The 2010 election cycle is notable for the Republican Party tidal wave that saw the Democrat Party lose control of the House of Representatives, and have diminished majority in the Senate. The Wave brought with it some diversity in the GOP’s Congressional delegation: there are now two African American Republicans in the House of Representatives.
The last time there were two African Americans Republicans in Congress was in 1995-96, when J. C. Watts represented the 4th District of Oklahoma and Gary Franks represented the 5th district of Connecticut.
This year’s breakthrough occurred thanks to the election of black Republicans in Florida and South Carolina. Allen West won his race for congress in southern Florida, while Tim Scott won his race in the Charleston and northern coastal area of South Carolina.
Allen West won in Florida’s 22nd District, which includes parts of Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and other portions of Broward County and Palm Beach County. These are north of Dade County, which contains the city of Miami.
West’s district is 75% white, 15% Hispanic, and just 5% black. He beat out two-term Democratic incumbent Ron Klein by a margin of 54.3% for himself to 45.7% for Klein. The two had faced each other in the 2008 election; in that election, Klein beat West by 55% to 45%.
West has something of a reputation for being controversial and combative. The 2010 Almanac of American Politics spoke of West in its discussion of the 2008 election:
…former Army Lieutenant Col. Allen West… retired after a 2003 incident in which he fired a gun near the head of an Iraqi detainee in an effort to make him reveal information about plans to attack U.S. troops. West’s explanation was that he had “sacrificed” his military career “for the lives of my men.”
Also during the 2008 campaign, West charged that a request for an interview from Al-Jezeera was actually part of a kidnapping plot.
The website TalkingPointsMemo.com said this about West:
Without a doubt, Allen West is going to become a new star all around — adored on the right, and a bogeyman of the left. First of all, West built his conservative political career on a particular event from his own military service — when he tortured an Iraqi policeman, and was proud of it. Since then, his attitudes on foreign policy haven’t changed much: “A nation goes to war against an ideology. We are against something that is a totalitarian, theocratic, political ideology, and it is called Islam.” The incident ended his time in uniform, and launched him on a track to Republican politics.
Also during this past campaign, West faced questions over his campaign’s ties to a criminal biker gang, The Outlaws. And at one of his events, a group of leather-clad men ejected a Democratic video tracker, as West got the crowd cheering. (It is unclear whether these same security men were Outlaws. In addition, West has pointed out that he could not possibly be an Outlaw himself — they do not accept African-Americans as members.)
It remains to be seen if West will this interesting once he gets on to the mundane tasks of representing his district in Congress, although being a black Republican will surely get West some media attention no matter what he does.
DID YOU KNOW: South Florida now has three African American representative in the Congress: West; Alcee Hastings, who represents Florida’s 23rd District; and newly-elected Fredrica Wilson, of Florida’s 17th District. The 17th District seek was previously held by Kendrick Meek. Meek ran for the U.S. Senate this year, and lost in a three-way race (that included outgoing Florida governor Charlie Christ) to Marco Rubio.
The other successful Republican African American candidate for U.S. Congress is Tim Scott. Scott will be representing the 1st District of South Carolina. This includes much of the Charleston metro area, although the heavily black parts are in the nearby 6th District. The 6th District is represented by James Clyburn, who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Clyburn is the current House Majority (Democratic Party) Whip, which is one of the leadership positions among House Democrats; however, with Republicans taking over the House, his role may change. We'll see.
Fear is one of more common themes in political advertisements. Consider this political ad from 1949, which was seen in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area:
I think this speaks for itself. It almost makes the Willie Horton ads from the 1988 presidential campaign seem tame.
So… who’s the Republican bogeyman for 2010? This poster was recently (October 2010) seen in Shreveport, Louisiana:
(Hat tip to Dailykingfish.com for the image.)
NOTE: This picture at the top is from the excellent book, One Shot Harris: The Photographs of Charles “Teenie” Harris. Harris was a photographer who worked for the Pittsburgh Courier, which was one of the nation’s top black newspapers.
The book contains photographs taken by Harris from the 1940s through the 1960s. Black Issues Book Review said this about Harris and the book:
One Shot Harris is pure soul. Though Harris photographed people living in poverty, most of his photos break away from the all-too-familiar images that oftentimes represent blacks during hard times. Instead, Harris focused on local folk–proud at work and at home–along with numerous celebrities to convey cultural pride. He took particular pleasure in highlighting The Hill District, the Pittsburgh neighborhood where many African Americans flocked seeking employment and entertainment.
“What I’d like for readers to take away from this book,” says writer Stanley Crouch, “is that Harris shows that these black communities, regardless of all stereotypes, were as civilized as any community in the entire western world.”
The book contains an essay by noted writer Stanley Crouch, and a biography of Harris by African American photography scholar Deborah Willis. Highly recommended.
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:
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.
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:
In the previous blog entry, we mentioned that Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, expressed his desire to see more people of color represented within the Republican Party. Steele made this statement at a meeting of Florida Republicans. At the same meeting, Jim Greer, Florida’s party chairman, said that the party would focus on using technology to invigorate younger Republicans.
The folowing charts help to explain why Republicans might be concerned about ethnic and age diversity within their party. These are from the Young Voters in the 2008 Presidential Election Fact Sheet, which was prepared by CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.
This first chart is not elegant aesthetically, but it makes a powerful point about the ethnic make-up of voters in the November elections. The chart shows the ethnicity of the electorate, broken-out by different age groups.
