Category: Black Voters

Artur Davis Loses Big in Primary Election for Alabama Governor

Artur Davis, who was running to become Alabama’s first black governor, lost big in the Alabama Democratic primary yesterday.


Artur Davis

Artur Davis, who is currently serving out his term as a member of Congress for Alabama’s Seventh District, lost big to Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks. Sparks got 62% of the Democratic primary vote for governor, versus 38%, of the vote for Davis.

Davis’ support from black voters was lower than expected, although some observers were not surprised. For one, Davis failed to court the support of Alabama’s main black political organizations, and got endorsements from none of them. Those groups gave their support to Sparks.

Davis also drew the ire of some progressives for his centrist/conservative stands on many issues. For example, Davis voted against the Health Care Reform bill, a move that was seen as a way to make him more attractive to the state’s white and conservative voters in a general election. Rev. Jesse Jackson was quoted as saying, “You can’t vote against health care and call yourself a black man.” Davis was the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote against the bill.

The political website FiveThirtyEight.com has a good discussion of the election results, starting with this:

The dream of a biracial progressive coalition supporting a southern African-American politician took another hit last night as Rep. Artur Davis was crushed by underdog primary opponent Ron Sparks in the Alabama Democratic gubernatorial primary. And so, for some who don’t look too closely at the numbers, Davis joins the list along with Georgia’s Andrew Young, North Carolina’s Harvey Gantt and Tennessee’s Harold Ford, of southern black candidates who couldn’t get enough white votes to win.

Without exit polling, it’s impossible to accurately break down racial patterns in yesterday’s vote. But even a cursory look at the numbers shows that while Sparks did indeed wax Davis among white Democrats, he did exceptionally well among black Democrats as well. Moreover, Davis wasn’t hurt by some dropoff in black turnout attributable to his refusal to pursue African-American endorsements or focus on that community and its issue priorities; indeed, in most parts of the state, black turnout seems to have held up relatively well as compared to the last statewide gubernatorial primary in 2006 (overall, Democratic turnout was down 31% from 2006).

The article goes on to say that Sparks may have won almost one-half of the black vote in the primary.

It still remains to be seen who will win Congressional seat that Davis is vacating. The two top vote getters in the Democratic primary, Terri Sewell (who got 37% of the primary vote), and Shelia Smoot (29%), will face-off in a runoff election that is scheduled for July 13. Although Republicans will be running for the seat in the November election, it is a foregone conclusion that the Democratic candidate will be the winner after the votes are counted.

Political Miscellany 11/6/09: Run-off Elections in Atlanta and Houston

Atlanta Mayoral Race Results in Runoff Election

The much watched Atlanta mayoral race is not over yet. Mayoral candidates Mary Norwood and Kasim Reed will go head to head in a run-off election on December 1, after neither gained the 50% of the vote needed to win the election outright on November 3rd.

Norwood, an at-large member of the Atlanta city council, got 45% of the vote. Reed, who is a Georgia state senator, came in second place with 38% of the vote. Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders was third with 14% of the vote in an eight person race.

Mary-Norwood
Atlanta City Councilwoman and Mayoral Candidate Mary Norwood

This election has become notable because of the racial dynamics involved. Norwood is white, and if she wins, she will be the first white mayor of Atlanta in 36 years. The city is roughly 56% African American, 36% white, and 5% Hispanic. Although race is the 800 pound gorilla in the room, Norwood is popular throughout many parts of the city, and is seen as having a good chance of winning the run-off.

Kasim-Reed
Georgia State Senator and Atlanta Mayoral Candidate Kasim Reed

In the November 3rd election, Norwood did very well in the white areas of Atlanta, and had some pockets of black support throughout the city as well. Reed did well in southwest Atlanta and in predominantly black areas of northwest and west Atlanta.

