Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's A Black Thing: Do Black People Support Obama Just Because He's Black?


Snoop Dog's top ten reasons to vote for Obama, and top ten reasons to vote against Romney.  Besides being hilarious (look at number 5 on the Obama side, and number 9 on the Romney side), people are actually using this list and the recent dust-up with Stacy Dash supporting Romney to advance the notion that black people are only voting for Obama because he is black.  Is it true?

A look at African-American voting patterns doesn't really support the theory that African-American voters are in large part Obama solely because he is black.  Black people have traditionally made up a very large voting bloc for the Democratic Party, even when the candidate is white.  Clinton got 83 percent of the black vote in 1992 and 84 percent in 1996. Al Gore had 90 percent in 2000; John Kerry got 88 percent in 2004. Obama had 95 percent of the black vote in 2008, or only 5% more than Al Gore enjoyed. Black people have been voting for white candidates for a very long time now, mostly without comment.

Another point against the notion that black people vote for black candidates solely on the basis of skin color is where was the black outpouring of support for Herman Cain during his GOP primary run? Black people did not line up to support Cain in his quest to become the first black standard bearer for the Republican Party, even when he was in the lead before his campaign imploded.   In Maryland white candidate Ben Cardin soundly trounced black candidate Michael Steele in black votes during their race for Senate in 2006. Most black people are perfectly capable of evaluating candidates beyond just their skin color.

For many current and historical reasons black people have been a solid voting bloc for Democrats.  There has been the "Southern Strategy" pioneered by Nixon, in which racially coded language and imagery was used against black people in order to draw many white voters to the Republican Party. Democratic presidents have fought for civil rights and other policies which often aligned heavily with the interests of black voters.  Many conservatives have made it very clear that they don't have a problem with racism.

With all that said, while I don't believe that most black people are voting for Obama solely because he is black, there is some pride in the fact that Obama is the "first."  For quite a while now, when science-fiction shows wanted to signal that the movie or show was set in some unfathomably distant future, they would make the president a black man. It was considered unthinkable that Americans would actually elect a black person as president in the near future.  Yet in 2008, it happened.  Not only did Americans elect a black man, but they elected a black man who was proud to be black, and embraced many aspects of black culture.  Many black people do take great pride in Obama as a first, and see him and his family as role models.  I don't see anything wrong with that.

A black man is President?  You already know a disaster is coming!

Lastly, it will always be difficult for many black people to embrace the Republican party when videos like the one below are making the rounds.  Rather than berating blacks for supporting Obama, I wish that some in the Republican party would instead stop weaponizing identity politics and embrace inclusion.

1 comment:

  1. Word. Also, I think that more black people became voters because of Obama, but then, so did more young white people. A lot of people wanted to vote for the first black president - both black and white.

    In Maryland, we also had Barbara Mikulski trounce Alan Keyes.

    The numbers on when Jesse Jackson ran for president in 1984 and 1988 are interesting, too - http://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/13/us/jackson-share-of-votes-by-whites-triples-in-88.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm