September 21, 2010


Neglecting the Base (BOB HERBERT, 9/21/10, NY Times)

It’s no secret that the president is in trouble politically, and that Democrats in Congress are fighting desperately to hold on to their majorities. But much less attention has been given to the level of disenchantment among black voters, who have been hammered disproportionately by the recession and largely taken for granted by the Democratic Party. That disenchantment is likely to translate into lower turnout among blacks this fall.

The idea that we had moved into some kind of postracial era was always a ridiculous notion. Attitudes have undoubtedly changed for the better over the past half-century, and young people as a whole are less hung up on race than their elders. But race is still a very big deal in the United States, which is precisely why black leaders like Mr. Fenty and Mr. Obama try so hard to behave as though they are governing in some sort of pristine civic environment in which the very idea of race has been erased.

These allegedly postracial politicians can end up being so worried about losing the support of whites that they distance themselves from their own African-American base.

While it is certainly the case that Mr. Obama was able to defeat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries because black voters served as his base there, and it is likewise true that no Republican nominee for president has a shot at any more than low double digits support from black voters, it is nonetheless also true that with a black electorate that hovers in the 10% vicinity, any winning Democrat needs one heck of a lot more white votes than black.

So, if black voters are really going to punish leaders like Mayor Fenty because they somehow aren't black enough, it seems fair to say that they are the main inhibitor on the transition to post-racial politics, no?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at September 21, 2010 3:50 PM
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