The big questions going into the runoff are, who will the supporters of 3rd place finisher Lisa Borders vote for? And, how many people will come out to vote in December? As reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution,

In 2001, when Shirley Franklin first ran for mayor, 41 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Tuesday, only about 24 percent of registered voters showed up. In many black areas away from Reed’s stronghold in southwest Atlanta, voter turnout was extremely low. At the polling station of the Central United Methodist Church on Mitchell Street on the West Side, only 4.63 percent of registered voters cast a ballot. In many southwest Atlanta precincts, more than 30 percent of registered voters turned out.

Low turnout would probably be least favorable to Reed.

Houston Mayoral Race Run-off

The mayoral race in Houston, Texas, has also resulted in a run-off election, to be held on December 12.

The Houston mayoral race has been notable for the diversity of the candidate pool. The leading candidates going into election day on November 3rd were City Councilman Peter Brown, a white Democrat; Harris county Education Trustee Roy Morales, a Hispanic Republican; City Controller Annise Parker, a Democrat, who is openly gay; and former City Attorney Gene Locke, an African American Democrat.

Houston-mayor-Locks,-Parker-Morales-Brown
Several of the candidates in Houston’s November mayoral election: Gene Locke, Roy Morales, Annise Parker, and Peter Brown. Locke and Parker will be in the December run-off election.

Parker and Locke received 31% and 26% of the vote, respectively, and are headed to the runoff.

If Locke wins, he will be Houston’s second African American mayor. If Parker wins, she will be the city’s first openly gay mayor, and the first such mayor of as large a city as Houston.

Political Miscellany @ 11/4/2009: Is the Obama Coalition “Portable” to Other Democratic Races?

Right after Obama’s presidential election win last November, I made this comment:

Here are my own election winners and losers, plus some “too early to tell” entries…

Too Early to Tell:

Black Voters: They were huge this election. Blacks were 13% of the total vote, up from 10% in 2000 and 11% in 2004. That helped make the difference in close elections for several states.

The question is, can they be depended on in future elections? Or will their turnout drop without Obama at the top of election ballots?

I think a lot more work needs to be done to make black voters a dependable election force, in close elections or elections in the South. Because if they’re not a dependable political force, that lessens their power and influence in the long run.

It will be interesting to see how much of the black vote turns out for the Georgia Senate runoff election between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and his opponent, Democrat Jim Martin. Martin has no hope of winning if black voters stay home; we’ll see if they sit this one out.

In the aforementioned Georgia Senate race, Jim Martin did wind up losing, and low black turnout was a factor.

Yesterday, Republicans won the governor’s election in New Jersey and Virginia. In both cases, the young and black voters who were key to Obama’s election success were not decisive in their support for the Democratic candidate.

Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press made these comments:

In another troubling omen for Democrats, the surveys also showed that more of the Virginians who turned out on Tuesday said they supported Republican John McCain in 2008 than said they backed Obama. That suggests the Democrats had difficulty turning out their base, including the swarms of first-time minority and youth voters whom Obama attracted as part of his diverse coalition.

A loss in Virginia could suggest that the diverse coalition that Obama cobbled together last year in Virginia and elsewhere — blacks, Hispanics, young people, independents and Republican crossovers — was a one-election phenomenon that didn’t transfer to the Democratic Party when Obama wasn’t on the ballot.

I share Sidoti’s concern, although I disagree with her comment that the Obama election win was a one hit wonder in terms of pulling together what I call the “Obama coalition” of young, black, Hispanic and independent voters.

Witness, for example, 38-year old Democrat Anthony Foxx in the Charlotte, North Carolina mayoral election. Voters in the city ended more than two decades of Republican leadership in Charlotte Tuesday by electing Foxx, who is the city’s second African-American mayor and the youngest in memory. Foxx won a close race, getting roughly 51 percent of the vote over Republican John Lassiter in unofficial tallies.

Foxx benefitted from a strong black turnout. African Americans are 35% of Charlotte’s population. The Democrats need to find and promote more candidates like him, who appeal to diverse constituents.

The bottom line is, if the Democrats are going to win “the Obama way,” they need to embrace the kinds of voters that put Obama into office. Failure to do so is perilous. Consider these comments from the Washington Post, concerning the election campaign in Virginia governor’s race:

Senior (Obama) administration officials have expressed frustration with how Democrat R. Creigh Deeds has handled his campaign for governor, refusing early offers of strategic advice and failing to reach out to several key constituencies that helped Obama win Virginia in 2008, they say.

