Byron York: Blacks Are Skewing Obama’s Poll Numbers

Black Americans are not a legitimate demographic in Byron York’s view:

On his 100th day in office, Barack Obama enjoys high job approval ratings, no matter what poll you consult. But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are.

Asked whether their opinion of the president is favorable or unfavorable, 49 percent of whites in the Times poll say they have a favorable opinion of Obama. Among blacks the number is 80 percent. Twenty-one percent of whites say their view of the president is unfavorable, while the number of blacks with unfavorable opinions of Obama is too small to measure.

Those opinion differences are clear in the traditional “right track-wrong track” question, a key indicator of the public’s mood. Thirty-four percent of whites say the country is headed in the right direction, while 56 percent believe it is “seriously off track.” For black Americans, 70 percent say the country is headed in the right direction, with just 23 percent saying it is off track. (According to the U.S. Census, blacks make up about 13 percent of the population, while whites make up about 80 percent. The Times poll divided respondents into black and white, with no other groups reported.)

He goes on and on like that. What he does not tell us is why African Americans’ overwhelming support for Obama mean his overall high approval numbers can’t be taken seriously.

Steve Benen’s scorching response is worth quoting in full:

‘ACTUALLY’…. I’ve read quite a few columns from Byron York over the years, first during his tenure at the National Review, and more recently as the chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner. I’ve seen plenty of commentary I strongly disagree with, but none has offended me quite as much as his latest column.

On his 100th day in office, Barack Obama enjoys high job approval ratings, no matter what poll you consult. But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are. [emphasis added]

For crying out loud, what the hell does that mean, exactly? I read the rest of the piece, hoping to see York explain why the president’s seemingly popular positions are exaggerated or inflated. Why, in other words, these positions “appear” more popular “than they actually are.”

But all the piece tells me is that African Americans tend to support Obama in greater numbers than white Americans.

The problem, of course, is that damn phrase “than they actually are.” York argues that we can see polls gauging public opinion, but if we want to really understand the popularity of the president’s positions, and not be fooled by “appearances,” then we have to exclude black people.

There’s really no other credible way to read this. York effectively argues that black people shouldn’t count. We can look at polls measuring the attitudes of Americans, but if we want to see the truth — appreciate the numbers as “they actually are” — then it’s best if we focus our attention on white people, and only white people.

Adam Serwer added, “This is another example of a really bizarre genre of conservative writing, which I call ‘If Only Those People Weren’t Here.’”

This is unacceptable.

More reaction at Memeorandum.

Author: KATHY KATTENBURG

64 Comments

  1. Then perhaps Byron York should dismiss the Republicans' views on Obama as skewing Obama's popularity too far the other way.

    Then what about women? Do more women than men support Obama? If so, then the women's votes skew the results because there are more women in the US than men.

    Besides I thought a black vote counted just as much as a white vote. Or does Byron York believe that a black only has a 1/6 vote? Though that might make sense. With all the crises that Obama is facing in these troubled times I wish we had six Obamas as president. :) Or perhaps three Obamas since Obama is half white. :)

  2. Don't you know that the only “Real Americans” are Americans who can trace their ancestry to the British Isles or Germany. All other Americans aren't real Americans, they are just guest who overstayed their welcome or work visa as the case may be.

    If you doubt me, just ask SuperDestroyer.

  3. DQ, I guess I'm a real American!

  4. George W Bush's had infamously low approval ratings. I wonder how much lower they would have been if evangelical Christians had been disqualified from expressing approval?

  5. Of course the paraphrasing used here of York's point is not what he said.

    In a statistical analysis, one would always question the outliers and consider that there may be something affecting a number that varies that much. If a drug trial showed one segment of the participants having 100% response to the drug while all of the rest of the participants responded at 60%, it would be logical to consider what factors in that one group caused the numbers to be so high.

    There are obvious reasons for blacks to support Obama and have a positive opinion of him, and I don't consider that reverse racism. I think they naturally feel that he represents a positive change for the country, independent of how they might view his policies if he were a white candidate. Like it or not, it's not racist to point that out and say that their opinion of him might be more likely to stay high even when he backs policies that they might otherwise disagree with.

    Of course it's also true that blacks for some time now have been a pretty monolithic voting block for the Democratic party, so Obama's approval rating among that group is only a bit higher than the usual approval for Democratic politicians- and that does lead to questioning York's basic premise that they're supporting the man even if they don't like his policies. It's equally valid to assume that they like both.

    But what I see York pointing out is that the approval ratings among nonblack voters have fallen and may continue to fall as we separate out the voters' personal opinions of Obama from their opinions about policy. This almost always happens beginning around this stage in a presidency- for a short period we give the benefit of the doubt and we assume problems can be blamed on the predecessor, but when we get to this point we start to see if the policy changes he's made are going to have positive or negative effect. He owns the policies now and public opinion could shift on that basis. York's point, in that sense, is that one segment of voters might be more resistant to holding Obama to account like that and may make the total approval ratings remain higher than they would for a nonblack president.

    I imagine that kind of nuance isn't possible to discuss in some circles without being accused of racism, but so be it.

  6. Yes, just nuance. Rubbish.

  7. Right on cue, RevDave.

  8. I see your point and agree with it CS, but I don't agree with how York is applying it. There will always be groups that like a president more than another based on racial or some other identity – I would guess you would have seen the same phenomenon with JFK among Roman Catholics for instance. Conversely you could say that Obama's numbers are somewhat less among whites because of a lack of group identity.

    York takes the next step and says the skewed black numbers make Obama look more popular than he really is. This really isn't true since blacks are valid members/voters and their opinions are the same as everyone else's in determining popularity. In other words yes blacks are an outlying subset of the group but are still part of the group.

  9. If white southern Republican dislike Obama, are they outliers and should they be dismissed? Byron York is a clown…

  10. CS, if you have a drug trial with 1/10th of the participants at 100% and 9/10ths at 60% you do not say that the drug is 60% effective and the 100% group is somehow “misleading”. “… than they actually are” is the relevant quote here.

