14 October 2011
In 1932 there was a sharp realignment in the way people voted in this country, when most African Americans voted the Republican ticket. The Depression had wrecked the economy; the unemployment rate was 29 percent for the country and 50 percent for Blacks. With the country in peril, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt saw the need to help a hurting populace.
Therefore, the “New Deal” was born, full of policies that helped establish a political alliance between Blacks and the Democratic Party that has survived well into this century.
So when Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain described African-American voters as being “Brainwashed,” to oppose conservative candidates, he opened up a Pandora Box.
“Brainwashed? I probably wouldn’t use that word,” said Lenny McAllister, a conservative political pundit and supporter of the Tea Party. “Do (Blacks) vote cart Blanche without accountability for the Democratic Party the last 30 years? Yeah. Do they ignore certain obvious contradictions and still vote Democrat? Yeah. Do they make excuses for the inadequacies of the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama when it comes supporting and or advocating for African Americans at the level that we need? Yeah. If you call that being brainwashed, then it’s brainwashed. I wouldn’t use that word, but I will definitely say that the expectation of accountability has been wiped away between Democrats and the African American community…at least the last 30 years.”
As the 20th century dawned and the Republicans increasingly became indifferent to the political and economic interests of Blacks, while taking stances to gain more white and wealthy voters, Blacks became more and more politically restless.
And during the Roosevelt administration, Democrats started to target their policies in a direction that focused on African American human rights and economic interests; that continued under Presidents Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
But as Democrats changed, Republicans failed to keep pace, losing votes and the Black vote, which had been loyal to the party for decades.
The political divorce happened in 1964 when Barry Goldwater was nominated to oppose President Johnson, who got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Right Act of 1965 passed during his administration. As a result, Dixiecrats fled the Democratic Party to become Republicans.
It didn’t stop there, as the Democratic Party continued to wield change throughout the nation. They nominated and appointed the first African American Supreme Court Justice in Thurgood Marshall.
Since the 1960s Democrats have been at the forefront of civil and human rights. They nominated the first African American cabinet secretaries and had African Americans running for president under their party’s name in 1972, 1984, 1988, 2004, and 2008. It was also Democrats that had Ronald H. Brown run the party in 1988.
The majority of Black people support the Democratic Party because it has been in their best interest to do so. A Democratic administrations enacted major civil rights legislation ending Jim Crow. Democrats supported and continue to support affirmative action. Democratic presidents have appointed judges and Attorney Generals who have defended civil rights.
The Democrats were the first major political party to nominate an African American for President. The Democrats were the first party to appoint an African American as a Supreme Court justice. Most Black elected officials are Democrats. And many African Americans hold key positions and wield substantial influence in the Democratic Party.
More than likely, the Democratic Party cannot win the White House, without the support of African American voters in the 2012 election. And to claim that Blacks are the most loyal block of voters the party has is not necessarily an understatement. Just look at the numbers.
In 1996, Bill Clinton trailed Bob Dole among whites 46 to 43 percent, but got 84 percent of the African American vote and won the election handily. In 2000, Al Gore won an historic 90 percent of the African American vote, which was critical to his success in the popular vote. Given the increased polarization of the electorate and the disappearing “swing voter” in 2004, African-American voters are more important than ever, especially when it comes to re-electing president Obama.
The Republican Party that William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, and President Ronald Reagan built was not been designed to reach out to a group on the basis of identity, but on the basis of a given group’s ideas and values. And J.C. Watts, a former Oklahoma congressman who once was part of the GOP House leadership, has criticized the Republican Party for neglecting the Black community. Black Republicans, he said, have to concede that while they might not agree with Democrats on issues, at least that party reaches out to them.
“Obama highlights that even more,” Watts said, adding that he expects Obama to take on issues such as poverty and urban policy. “Republicans often seem indifferent to those things.”
African-American voters have especially forceful reasons to turn out to vote against the republican nominee in 2012.
Chief among these is the high unemployment numbers the African-American community has faced over the past three years. Corporate earnings may be back up, but the unemployment rate for African-Americans rose to over 16 percent this fall. African-Americans have been particularly affected by job losses in the manufacturing sector, which have been tough as Blacks have struggled to find new jobs.
Which have left many puzzled with Cain’s assertions and conservative commentator Pat Buchanan’s description of the Democratic Party as a plantation.
"Cain makes it sound like African Americans are too weak-minded or stupid to recognize what's in their own self-interest." NPR blogger Frank James said. "Again, not the best way to win over voters."
Zack Burgess is the Enterprise Writer for The Tribune. He is a freelance writer and Editor who covers culture, politics and sports. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com.
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