A senior administration official said (Democratic gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh) Deeds badly erred on several fronts, including not doing a better job of coordinating with the White House. “I understood in the beginning why there was some reluctance to run all around the state with Barack Obama,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about the race. “You don’t do that in Virginia. But when you consider the African American turnout that they need, and then when you consider as well they’ve got a huge problem with surge voters, younger voters, we were just a natural for them.”

A second administration official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Obama, (outgoing Democratic governor Tim) Kaine and others had drawn a road map to victory in Virginia. Deeds chose another path.”

And it goes without saying that black voters can’t afford to be apathetic or unengaged simply because certain kinds of candidates aren’t running. Not everyone who runs for political office is exciting or charismatic. And sometimes it is about voting for the lesser of two evils. Black folks need to be willing to come out to the polls even in those kinds of situations.

In 2008 Elections, Voter Turnout for Young Blacks Sets Record; Exceeds Turnout Rate for Young White Voters

The 2008 election was historic in many ways. One of those was the turnout rate for young black voters.

According to a report on the election from The Pew Research Center, Dissecting the 2008 Electorate: Most Diverse in U.S. History, for the first time in American history young blacks (aged 18-29) had a higher voter turnout than young white voters:
Young-Voters-2008-Election

All told, 58.2% of eligible young voters took part in the 2008 election. This was the all-time highest voter turnout rate for young black voters.

Despite these record numbers, the turnout rate for young black voters was lower than the overall black turnout rate. The turnout rate for all black voters was 65.2%, and 66.1% for all white voters.

These are some other stats concerning young voters and the 2008 elections from the Pew Report:

• The voter turnout rate among black eligible voters ages 18 to 29 was 8.7 percentage points higher in 2008 than in 2004—58.2% versus 49.5%.

• Voter participation among white eligible voters ages 18 to 29 was down slightly in 2008 compared with 2004—52.1% versus 52.3%.

• Young Latino eligible voters increased their voter participation rate to 40.7% in 2008 from 35.5% in 2004.

• The voter turnout rate among Asian eligible voters ages 18 to 29 was up 10.5 percentage points, to 42.9% in 2008 from 32.4% in 2004. This was the largest increase among all racial and ethnic groups for that age group.

Of interest, the turnout rate for young whites was slightly down form 2004. The decrease was very small, but it is a decrease. This may reflect that Republican voting in the election was down. According to a report from American University’s Center for the Study of the American Electorate, Republican turnout declined in 44 states and the District of Columbia and increased in only six—none by a greater amount than two percentage points.

Related Posts:
Post Election Analysis: The Myth That “They Only Voted For Obama Because He’s Black.”
In 2008 Election, Black Women Have the Highest Voter Turnout
The Color of the Young Vote, 2008

In 2008 Election, Black Women Have the Highest Voter Turnout Rate

The Pew Research Center has recently released a report on voting in the 2008 election titled Dissecting the 2008 Electorate: Most Diverse in U.S. History. As indicated by the report’s title, the big finding was that this election featured best-ever turnout numbers for non-whites, such as African Americans and Hispanics.

The report, which looks at voting by ethnicity and gender, discloses a surprising statistic: black women had the highest voter turnout among all all groups in the 2008 election. This is noted in the following chart:
Voter-Turnout-by-Gender-and-Race

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Factoid: Black State Legislators in 2009

There are now a record 628 African Americans in the legislatures of the 50 states, according to the National Black Caucus of State Legislatures and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Last year there were 622 Africans Americans state legislators.

A list with the count of African Americans in each state legislature is at the web site for the Conference of State Legislatures. I have prepared this edited version of the list:

Count and Percentage of Black State Legislators, 2009 (Sorted by Percentage of Blacks in the Legislature {% of Total Seats})
black-legislators-all21

Some comments:

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Political Miscellany @ 12/2/2008

Greetings. All Other Persons has been out for a while on vacation, but we are back to it. I hope all of you enjoyed your holiday.