  11. Why aren't real racial issues in this country discussed by the post, instead of which black person check the yes I like Obama box?

    I mean seriously, there are more problems out there than this one.

  12. Are you as daft as York, what you just wrote makes absolutely no sense!! It doesn't matter why black people approve of Obama, if they approve of him and the poll is taken properly that the number does infact reflect his popularity. YOu people are soo freaking warped, no wonder people my age want nothing to do with you!!!

  13. >…and I don't consider that reverse racism.

    Completely aside from the meat of the argument, does anyone else get as bothered as I do when people use the phrase “reverse racism”? If some individual or group is being treated differently based on their race, shouldn't it be called just plain ol' “racism”, regardless of which group is being discriminated against? Doesn't matter whether it's a larger group discriminating against a smaller group, or the other way around – racism is racism no matter who's doing it and who's the target.

    Sorry, pet peeve of mine.

  14. 100% right on the dumb “reverse racism” term, mlhradio.

    And if black folks maintain high approval ratings for President Obama throughout his presidency, then SO THE HECK WHAT?!?! From DaGoat's point, there are always groups that have unwavering support for a politician. Nothing new. It's a known fact that blacks vote Democratic. So if Hillary Clinton was President, she would have the same unwavering support. Byron York is running the “divisive” angle. And I'm just tired of it frankly.

  15. Bingo, T_Steel. It's a poll, of some fraction of other fractions of the whole. You'd think with the wonkiness offered by the co-bloggers and the commenters here, people would be able to realize that and settle on figuring out that the conclusion remains the same: Obama is pretty popular as presidents go. Let's move on.

  16. And if Byron York doesn't like the “unwavering” support, then he and other conservatives do something about it. Make an effort to shift that. I'm a center-left guy that's not a Democrat or Republican. But I'm for hire Republicans if your looking for a way to pull black voters. I have my finger on THE PULSE…. I think. LOL!

  17. CStanley, I understand your attempt at finding nuance in York's argument, and I don't think in the least that you make your point out of racist sentiment. But the problem is that you're claiming the poll measures something it doesn't. We don't measure the president against some hypothetical non-human, non-baggage-carrying pure policy entity. We elect a *person* to be president, and we decide whether the person is doing a good job or not. The reasons why we do so do not diminish the reality of his popularity.

    Compare it to the “What's the Matter with Kansas?” mentality that many Democrats had through the Republican era. They were consistently baffled that people in the heartland voted for Republicans even when it would be in their obvious (they say) interest to support Democratic policies and positions. Yelling “Why won't they come to their senses?!” didn't make those people vote for Obama and a Democratic Congress. And ignoring their presence most certainly did not make them vote for Obama and a Democractic Congress. York clearly wants Republicans to ignore the sentiments of a certain bloc of voters. Whether racist or not, it's still an incredibly wrong-headed way to solve the problem of bringing back the Republican message.

  18. CStanley, I agree with you about the outliers- I see your opint and when I originally wrote my comment I thought about writing from that angle. But the thrust of Byron's argument (which I decided to address) is, “and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are.”

    And as others have pointed out, blacks are equal citizens and so why does it matter that blacks support Obama?

    My original comment,
    “We all know that many far right Republicans just say what Rush and Hannity want and there's no logical basis for them to be against Obama… because they don't actually bother to listen to Obama….”
    was meant to show that there are people on the other end of the spectrum who are against Obama just because of Rush. And there are other people against Obama because he's black.

    Whenever an opinion poll shows a particular group skewed towards a certain opinion I think the logical question is to test to see if another group is skews the poll the other way.

    In this case blacks were identified in the poll, but the other fact to look at is racism which would skew the other way. Unfortunately there is no way to test racism (to my knowledge) in the poll.

    Still the end results of the poll are valid. Obviously it is fair to say that blacks support Obama in larger numbers than whites, but it is unbelievable that Byron can come to the conclusion that blacks skew the poll… An attempt to understand how race affects the poll can not be accomplished because the poll itself is deficient. Why even start down that road when you don't have complete facts (the number of people who don't support Obama because of his race)?

  19. T-Steel,

    How can you possibly say you are “for hire”? You’re owned by Obama and the democrats regardless of what is best for you, your family, your race and the country.

    How many decades have the democrat elite promised to “fix” the schools? But year after year, generation after generation, what should be the most critical item on everyone’s agenda continues to degrade. Washington D.C., Baltimore, Detroit and the other inner city schools fail to teach even a fraction of the poor African American kids to read and write.

    And still, even though a republican hasn’t had any say in these cities or school districts for 40 years, you and those like you will continue to vote for whomever the democrat machine places on the ballot.

    “To hell with the kids, these are the people I’ve been told to vote for”.

    No, you’re not for hire. Hiring denotes a form of informed consent that doesn’t seem to exist in the black community. You just keep doing what you’re told to do.

    Vouchers, school testing, pay for performance – these are all just tricks to keep the minorities down. You don’t have a clue how, but you just know that anything those white devil, evil republicans have come up with must be something to oppose.

  20. jwest,

    First and foremost, I didn't vote for Barack Obama and I gave my reasons. Read up friend.

    Secondly, I freakin' resent your assertion that I think Republicans are “white devils and evil”. If you read my posts here, I NEVER EVER roll with “evil Republican” notion. NEVER! Oh I did back in my black nationalist days in high school and early college. But I dropped that belief system when I saw it was destructive. See you are the damn problem. You assume too damn much. Black folks are not and have never been monolithic. There is so much diversity of thought in the black community that it is astounding (just look at California). But the Republican Party have put more folks out there that seemed to be anti-black (fairly or unfairly) that black folks have just gone with the Democrats. And when I say “anti-black” it isn't about receiving a damn government check. It's about being looking at us like we're not Americans but an byproduct. Oh yeah, some Democrats have done the same but the “optics” of the Republican Party just look bad to many black folks. I can't help it that modern Republicans are too tired, lazy, un-visionary, blunted, and “pure” to really go after the black community for votes. Maybe if they brought black folks like me on board, instead of blowhards like Michael Steele, then they can attack this issue. What? The GOP doesn't have the skills to go after 33% of the black vote? Obama and the Democrats won Florida. Republicans and conservatives lacking or something?