I know this is redundant, but let me go over the numbers on the above chart:
• For voters who are 60 years old or more, the ethnic composition of the vote was 85% white, 8% black, and 4% Hispanic
• For voters aged 45-59, the ethnicity was 80% white, 12% black, and 4% Hispanic
• For voters aged 30-44, the ethnicity was 72% white, 15% black, and 7% Hispanic
• For voters aged 18-29, the ethnicity was 64% white, 19% black, and 11% Hispanic
What we’re seeing is that the under-30 population has become more ethnically diverse than older age groups. Whites are a smaller portion of the electorate, while the percentage of African Americans and Hispanics is growing.
The problem for Republicans is that African Americans and Hispanics tend to vote for Democrats. The following chart shows the percentage of people who voted for Obama in the November elections, by ethnicity and age-group:
Here are my own election winners and losers, plus some “too early to tell” entries.
Barack Obama. Duh. This Hawaiian born and bred biracial intellectual with minimal experience has become perhaps the most unique and remarkable politician in American history. Now we’ll see if he can fix the mess that George Bush and congressional Republicans have made of this country.
Michelle Obama. The Right tried to demonize her into being an anti-white angry black woman who does terrorist fist bumps with her pals-with-terrorists husband. But like her husband, the more you saw of her, the better you felt about her.
I think she benefitted from not being a silent trophy wife; her speech at the Democratic National Convention and numerous media appearances showed her to be articulate, smart, and personable. I have no doubt that America is embracing her as the new First Lady.
Democrats in the Southeast: Who would have predicted even two years ago that a black Democratic presidential candidate would win in Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida? And how about the fact that Virginia and North Carolina both sent Democrats to the US Senate this year?
The bottom line is, the southeast has become a new battleground for the parties, after being owned by Republicans the prior two elections. And they could have more success there in the future, if they play their cards right.
Democrats in the Industrial Midwest: The last two northern Democrats to be nominated as presidential candidates were both from Massachusetts. They both lost. This year a candidate from the Midwest gave it a try, and found success.
Observers are saying that the proximity of red states like Iowa and Indiana to Obama’s “home” state of Illinois was a factor in his victories there. I bet that a lot of Democrats from the Midwest are looking at themselves in the mirror and thinking, maybe I’m next.
At least, Obama’s victory disturbs the conventional wisdom that only a southern Democrat has a chance of winning a presidential election.
Organized Labor: Make no mistake, labor put a lot of money and manpower into this election. The Democrats’ success in Pennsylvania and other Great Lakes states is owed in part to their efforts.
Now we’ll see what organized labor wants, and how much they can get from Obama and the Congress. A bail-out for the auto industry seems first on the list.
Internet Based Campaigning: The Obama campaign has become a legend in its own time thanks to its masterful use of the Internet to organize, communicate, and raise money. By the next presidential cycle, everybody will be doing it-or at least, they’ll try.
Cornell Belcher and Leah Daughtry: You probably don’t know these two black technocrats who work for the Democratic Party, but you should.
Cornell Belcher is the first African American to serve as polling director for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Belcher was also a pollster for the Obama campaign. He had the insight that the Democrats could find enough pockets of strength that even a black man could win the presidency. And he was right. (Although he would be the first to say that the toxic environment for Republicans was a huge key to this election.)
In an earlier post, I said that Barack Obama might have gotten half of the white vote OUTSIDE the South. Based on my review of exit poll information, Obama missed the 50% mark by a whisker, getting 49.7% of the white vote outside the South-versus just 30.2% of the white vote in the South.
Thanks to some great work at the site Gene Expression in the post The Great White Sort, we have consolidated information from exit polls about the white vote in the presidential election. I used that to prepare two tables about the white vote for Obama.
TABLE 1, which is below, shows the white vote outside the South; TABLE 2 shows the white southern vote. Note the contrasts in the voting numbers.
Some comments on the white vote outside the South:
• Obama got the highest percentage of white votes in his native state of Hawaii. He got a whopping 70% of the white vote there.
• Obama got 50% or more of the white vote in the mega-states of California (52% of the white vote), New York (52%), and Illinois (51%).
• Obama’s worst performances were in Utah (31%), Alaska (32%), and Wyoming (32%). In Arizona, Obama got 40% of the white vote.
• Several states with small minority populations, all in New England and the Northwest, provided Obama with a very large share of the white vote: Vermont (68%), Maine (58%), Rhode Island (58%), Massachusetts (57%), New Hampshire (54%), Oregon (60%), Washington (59%).
• In New England, the MidAtlantic, the industrial Midwest, and the West Coast, Obama clearly won the majority of the white vote. He did worse in the Mountain and Midwest Plains states.
• I came to the 49.7% non-southern white vote number using exit poll data, and a weighted average based on the white population of the states. I also used a weighted average to get to the 30.2% number for the white southern vote.
Some comments on the white southern vote:
• Clearly, Obama did poorly among white southern voters. The difference in the voting numbers between the regions is stunning and remarkable.
• One key is that Obama did practically no campaigning or ad spending in the South after the primary elections, with the notable exceptions of Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia – states which Obama won thanks to a strong African American and Hispanic vote. The Obama campaign basically ceded those other southern states to McCain.
• The electorates in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi may have been especially polarized due to some state and local elections. In Alabama and Mississippi, black candidates were running for US Senate seats against Republican incumbents. In Louisiana, black candidates were running as Democrats or independents in three congressional districts. These races, plus the Obama run, may have… I’ll use the word “energized”… white Republican voters in those states to do straight ticket voting.
• White southerners are the strongest supporters of the Republican Party, so these results are not unprecedented. I have not looked at the 2004 presidential results, but Kerry may have done equally as bad, or worse, among white voters that year.
Source for two tables below: The Great White Sort post at the Gene Expressions site.
TABLE 1: White Vote for Obama Outside the South
TABLE 2: White Vote for Obama in the South
Note: Text versions of the two tables are here. The tables are presented as graphics in this post because WordPress had problems rendering the pages correctly in several web browsers when I included the information in HTML tables.