OK, we’re just about at the end of the 2008 election season. Here are some political news and notes as we reach the close of what has been an exciting year.

Epic Fail by Black Republican Challenger in Georgia Congressional Election

This is perhaps the ultimate example of throwing good money after bad. The web site OpenSecrets.org discusses a congressional race between two African American candidates in the Atlanta, Georgia area:

Despite raising over four times more than her incumbent opponent, Republican Deborah Honeycutt lost this week by a landslide in the race to represent Georgia’s 13th District. 

Honeycutt, who raised $4.7 million compared to Rep. David Scott’s $1 million, has received a fair share of negative media attention for being a client of BMW Direct, a DC-based fundraising firm.

BMW Direct has come under scrutiny for its strategy of raising handsome sums from conservative donors for Republican candidates who stand little-to-no chance of being elected.

The money raised by Honeycutt is astounding. OpenSecrets.org, which is a product of the Center for Responsive Politics, estimates that “the average cost of winning a House race in 2008 was nearly $1.1 million, based on pre-election finance reports.” Honeycutt quadrupled that level of fund raising for her campaign, and still lost. In no other House race this season did the losing candidate so outspend the eventual winner.

Honeycutt’s opponent, Democrat David Scott, got 69% of the vote, versus 31% for Honeycutt.

The “Vote Shortage” in the Georgia Senate Election on November 5.

In a recent post, I talked about the runoff election for Georgia’s senate seat, which is being waged between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss, and Democratic challenger Jim Martin. The runoff election is being held today.

Some post-election analysis of the election voting in Georgia on November 5 shows some very curious numbers:
o President: 1,844,137 votes for Obama
o Senate: 1,757,419 votes for Martin
o All House Races: 1,858,123 votes for Democrats

Martin, a white moderate Democrat from Georgia, got 86,000 less votes than Barack Obama, a black northerner with a liberal background. And that doesn’t make sense. (Note that, even if Martin had gotten that extra 86,000 votes, he still would not have beaten Chambliss.)

In total, there were almost 170,000 more votes for the presidential candidates than there were for the Senate candidates. People are asking, why were there so fewer votes for senator than there were president?

Jay Bookman, writing in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, notes that

More than 168,000 Georgia voters went to the polls on Nov. 4 and cast ballots for president, then walked out without bothering to cast a vote in the highly advertised U.S. Senate race between Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin.

That seems like a lot — an undervote of 4.3 percent.

In North Carolina, the Senate undervote was 1.1 percent of the presidential total. In Oregon it was 3.3 percent, and 2.3 percent in New Hampshire. The only state where the total approached Georgia’s was Louisiana, at 4.0 percent.

So who were these people? Were they Obama voters who just cast their ballots for their favorite and walked out? The evidence for that is weak. In Fulton County, which went for Obama by more than 2-1, the undervote was 2.85 percent, lower than the undervote rate in McCain counties such as Cobb (3.4 percent) and Cherokee (3.1 percent). In DeKalb County the rate was 4.4 percent, about the state average.

What’s significant about Fulton and DeKalb is that they are Atlanta area counties with a large number of black voters.

This might be a result, at least in part, of the failure of DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones, who is African American, to endorse Martin’s senate bid. Jones, who lost to Martin in a primary runoff in August, has criticized Martin for not supporting Barack Obama’s presidential run. Martin voted for Democrat John Edwards in Georgia’s February presidential primary even though Edwards already had dropped out of the race.

Early voting in the Geogia runoff election is not promising for Martin, as far as black participation goes. Among those who cast their votes prior to today, in the so-called “early vote,” blacks were 22% of total voters. By comparison, blacks cast almost 35% of the early votes prior to the November 5 election. These numbers could mean that black interest in the runoff election is low… and by extension, that Martin’s odds of winning are not good at all.