    So trying to lecture this black man with the bullcrap “keeping darkie down”/”evil white Republicans” won't fly. I'm way to savvy. Way to hip. Way to solid to fall for that tired crap.

  21. T-Steel,

    I should have known you and the rest of the non-monolithic black population are way to hip to fooled by some cracker conservative.

    The black community, according to the polls, has a wide diversity of opinion concerning Obama. Some think he’s marvelous, others think he rocks, while some that are way out on the fringe believe he’s just fantastic. Can’t get much more diverse than that.

    You wonder why someone in the Republican Party doesn’t try to bring you on-board. Why would we? What do you have to offer?

    If any of our children went to a school that didn’t teach and had a success record of 1 kid in 5 learning the basics, we would drag the administrators out of their offices and boot them out of town. You, on the other hand, seem perfectly willing to accept the status quo.

    Do white parents love their children more than black parents love theirs?

    Why does your (not) monolithic community put up with this level of performance? The problem isn’t money – these city districts receive more per pupil than even the richest suburban districts. So what is the answer?

    When you and the rest of the independent thinkers in the black community start to care enough about your children to assure their education, come talk to us about being Republicans. We’ll see if you’re serious and if you are, we’ll let you join.

  22. Byron York is not a racist bigot. He is a right wing tool. By focusing on the Black/white dichotomy to create the appearance of a racial schism, he accomplishes his primary strategy–distraction from what the real datapoints. By any measure Barack Obama is insanely popular. Even if you look at only the caucasian numbers, this gets driven home. 79% of all whites either approve of Obama or have no opinion. That leaves the dead-end right wingers who are York's audience as the only one's who don't approve.

    So how does your typical right wang hack avoid this inconvenient truth that everyone (except right wing tools) approves of Obama? Gin up a false controversy and make that the thrust of the article.

    The story is pretty simple–BO is seen as presidential and is doing a lot of good things, thus people are drawn to him and support him. Anything else is just noise.

  23. Haven't had time to read through all of the comments yet but I see a few that were addressed toward my comment.

    First, let me say I don't think that I disagree with most of the people who seem to think I'm in disagreement with you (though that depends on whether or not I'm understanding you correctly.)

    I would never suggest that a segment of voters should be taken out of consideration when accounting for polling data (and I didn't take York to be suggesting that either, but I'll reread his article when I get a chance and see if it really was written that way.)

    But if you're going to look at subgroups within the polling, and one of those groups is an outlier, then anyone worth their salt as an analyst is going to try to attribute potential reasons for the disparity between that group and the whole- especially with a freaking 100% statistical approval rating, which I've never heard from any group in history.

    Several people earlier brought up instances where subgroups went for Bush- evangelicals, for instance. Well, of course analysts might separate them out from the rest of the population and say that their support for Bush might have been motivated by different things, and it might not trend the same way as the rest of the population was trending on their approval or disapproval of Bush.

    Another similar instance that I don't think anyone's mentioned was the reverse of this current analysis, when pollsters were looking at the white vote separately during the campaign to see if racism was preventing white people from giving their support to a black candidate. That is a valid political analysis (which in the current case proved to not be a big problem for Obama, fortunately.)

    It is equally valid to look at the reverse, to see if black support of Obama (which, given the level of it, might be reasonably assumed to be partly due to his race, since they're understandably pleased that he's overcome the racial barrier) might be giving a boost to his popularity ratings.

    And those who've said that the popularity of politicians for various characteristics comes with the territory- again, I agree. So, no one is saying that that kind of popularity doesn't count, just that it should be examined for what it is. It means that that candidate will either retain his overall popularity despite that one group that will be with him till the end, or he'll continue to have high enough ratings among the rest so that he remains highly regarded by all. There's an unevenness though of that kind of popularity that can either end up being a liabilty for the candidate or it can mean that his peak demographic group will continue to keep his overall rating high. That's different than a politician who has a more evenly spread popularity among all demographic groups.

    If none of this mattered, then why do we look at cross tabs in polling at all? And if we don't get offended when voters' opinions are separated out by age, gender, or income level, then why should anyone take offense at an analysis that's based on race? Eventually I certainly hope that we become a more color blind society, but obviously we're still in a transitional period and I don't think that anyone can deny that Obama's race matters somewhat, since both black and white voters all feel some sense of history in his election.

  24. When you and the rest of the independent thinkers in the black community start to care enough about your children to assure their education, come talk to us about being Republicans. We’ll see if you’re serious and if you are, we’ll let you join.

    AH! So now we get to it. “We'll let you join”. HA! I can join your damn party today. Very easy. Just declare myself a Republican, get my voter card fixed up, and viola, REPUBLICAN! So now we blacks don't care about our children? HMMM! Your statement says much about why your damn party couldn't win an election against against, as some of you Repubs have suggested, a Muslim, American-hating, terrorist befriending, half-black, Manchurian candidate that is also a Marxist to boot. AND you PURE REPUBLICAN party can't even come up with solid resistance against a, as some of you Repubs have suggested, an empty suit, Teleprompter-In-Chief, celebrity that eats arugula! AND your party is SOOO clueless that “solid citizens” such as yourself resort to “country club politics” in order to tell us little darkies how we don't love our children?

    WEAK!

  25. And SB- you wrote:
    “Obviously it is fair to say that blacks support Obama in larger numbers than whites, but it is unbelievable that Byron can come to the conclusion that blacks skew the poll”

    Well, as far as I know, that pretty much is the definition for 'skewing' and it seems like you're taking it to mean “destroying the validity of the poll” or something.

    I do see though, that the way York phrased this part you quoted wasn't a good way to put it:
    “and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are.”

    To me, what he was talking about seemed to be the unevenness that I referred to, not that the spike from black voters' opinions of him invalidated the conclusion of popularity overall.

