s remarkably strong. Turnout among young white voters was 22 percent — again, not too shabby.

Josh Goodman at Governing Magazine casts a skeptical eye on whether blacks could ever be enough to push Georgia over to Obama in the general election, but still finds their impact could be considerable:

It seems unlikely that solid red states will suddenly become swing states solely on the basis of more African-Americans showing up at the polls.

But, even if Obama doesn’t win these states, the implications of increased black turnout for down-ballot races could still be significant. Plus, many swing states do have substantial African-American populations, including Virginia (19.6%), Florida (15.4%), Michigan (14.1%), Ohio (11.8%), Missouri (11.3%) and Pennsylvania (10.4%).

He says the all-but-announced Libertarian presidential candidate, former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, is well known here so would pull disproportionately from Republicans. Still, writing two weeks ago, Goodman didn’t give Obama a shot. (At least one commenter disagrees with his numbers.)

Me, I’m new to the TMV stable of bloggerss, so readers here would not know that I had been a long-time Hillary supporter. Years! My switch was slow and painful and came only after Rep. John Lewis switched. In the senate she worked effectively as a uniter, not a divider. So I’m sad, terribly sad, to see what’s come of her and that she is loosing has lost my support. But she has.

Let the change begin.

  • runasim

    There is a theme in Black Liberation Theology, which was lost amid the flap over Rev. Wright, , which I Ibelieve to be true. It’s the propossition that in order to reach reconciliation, we all need to deal honestly and openly with the past,
    (It seems to me quite similar to the cleansing role of confession in the Catholic Church, so I don’t quite understand the fierce opposition to this idea.)

    So it is with the history of the Parties and so it is with the hisrory of the US.

    I’m not at all clear about how changing demographics will affect party fortunes or politics. Population movements have so many different causes. The availability of jobs shifts from region to region, for one thing. Currently, the job market is shifitng to the South, but to predict or understand long term trajectories takes more expertise than what I have.

  • superdestroyer

    A better question is what is going to happen after the Republican Party collapses and there is only one political party. Will the Democrats be as tolerate of ethnocentric black politicians and leaders when black votes are no longer needed to beat the Republicans. Will there be a white blacklash when elite white progressive realize that blacks will not vote for them if there is a black candidate on the ballot Will majority-minority district be as important if there is only one relevant political party.

  • JWindish

    SD, you seem convinced that we will wind up with only one party. If the Republicans collapse, and I’m not sure they will, don’t you think another party will rise up to take their place?

  • superdestroyer


    Has another party formed to replace the lack of Republicans in cities like Chicago, Detroit, Mass, or Baltimore? A white progressive party would be as unable to attract black or Hispanic votes as the Republicans current are.