African Americans Get Leadership Positions in State Legislatures Out West

It seems like the West is best for black state legislators who seek leadership positions. These are the African American legislators who are presiding or leading officers in American state houses:

o Democrat Emil Jones, Jr., President of the Illinois Senate
o Democrat Karen Bass, Speaker of the California Assembly
o Democrat Peter Groff, President of the Colorado Senate President
o Democrat Terrance Carroll, Speaker of the Colorado (starting in 2009)
o Democrat Steven Horsford, President of the Nevada Senate

(Democrat Malcolm Smith is in-line to become leader of the NY state senate, however, his bid for that position is facing difficulties.)

It is notable that African Americans are less than 7% of the population in California, Colorado, and Nevada, and yet, blacks have risen to high leadership postions in their statehouses.

Meanwhile, the black population in the Deep South states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina is between 25-36% of the state total, but none has ever had an African American leader in their state legislatures.

The Wilder Era Comes to a Close in Virginia

Doug Wilder, the trailblazing African American politician from Virginia, is about to end his career as an elected official. In 1990, he became the first African American ever to be elected to governor of an American state.

Wilder, has been serving as mayor of Richmond, Virginia since 2005. He decided not to run for re-election this year.

His successor as Richmond mayor will be Dwight Jones. Jones, who won out over a field of several mayoral candidates with 39% of the vote, is a pastor and leader of the Virginia legislative Black Caucus. He narrowly defeated Richmond City Council president William Pantele after running a campaign centered on education and social justice issues.

Prominent Black Democrat Won’t Endorse Jim Martin in Georgia Senate Race

This is from the AugustaChronicle.com, concerning the Georgia Senate race between incumbent Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin.

AP, November 19, 2008: U.S. Senate candidate Jim Martin won’t be getting an endorsement from his former Democratic rival anytime soon.

DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones, who lost to Mr. Martin in a primary runoff in August, said he has no plans to back him, citing the former state lawmaker’s lack of support for Democratic President-elect Barack Obama during the primary season.

Mr. Martin voted for Democrat John Edwards in Georgia’s Feb. 5 presidential primary even though the North Carolina senator already had dropped out of the race.

Mr. Jones, who is black, hammered Mr. Martin repeatedly for that vote during their bitter campaign.

“Jim Martin did not want Barack Obama to be president,” Mr. Jones said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “He did not want to vote for an African-American or a woman.”

Mr. Jones said it’s hypocritical for Mr. Martin to now be “begging Barack Obama to come down here and help him” in his Dec. 2 runoff.

Mr. Martin is locked in a runoff with Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss after neither garnered 50 percent of the vote in the general election. He has asked Mr. Obama to campaign for him but has received no word on whether he will.

That kind of news can’t be helpful to Martin, who needs the black vote to turnout if he’s going to win the runoff. While Chambliss got just under 50% of the general election vote, Martin got around 47% (the same percentage that Barack Obama got in Georgia).

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Political Miscellany @ 11/17/2008

Black Leaders in the Colorado Legislature Make History

The Colorado legislature has only two black members. But now they are the two most powerful members of the 100-person body.

colorado-legislators
Colorado Rep. Terrance Carroll; Colorado Sen. Peter Groff

Colorado Democrats made legislative history by electing Rep. Terrance Carroll as speaker of the House and re-electing Peter Groff as Senate president.

It will be the first time in American history that the presiding officers of both chambers of a legislature will be African-Americans.

Two Omaha-area Black Women Elected to the Nebraska Legislature

For most of the past 30 years, Nebraska has had only one African-American serving in its single-house legislature. After the November election, it will have two, both female.

cook-and-council
Incoming Nebraska State Senators Tanya Cook and Brenda Council
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Post Election Analysis: The Myth That “They Only Voted For Obama Because He’s Black.”

I’ve seen this comment over and over again on the Internet and other sources: “black people voted for Obama for the sole reason that he’s black.” But that thinking doesn’t stand-up to the evidence.

Consider the black vote for these white candidates for president, as noted in a report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies:
• Lyndon Johnson, 1964: 94% of the African American vote
• Al Gore, 2000: 90%
• John Kerry, 2008: 88%

As these numbers indicate, African Americans have been voting for white Democratic presidential contenders at an 88-90% rate for decades. So a large black vote for Obama was not unprecedented.