    So, I will grant you that that sentence from York was poorly worded.

  26. If none of this mattered, then why do we look at cross tabs in polling at all? And if we don't get offended when voters' opinions are separated out by age, gender, or income level, then why should anyone take offense at an analysis that's based on race

    Because, as jwest has pointed out, black folks are inferior because we “like” Obama and don't love our children.

  27. CS, if you have a drug trial with 1/10th of the participants at 100% and 9/10ths at 60% you do not say that the drug is 60% effective and the 100% group is somehow “misleading”. “… than they actually are” is the relevant quote here.
    Actually, Ryan, a scientist with integrity probably would want to base a trial on subjects without the outlier. Most of the time that sort of thing is weeded out ahead of time (and usually it would be in the reverse direction- patients who might respond more poorly for one reason or another, like a comorbid condition.) If it did turn up during a trial that one subgroup was an outlier, it definitely should be addressed (though if we're talking about a drug company sponsored trial, I wouldn't put it past them to try to ignore it if it gave an outcome that was favorable for their product.)

  28. T, I imagine you know that Jwest doesn't speak for me in this case.

    I did catch something in one of your earlier comments to him though. You were pretty much saying that you'd love it if the GOP would try to court your vote, but in the same breath you described yourself as a center left guy.

    I guess I'm having trouble figuring out how the right wing party could go about capturing the center left vote, whether those voters are black or white?

  29. “……..as jwest has pointed out, black folks are inferior…….”

    I’m certain that, deep down, that bit of projection is how you truly feel. It must be, because thinking that inner-city kids are genetically inferior to suburban kids is the only reason one would have to continue voting for the same leadership that enables the current system to prevail.

    Sure, you can register to be a Republican, but you could never truly be one until you find the strength to adopt a core set of principles that would tend to make you appear less “hip” in your upper middle class hood.

    In the Republican tradition, I can’t help you. No black crowd is going to warm up to a white speaker demonstrating that our 4 year olds read better than most inner-city high school “graduates”. Until someone in the African American community grows a pair large enough to stand up and denounce the political machine that prevents the changes necessary to fix the schools, more generations of perfectly able young blacks will grow up ignorant.

    Why is Barack Obama so impressive?

    He had the advantage of growing up in an atmosphere of caring and education. Would the country be better off with thousands of Baracks coming out the system each year? Of course. Is Barack Obama himself man enough to fight the teacher’s union to see that poor kids can attend the same school as his children?

    Not a chance.

    He’s got his, to hell with the rest.

  30. Well jwest, the only solution left for you self-righteous, country club conservatives is to attempt to pass laws that limit our participation in the voting process since we lack the education, necessary parental love, and “pair” in order to pick a TRUE LEADER OF AMERICA (namely a Republican one). So get to working on the legislation my friend. Because that attitude is precisely why your party has problems. Democrats tired that write-off strategy in the 1980s and it blew up in their faces. But you stay smart friend and keep thinking “NEVER”. I'm sure a Republican will grow a “pair” and work on getting that 33% of the black vote. Since you obviously can't handle the task.

    But I'm still for hire (since I don't belong to either party) Republicans. And I'm a smart one too!

  31. You wonder why someone in the Republican Party doesn’t try to bring you on-board. Why would we? What do you have to offer?

    I am not black, and I am not T-Steel, but I think you may be missing the point in your response to T-Steel's, “Maybe if they brought black folks like me on board, instead of blowhards like Michael Steele, then they can attack this issue.” It's not about what blacks have to offer. Obviously, blacks have the same complement of positive and unique things to offer as any other demographic group. Unfortunately for the Republican Party, Republicans (as a party) don't have much to offer black people. They don't have much to offer anyone who does not fit the narrow demographic of white, male, upper middle class or wealthy, heterosexual, fundamentalist Christian or conservative Catholic American.

    Perhaps if the Republican Party made an honest effort to identify the issues that affect African Americans most substantively; perhaps if it examined WHY those issues so particularly affect African Americans, and HOW; perhaps if it explored which ideas, policies, and solutions are most likely to address the realities and priorities as black Americans see them — as opposed to the way white male Texas oil billionaires or white male Wall Street CEOs or white male Christianists see them — maybe then the Republican Party would have something of value to offer black Americans, and maybe then black Americans would WANT to join the Republican Party in large numbers and feel it was in their self-interest to do so.

  32. T-Steel,

    Have a good BBQ.

    Sorry I had to rip you apart, but you were the only black guy hanging around. Next time, I’ll just pick some random liberal out of the crowd for a whipping boy.

  33. Ah, just when you need a random liberal………

    Kathy,

    What all those words in the previous comments said was that the conservatives had the most valuable thing in the world to offer the black community.

    We offer an educational system that would actually teach inner-city black kids to read, write, speak English, do math and basically give them everything they need to grow up to be President of the U.S.

    Liberals cannot make that offer. They have proven over 40 years that the votes of the teachers are more valuable to them than the education of the nation’s most vulnerable children.

    What could be a better offer?

    How could any African American with a conscience refuse?

    (How could any white refuse?)

  34. CStanley, with regards to your example on the drug trial. I pretty much agree, but I would want to point out, which I think you understand (though it's not clear to me) that drug trials are different than opinions. One can't really control how one's body reacts to drugs. But opinions are influenced by many things, including thick-skulled radio personalities.

    So certainly in drug trials you may want to treat outliers differently than polls regarding people's opinions.

  35. CStanley, “I do see though, that the way York phrased this part you quoted wasn't a good way to put it:
    “and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are.”

    Yes, and that's the thrust of Kathy's post.

    Steve Benen's response (in Kathy's post) was, “There’s really no other credible way to read this. York effectively argues that black people shouldn’t count. We can look at polls measuring the attitudes of Americans, but if we want to see the truth — appreciate the numbers as “they actually are” — then it’s best if we focus our attention on white people, and only white people.”

