September 11, 2016


Black Voters Are So Loyal That Their Issues Get Ignored (Farai Chideya, 9/09/16, 538)

Are black voters really "captured"? They certainly meet one part of the definition: In recent elections, more than 90 percent of the black vote has gone to the Democratic candidate for president.

Determining how well black interests are represented -- or even what those interests are -- is tougher. In his book, Frymer examined which groups campaigns targeted and how well the agenda of the Congressional Black Caucus fared, among other things. A recent study, "50 Years of the Voting Rights Act: The State of Race in Politics," looked at how often government action (in this case, spending) matched voters' policy preferences (based on survey data from 1972-2010) and concluded that "black voices are less equal than others when it comes to policy." Other studies have shown that modern presidential campaigns make direct arguments about remediating racial problems far less than in the 1970s and 1980s.

You can also point to specific examples of Democrats who gained office thanks in part to African-American support but who enacted some policies that arguably hurt black Americans. Bill Clinton's welfare and 1994 crime bills, for example, had a disproportionately negative effect on black communities. Obama clashed with the Congressional Black Caucus during his first term, though relations warmed during the second.

More generally, a 2015 report called "Political Powerlessness" by Nicholas Stephanopoulos at the University of Chicago Law School found that black support for Congressional legislation actually decreased its chances of passage. As he writes, "As white support increases from 0% to 100%, the likelihood of adoption increases from about 10% to about 60%. As black support rises from 0% to 100%, though, the odds of enactment fall3 from roughly 40% to roughly 30%." [...]

[Frymer] adds, "There are other groups that vote heavily Democratic -- Jewish voters, for instance -- that are not ignored by either party. Both parties make strong appeals to Jewish voters with regards to Israel, for instance, without fear of destabilizing their broader coalition." It is the fear of turning off other constituencies with appeals to black Americans that shifts the playing field.

Just as blacks are fundamentally voting against the Republican Party--which is why even a candidate like W couldn't win meaningful support--so too are Republicans prone to vote against the Back Caucus because it is nothing more than a subsidiary of the Democratic Party.  Neither side ever reaches the merits in most cases.

On the other hand, when there is a powerful Republican constituency for an issue that the Black Caucus is interested in, it's easy enough to form an alliance, as witness prison reform, where Evangelicals are the change leaders.

Posted by at September 11, 2016 7:46 AM