Obama did get a very very high percentage of the black vote – 95%, according to exit polls – but this was to be expected no matter which Democrat was running. Current president George Bush is extremely unpopular with African Americans, due to such issues as the handling of the Katrina disaster, and the very bad economic environment for blacks.

That probably caused the Republicans to lose the small sliver of black support they’ve received in the past 40-50 years.

So again, any Democrat running for president – black, white, purple, green – was going to benefit from a huge share of the black vote.

Having said that, there’s no doubt that having an African American to vote for president, after years of supporting white Democrat contenders, generated an overwhelming level of enthusiasm in the black community. Obama’s candidacy and campaign led to the registration of thousands of black voters, and probably a record black turnout. According to exit polls, blacks constituted 13 percent of the electorate, a 2 percentage-point gain over 2004, and the actual increase may be more than that.

If black voters had been equally enthused for Gore in 2000 or Kerry in 2004, the results for those elections may have been quite different.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at the white vote for this election.

Video: Joint Center Forum on the Election

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is one of the premier research and public policy institutions – also known as “think tanks” – concern political, economic, and health issues of interest to African Americans and other people of color.

The Joint Center conducted a forum right after the election which provides a number of great insights on what this means for American politics and society. The speakers include Ronald Walters, a professor in government and politics at the University of Maryland and an advisor to Jesse Jackson during his campaigns for President; and David Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center and an expert on African Americans in American politics.

The video is long, but if you can listen for 10-30 minutes at least, you’ll find it interesting, informative, and provocative:

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/841113

Black Students at Lincoln University Wait 5-7 Hours to Vote

My great-grandfather was an immigrant from the Caribbean who was employed as a cook for Lincoln University, a small, Quaker-founded historically black college in southeastern Pennsylvania. Several of his children, including my grandfather, attended Lincoln University. Many family members still live in the area.

As such, I was personally touched to read this story of the perseverance of Lincoln University students who waited for hours, some in the rain, to cast their votes.

Video of this from a local TV station is here:
http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/local&id=6490963

The Philadelphia Inquirer tells the story:

College students around the region turned out in record numbers to vote, but probably few of them underwent the test of endurance that greeted students from Lincoln University in Chester County.

The average time in line at their off-campus precinct in Lower Oxford Township was five and a half hours, according to some students. Food and drink were brought in. Portable toilets were set up. When rain started, volunteers arrived with umbrellas and ponchos.

“It was a travesty,” said Michele Vaughn, chairwoman of the Chester County Democratic Committee. “But the kids stayed in line. Their resolve was remarkable.”

But absent a court order, no change is likely anytime soon, said Terence Farrell, a Republican committeeman in the Chester County precinct, and the first African American elected to serve on the county Board of Commissioners.

In September, when presented with a petition from several residents, Farrell and fellow Republican Commissioner Carol Aichele voted against moving the precinct to the gym on the Lincoln University campus, where voters could wait indoors and where there is plenty of parking.

“The large turnout only happens one out of every eight elections, the presidential,” he said. The next election is the spring 2009 primary. “Very few students will participate,” he predicted.

Lincoln University president Ivory V. Nelson said that the university had agreed to the change but that the county commissioners had rejected it. “We did what we thought was a civic duty in saying they could vote here,” he said. “We want to congratulate our students for sticking it out. It was an important election.”

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Post Election Political Miscellany @ 11/7/08

Barack Obama won the election for president thanks to huge winning margins among black and Hispanic voters. This is from exit poll survey results on the CNN website:

vote-by-sex-and-race
Source: CNN/National Exit Poll

Overall, Obama got 43% of the white vote. By contrast, John Kerry got 41% of the white vote when he ran for president in 2004.

But here’s the thing about the white vote. The electoral map for this election is shown below. The blue sates were won by Obama, the red states by John McCain. Note that, the darker the color, the greater the margin of victory for each of the states:

map-electoral-voting

John McCain won a swath of “deep red” states stretching from Texas and Oklahoma in the southwest to Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama in the southeast. I would bet that outside the South, Obama won half or more of the white vote-a fact that might indicate something about race relations and racial politics in the South versus the rest of the country.
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Yes we did! Congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama. And to the Black Community for Representing.