    As far as this comment, “If none of this mattered, then why do we look at cross tabs in polling at all? And if we don't get offended when voters' opinions are separated out by age, gender, or income level, then why should anyone take offense at an analysis that's based on race?”

    I agree with you that it's perfectly fine to understand the polling data based on whatever criteria is used.

    But to draw conclusions that blacks are skewing that data to make Obama appear more popular than he really is (which is the topic of the post)… is racist.

    And back to my other point… if one really wants to understand how race plays out and look at outliers then one should include the racists who “skew” the poll the other way…

    So I think we're mostly in agreement…. except I (and others) view York's conclusion as racist since it claims that Obama's popularity is really not as high as the polls suggest… because of the black support. You interpret York's statement differently and you're free to your interpretation…. and perhaps it is right.

    It's one thing to just state that Obama has a 94% (or whatever) approval rating among blacks, but it's another thing to discount the importance of the black opinion.

  36. In the Republican tradition, I can’t help you. No black crowd is going to warm up to a white speaker demonstrating that our 4 year olds read better than most inner-city high school “graduates”. Until someone in the African American community grows a pair large enough to stand up and denounce the political machine that prevents the changes necessary to fix the schools, more generations of perfectly able young blacks will grow up ignorant.

    Oh my god, jwest. You are the ignorant one. That political machine you want black parents to stand up to is made up of white racist fools just like YOU. Per-pupil spending numbers written on a piece of paper do not pay for teacher's salaries or reduce classroom size or buy textbooks and computers, or get specialized educational services to the students who need them the most, unless the bureaucrats who make the spending decisions allocate them that way. It's not parents who make those decisions.

    Do you think that in wealthy or upper middle class suburban overwhelmingly white school districts, the kids in those districts are getting the AP classes, and the cutting edge classroom technology, and the top flight teachers and 15 to 1 student-teacher ratios because the white parents in those districts love their children more? Obviously, you do, but that's because you're an idiot and a racist. The parents in those districts have the money and the political clout to get those things. Do you think per-pupil spending pays for up-to-date textbooks, well-stocked school libraries, college prep services, etc.? It doesn't. Parents pay for those things. Parents pay for the pencils and pens and paper and erasers and staplers and Kleenex tissues you see in classrooms. If there are no pencils, pens, erasers, paper, computers, tissues for a child to blow her nose, it's because the parents aren't buying them because they CAN'T. Most of the money for any classroom-related, learning-related needs in this country are paid for *by parents.*

    Inner city parents don't have those financial resources. Unemployment for blacks in urban areas is as high as 50%. The parents of inner-city schoolchildren are highly likely to be first-generation immigrants, not fluent in English or not speaking English at all, and poorly educated themselves because, among other things, they come from impoverished countries and never had the opportunity for a good education. If they are lucky enough to be employed, they have menial, low-paying jobs, or several of them. They are single parents or if both parents are present, they both work all the time and maybe rarely even see each other. They live in economically depressed, crime- and drug-infested neighborhoods that they cannot afford to move out of. They are dealing with often multiple health issues that they cannot handle in the way middle-class parents can because they don't have health care resources. Physical and emotional health issues are always worse in poor urban areas, from asthma to clinical depression.

    I did teacher training for a few months in the Bronx, in NYC. I can't recall a single student who did not have extremely serious family health or dysfunction issues. Never in my life as a parent in the school system before have I ever encountered anything like it. I couldn't believe what these children were struggling with. Missing parents. Parents dying of cancer or having died of cancer or having been killed by gun violence. Going home to neighborhoods were gun shots were as ordinary as the sound of car locks going on or off in a suburban shopping mall parking lot. Kids who hurried home by the shortest route and didn't leave once they got there. Physically or verbally abusive parents — which obviously exists everywhere, but these kids had no outside resources, family or community, to turn to. I can't even begin to recall everything I heard, from other teachers who knew the kids' family histories or from the children themselves. The anger and sadness that I saw in these children was heartbreaking.

    And you are going to tell me that these childrens' problems are all because their parents refuse to lift a finger to help them because black parents don't love their children?

    You are vile.

    You know, I don't know why I'm writing this. Nothing will make someone like you get it.

  37. We offer an educational system that would actually teach inner-city black kids to read, write, speak English, do math and basically give them everything they need to grow up to be President of the U.S.

    Can you please give me the location of that educational system? Where is it?

  38. Also: You need a lot more than just learning to read, write, speak English, and do math to become president of the United States. Actually, one could argue, quite reasonably, that the ability to read and speak English are not at all essential to become POTUS

  39. “Can you please give me the location of that educational system? Where is it?”

    Sidwell Friends – Washington D.C.

  40. Sidwell Friends – Washington D.C.

    ROFLMAO!!

  41. “That political machine you want black parents to stand up to is made up of white racist fools just like YOU.”

    No, actually the political machine I speak of is made up of people who believe they care more than anybody in the world about disadvantaged children.

    Because of their caring so much, they believe that only they can solve society’s problems, heal all that is wrong and bring truth and light to the planet. In this arrogance, lies the ignorance that prevents the changes necessary in the educational system.

    If you could step out of your liberal mindset for a moment and look back at how your actions have prevented the education of hundreds of thousands of poor children, how the policies and people you have supported over the years have doomed millions to a life of ignorance and poverty, you would probably spend the rest of your life apologizing to every one of the homeless, every drug addict, every criminal and every hopeless individual you see wandering the streets of our cities.

    What you have done is indefensible. There hasn’t been a republican within a mile of any inner-city administration in 40 years. This is your baby. Take responsibility, admit your guilt and move to make amends.

    I won’t call you vile, as I know that you care for these children and it’s only your ignorance that has made you do the things that have caused so much harm. But now is the time for you to take a hard look at the pain and suffering your liberal policies have caused, and to change your ways so that more generations of children don’t share the same fate.

  42. Kathy- I actually agree with jwest that Sidwell Friends is a great way to teach kids. (Though isn't it Quaker and Quakers tend to be Dems?)

    I think with an annual tuition of $30,000 and with a roughly 50 million school age kids (just non-college) that this would really be an area where Republicans can shine and polish their education credentials adn they woudl certainly attract a lot of minority voters to their side, too (take that, you Dems!).

    This effort would require about $1.5 trillion dollars per year to fund (that's just to the 12th grade). So I support the GOP's efforts to attain this worthy goal. However given that the US currently spends about $1 trillion per year on ALL education (including college) in the US the GOP will have to come up with a way to fund this so all kids can have an equal opportunity. And I don't want my taxes raised…. particularly since I don't have any children.

    But I do agree with jwest that Sidwell Friends is a good example and if the GOP supports this as their ideal school that they want to apply to all schools, then that's great!

    Thanks jwest for the clarification on what the GOP would like to do with education. And with the GOP's committment to fiscal responsibility I think the Republicans should implement this. Otherwise the Dems will raise my taxes to pay for this huge increase in education spending.

  43. Stockboy:
    Again, the difference of opinion on the York piece depends on how you interpret the whole piece. I agreed with your assessment of that one sentence, but that doesn't mean the whole piece is intended to say that black voters' opinions don't count.

    And back to my other point… if one really wants to understand how race plays out and look at outliers then one should include the racists who “skew” the poll the other way…
    On this, I've said before- that kind of analysis has been done repeatedly. I don't know where you've been ever since the Iowa caucus, since the pollsters were constantly looking at groups of white voters that way to try to determine if Obama's race was a negative factor for them (and largely concluded that it wasn't, or that there were apparently enough people who saw race as a positive to cancel out any remaining anti-black bigot vote.)

    And I described why the drug trial analogy is imperfect, so I agree with you there too- but there too, York isn't saying what that analogy would have him say, that we should throw out the outlying data. It certainly doesn't work that way in politics, nor should it.

    I think the difference you point out is exactly what explains the kind of analysis that York was doing- the fact that the outlying group either has opinions that are moldable or they don't, and politicians will need to figure that out if they want to present a viable alternative to challenge Obama's reelection.

    But when one group appears to have attitudes that AREN'T amenable to shaping on a candidate- be that blacks with the first black president, or evangelicals who felt that they had 'their guy' in the WH- then that part of the data should be scrutinized apart from the rest of the data.

    Bush's political opponents did try to figure out ways to make inroads with evangelical Christians, and he ended up giving some of them reason to drop some of their support for him (remember the leader of Bush's faith based initiative program saying that he felt that largely the evangelicals had been used, and didn't really get support from the WH?) So that segment of his support did eventually change but it turned mainly on its own internal dissatisfaction, not so much from outside influences or from any other politician attracting them- until perhaps after they'd already begun to sour on Bush.

    To me, that's what this kind of analysis is about. And some people may still find that offensive, but that's politics. Even Obama was engaging in the attempt to weaken the evangelical support for Bush in his 2004 speech, presenting himself and the Democratic party as ones which offered a different avenue for Christians (“we worship and awesome God in the blue states.” ) That's certainly the kind of outstretched hand that the GOP should try to offer black voters who are locked onto Obama- and yet again, it will probably be unsuccessful for quite some time, unless or until black voters start to be open to seeing rational criticisms of Obama's policies. The education one that Jwest brings up is a potential fault line, even if I don't agree with the aggressive manner in which jwest presents the arguments. I do find it telling that the DC scholarship funding was quietly cut right at the beginning, when overall support for Obama is so high and there is so much else going on- it certainly feels like that was an attempt to slip it in while no one was paying attention.

    Anyway, I hope you can see my general point- that there's a difference between ignoring an outlier and analyzing to determine whether or not you ought to concentrate your efforts on changing the opinions of the outlying group, and if you decide to attempt that, knowing when it's worth taking a shot and when you have to just accept that you're not going to affect opinions there for a while.

    And BTW, I see that York has a response up about the racism charge:
    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs

  44. Kathy, I keep pointing out that I disagree with the way jwest is presenting the argument (sorry jwest, but that's no way to convince people and you're only hardending their positions.)

    But at the same time his point about who controls the school boards in inner cities is extremely valid. You're not trying to say that the school board in the Bronx is made up of racist country club Republicans, are you?

    Or how about Chicago, or DC, cities which have been governed by machine Democrats for generations now? The fact is that the people making the budgetary decisions for those school systems are Democrats, not Republicans.

    Of course you describe other systemic problems affecting the families' abilities to be involved in their kids' education. I'm glad that Obama has also brought that issue somewhat to the forefront though he needs to focus much more on this. And it's worth noting that whenever Republicans have tried to make that case, they're considered racist also for implying that any of the problems with poor education outcomes for black inner city kids might be connected with the internal problems of the communities themselves. Fortunately even the black political leaders are finally having to own up to this.

  45. After my spirited tit-for-tat with jwest yesterday, I pondered on the horrific state of Detroit (Michigan) Public Schools which I did much volunteer work for when I lived in Michigan. The Democratic leadership has terribly failed that school district. And yes it is mostly black. At the same time, there has always been a resistance to that entrenched group by other black folks. But they haven't had the organizing power to get over that hump… yet. Yes, I agree with you jwest on how bad many inner city schools are. BUT where you see a lost cause for Republicans, I see much opportunity. Rightly or wrongly, many black folks are very sensitive real and perceived racial slights. I don't have to go into why since history says enough. Many Republicans and conservatives around Detroit attack black folks as a whole there instead of concentrating on issues. They lump black folks into one group because they vote Democratic only. BUT there are divisions that can be exploited without attacking black folks with the condescending hand. Heck I would welcome many Republican principles in a school district like Detroit.

  46. But I do agree with jwest that Sidwell Friends is a good example and if the GOP supports this as their ideal school that they want to apply to all schools, then that's great!

    Fat chance though, right?

  47. T- any ideas on how to get blacks to stop fearing GOP racism so much that they reflexively support and defend the black (or white liberal) politicians who have been looking after their own political self interests instead of helping the schools and the communities?

  48. T,

    Thanks for giving the discussion an open-minded second look. I need to disagree with you on a few points.