It’s a done deal!

When it became clear last night that John McCain had lost both Pennsylvania and Ohio, it was all over but the shouting. Barack Obama wound up winning in an electoral college landslide.

The black community deserves some credit for this, in two ways.

First, it’s clear that the black vote was enormous. A combination of a huge black turnout, plus a near unanimous vote for Obama-it looks like as many as 95% of African Americans voted for him-smoothed the way for his victory. (This makes me wonder-why did we have to wait for a black man to run for president, before we turned-out in these numbers? If we had done this in 2000 or 2004, maybe Bush wouldn’t have been elected or re-elected. But that’s a discussion for another day.)

A black woman at a liquor store made a Red Foxx/Richard Pryor “old school” kind of joke that there were so many black people on line to vote, they could have filmed three or four Tarzan movies. Yeah, it’s not PC, but I thought it was funny. Please forgive me for any offense.

But to get serious and back to the point, there is a second reason why the black community was so key to this election. It’s because you represented.

Back in the spring, I was talking with a friend about Obama’s chances of winning the election. I said I was fearful that white Americans might not be willing to vote for a black man for president.

He replied, “I’ll tell you why white people will vote for Barack Obama. It’s because they know you and they know me.”

And I got it. So many of us, myself included, underestimate the impact that we as as competent, articulate, professional, honest, decent, and hard-working black people have on the whites we interact with, in the workplace or other settings.

When white people see Obama, they’re not necessarily associating him with some sorry stereotypical image of black Americans.

They are also associating him with you and with me.

And the good will that we’ve created, in turn, created a reservoir of good will among white voters that Barack Obama was able to tap into, in an apparently successful manner.

So, I want to thank YOU for representing the race, and for making this historic win possible. You deserve those thanks.

Now go ahead and have a good cry.

Hats Off to Black Radio’s Tom Joyner for His Get Out the Vote Efforts

The very effective use of the Internet by the Obama campaign, and the role of the Internet in this election season, have gotten a lot of attention, and deservedly so.

But an old mainstay of the black community – black radio – has, as usual, has played an important role in informing and mobilizing black voters.

The Nation magazine talks about the great work being done by radio DJ Tom Joyner (paid subscription required to read the full article):

In October, as trumped-up accusations of voter fraud swirled around ACORN, another national grassroots voter registration drive aimed at low-income and ethnic communities steamed along, under the radar of the mainstream press and the Republican operatives hoping to challenge such efforts.

Called 1-866-MYVOTE1, it is headed by African-American disc jockey Tom Joyner. His Tom Joyner Morning Show, fourteen years old this year, broadcasts nationwide on 115 radio stations, reaching more than 8 million weekday listeners. His website, blackamericaweb.com, receives 3.5 million page views per month.

…Joyner downplays rhetoric endorsing individual candidates–he supports Obama but has made no official endorsement–in favor of touting the 1-866-MYVOTE1 campaign as a nonpartisan effort to provide voter registration and polling place information and to give his listeners a way of reporting, in real time, problems they encounter at their local balloting place. Listen to his program daily and you will hear relentless references to 1-866-MYVOTE1, all delivered in cheery language free of rancor.

“Politics is never a sexy subject,” Joyner said in a phone interview from his Dallas studio in early October. “We’re in the business of reaching as many people as we can. That’s how we stay in business. But in taking up topics like politics and health, or unemployment or the economy, we’ve found that our formula for success is to put humor with it.”

In his twice-weekly “Trickery Updates,” he turns to Ken Smukler, a political and technology consultant in Philadelphia, for jocular updates on signs of polling irregularities around the nation. Smukler built Joyner’s call-in voter information and poll-monitoring system after determining that two principal factors had contributed to problems at polls in Florida in 2000 and in Ohio in 2004: voters’ lack of information about the process and particulars of registering and voting, and the fact that many polling places lack the resources and well-trained staff to handle large numbers of voters.