    First, we have a real difference in what words or actions constitute “condescension” towards blacks. In my opinion, liberals tend to talk about and treat African Americans like pets or the mentally disabled – always caring and with the best of intentions, but not actually believing blacks are as smart and capable as they are. Next time you’re in a situation to observe, ask yourself if this person, as much as they like and want to help black people, actually thinks of us as equals.

    Second, trying to convince a percentage of the black community to vote republican is a total waste of time. The only thing that will work is a concentrated 8 week campaign that would show people just how much liberal policies have devastated the African American population. It’s all or nothing.

    According to polling, blacks overwhelmingly favor vouchers. Elevating this issue to the status it deserves – higher than anything – should make point. Also, on the subject of healthcare, republicans favor individual health accounts (government funded for those in need) that places the power of choice in the hands of the individual. When given the chance to voice their preference, blacks again overwhelmingly prefer having the buying power as opposed to being directed by an insurance company or government bureaucrat.

  49. Kathy,

    The DC school district spends $18,600/year/pupil, “graduates” 1 in 5 and of the 20% who do finish school, only a tiny fraction can actually read and write at grade level.

    What would happen if you closed the public schools and gave each kid a voucher for $15,000 (using the remaining money to give $25,000 vouchers to special needs kids)?

    Don’t you think the best, most motivated teachers would flock to DC to open their own storefront schools? What kind of education could we expect? Would it be better or worse than what we have today?

    As long as the democrats protect the teacher’s union, we’ll never know. Thousands of kids will continue on through the present system, their futures ruined by the need for “D” votes in the next election.

  50. You're not trying to say that the school board in the Bronx is made up of racist country club Republicans, are you?

    No, I am not trying to say that. And there are many school boards in the Bronx, as in NYC as a whole. Every school district has its own school board.

    The NYC school system is a huge, massive, screwed up bureaucracy. Individual school board members do their best to advocate for the needs of the children in their district, but they are not the ones who make decisions about whether their schools are going to get what they need. They are not the power brokers. They are not the Board of Education; they are not the mayor or the city government. You have no idea how broken the school system is in NYC. I know a little bit about how broken it is, because I was trying to teach and get hired in that system for about six months. But I only have a tiny sense of it, really, because I was not in it for that long. I got a sense of it from my own experience, from what I saw while I was in it, from what other professional educators told me — classroom teachers and administrators with years of experience. I was on a NYC educators' mailing list — actually still am, but I don't participate in it anymore since I'm not teaching anymore. But all this is to say that the parents of the students I worked with, in the schools I worked in, for those six months or so, were not for the most part people who sat on the school board. You need years of experience in the schools — teaching, administrating, working with the community — to get a position on a school board. The parents of the students I worked with were much more likely to be recent immigrants, poorly educated themselves, struggling to survive economically in communities with all kinds of social dysfunction.

    And it's worth noting that whenever Republicans have tried to make that case, they're considered racist also for implying that any of the problems with poor education outcomes for black inner city kids might be connected with the internal problems of the communities themselves.

    No, that's not accurate, Christine. Nobody would consider it racist to say that the internal problems of inner-city communities affect the quality of education the children living in those communities get. That's not racist. What's racist is putting the onus for the community's internal problems entirely on the people who live in the community. Nothing is going to change for the better from Republicans acting like the internal problems of inner city communities are caused by the community. Of course, parents have some control over their own children, but it's individual parents' or families' fault that 50 percent or more of the population in the community is unemployed. It's not their fault that there are no decent jobs, or any jobs. It's not their fault that if they're lucky enough to be working, their work is most likely long hours for low pay and physically and emotionally exhausting. It's not the community's fault that a Republican president would rather pour hundreds of billions of dollars into multiple wars and military ventures in foreign countries than spend any significant part of that money on job creation, on job training, on economic relief, on helping communities pay for programs that will help solve their problems.

    That's why people like me get so angry at the mentality of Republicans and social conservatives who say the schools in the inner city are terrible because of internal problems in those communities and then wash their hands of it — as if those internal problems had nothing at all to do with the policies, legislative and spending priorities, etc., coming out of the places far far away from the inner city where all those rich white Republican country club racists actually do live and work.

  51. CStanley,

    First and foremost, leave the judgments at the front door. One thing that I saw so much is instant judging on the so-called “black way of life” by the GOP. Heck with that. The fact is that WE ALL go to work and raise our families the best we can. And don't use “I feel your pain”. Not going to work.

    What will work is a straight issues approach on the current public school system. When criticizing the political leadership (especially black political leadership) in the black community, show and explain how they have failed on the issues. If schools lack basic hygiene supplies (which some Detroit schools did/do), expose that for what it is: unacceptable for black children. Show the amount of frivolous dollars spent and show how they can be redirected to fix a public school's problem. So on and so forth.

    SHOW and EXPLAIN without being JUDGMENTAL. Black folks have deep attachments to public school in their neighborhoods. Don't say, “you need a voucher so you can pick a better school”. Show how you are willing to fight for their public school's improvement. Get in the mix and take on that black and white liberal establishment. By not being so judgmental and “scared of public schools”, you will earn respect. And respect breeds loyalty. I don't know how many times I've heard black parents say they are tired of white Republicans telling them to go to another school (preferably more white and suburban). Then they say, “why can't we fix up the schools in our neighborhood”. That's the in-roads Republicans. You have to get in their with the issues and the non-judgmental approach.

  52. jwest and TSteel- are you guys familiar with what's going on in New Orleans post-Katrina? Like the experiment you propose, jwest, they've wiped the slate clean and although it's not being done through vouchers, they've maximized school choice by creating a city wide system of open enrollment charter schools. It may prove to be the silver lining behind the destructive cloud of Katrina.

  53. Hmm, good suggestions, T, but it seems to me that the trust is so badly broken that I'm not sure that Republicans can even make those points about the waste, fraud and abuse that goes on and have the black residents believe them. I may be wrong but it seems to me that they sometimes have such entrenched trust of the liberal leaders and distrust of anyone else that they'll believe the liberal leaders over their own lyin' eyes.

  54. But here's the thing CStanley, many blacks in those areas say the exact same thing that you said about the waste, fraud, and abuse. Walk into a black barber shop and you'll hear SO many black folks just lay into school and political leadership. But they feel comfortable with those leaders because they are visible and put on a mask of caring (in my opinion). And when those suburban white Republicans start their usual “inner city judgment and condescending party”, black folks just circle the wagons led by the Black Democratic Establishment.

    Yes there is broken trust but it does not have to stay broken. Republicans need to get into the mix and hit the issues without judgment. I can't stress that enough. Vouchers are OK. But if the Republicans show (and not judge) the black community the PURE ISSUES that they are facing, they will gain support. And if someone in the GOP makes some stupid comment about black folks, put the smack down on them and stick with the issues approach. Don't get derailed by those black Democrats arguing the “they aren't one of us” angle. Just stick to your issues gun on fixing THOSE schools.

  55. OK, I mostly agree T, but letting down the judgment has to work both ways. I could be wrong but it seems to me that even if white GOP (pretty much redundant to say that, unfortunately) go about it without expressing the judgment, they're presumed to be judgmental anyway. And yes, there are always fools who really are bigoted who will make some remark- but the honest brokers who would want to try to make inroads are judged on the basis of those fools instead of on what they as individuals are actually saying.

  56. T,

    I don’t know what world you live in, but it sure ain’t the real one.

    “Go talk to the black community on issues” Yeah, that will do it. African Americans, like white liberals, think and act on emotion, not logic.

    If you want to be a hero, you need to give them a villain. When someone learns they’ve been lied to for the past 40 years, that the reason their children and grandchildren can’t read or write better than a 3rd grader, they are going to need a group to vent on.

    No, not cool logic and non-judgmental issue advocacy.

    Fire breathing, Sunday morning sermonizing about how the community was done wrong.

    If there is going to be a change (and isn’t that what everyone wants?), the change will be quick and complete. Not a logical progression, but a full-out torch-carrying, throw the bums out mob scene.

  57. Well your biased against “liberals” so your a brick wall on this issue jwest. And if you think conservatives don't act on emotion then you living in a different world as well.

    CStanley, I agree on the your works both ways point. I don't look at the black community as a lost cause for Republicans. Maybe because I've never associated with/work for either Dems or Repubs. I've work with the people (dare I say the dreaded “community organizing”). They are are a lot more receptive than many Republicans and conservatives give them credit for. One of the funniest things is to sit in a black church (not ran by the likes of Jeremiah Wright – an exception not the rule) when those politicians get “introduced”. There are just groans and muted applause many times. But they vote the name they know because of real and perceived slights by the GOP.

    I find it amazing how much of the black community is still a mystery to non-black folks. We get lumped into a rap music loving, Democratic party minion group. Many black folks hate rap music and many regular black folks (who vote Democratic Party) just do so out of habit.

  58. CStanley, I was wondering when somebody would bring up New Orleans. I wrote on this subject a lot in the year or two after Katrina, and once said:

    poor New Orleanians did not create the traps, and there were few avenues out. One cannot aspire to much beyond restaurant or hotel work with the equivalent of an 8th grade education in a tourism-based economy, yet that very economic base required a large population who would work at that level.

    In my mind, NOLA is the poster child for much of this discussion. It incorporates the very worst public schools with an entire city that offers almost no opportunity for the citizens it graduates from them. I nearly moved back there after Katrina, I wanted so badly to help rebuild — but I didn't see the will to do what needed to be done there.

    I suspect post-Katrina New Orleans has left an indelible mark on people like jwest (though I'm admittedly assuming) about just how badly a liberal approach, combined with cronyism and incompetent leadership, can fail.

  59. I was specifically talking about recent developments though, PM, of the charter school movement under the RSD. It's still an experiment in progress, but the folks I know who are living it are pleased so far and cautiously optimistic.

    As far as NO being the poster child, NO is certainly unique in a lot of ways but in regard to the schools, I think the only unique feature (as comparted to other urban school districts) is that there's almost no middle/upper class participation in the public school system. I grew up from middle school on there, and was fortunately able to get a top notch education at Ben Franklin (nationally ranked in top 10 college prep schools at that time.) But virtually everyone I knew who didn't go to Franklin (it has selective entrance requirements of IQ and test scores) went to a Catholic high school.

    In that sense, the pre-Katrina system was also the poster child for discussions about what happens when the public school system is abandoned by middle and upper class families. :(

  60. Oh dear. I wonder whether we're about to discover that we were classmates or something — because I, too, went to Ben Franklin.

    But being a poster child is the opposite of uniqueness, and I think that the withdrawal of the middle/upper classes from the system is merely a fillip.

    I was thinking (in terms of pre-K) of Kathy, T, and others' comments about the situational dynamics that underpin a school system's failure. To me, NOLA is an excellent example of the symbiotic relationship between a community, its opportunities (or lack thereof), deeply engrained poverty, dependence, and educational failure.

    If the charter schools experiments work (and I REALLY hope they do!!!!) — then it would go a very long way toward disconnecting the “inner city culture” causal factor arguments from inner city educational reform.

  61. No way! Small world, eh? I should have recognized it in your intellect and writing skills though.

    Without giving actual dates- I'm guessing we're at least close enough in age that you'd know Mr. Weyer, Diego Gonzales, and Mr. Keith? Or my personal fave- Mr. Felton (who allowed me to opt out of all testing and notebook checks to prep for the state rally in World History- which of course is not why he was one of my favorite teachers ;) )

  62. LOL!!! I refuse to say whether I remember any of these names, or whether we talked about them at the Burger King across the street during lunch. It's all a blur from such a distance…

    :>

  63. Ah, the BK lounge. Or Camellia Grill on rare occasions when flush with cash.

    I'm sure neither of us has any memory of Skip Day at the Butterfly (though I've heard rumors of about other students…)

    LOL, Good memories!

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