Category: Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats

Republican Scare Tactics, Then and Now

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.

Note the little girl’s doll:

So… who’s the Republican bogeyman for 2010? This poster was recently (October 2010) seen in Shreveport, Louisiana:

Obama as the bogeyman, 2010.

Boo.

(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.

Why Black Conservatives Don’t Vote Republican

Kathleen Parker recently wrote an essay in the Washington Post titled Can the GOP Speak to Blacks? Before even reading past the headline, I thought to myself: the Republican Party is speaking to Blacks. It’s just that, what they’re saying doesn’t sound too good:

Stuff like that gets to the crux of the issue that’s not addressed in Parker’s article, which talks about a young black conservative who’s trying to convince other blacks to join the Republican Party:

Marvin Rogers, a 33-year-old former aide to South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis, has a plan for the GOP. He wants to change its complexion.

In 2008… he ran unsuccessfully for the SC state House of Representatives. “Unsuccessfully” in this case should be qualified. Rogers won 32 percent of the vote in a blue stronghold, running as a black Republican in the year of Obama.

(When Rogers started to think about his own political leaning), he began by examining issues on paper and recognized that he was philosophically more aligned with Republicans than Democrats. But then a funny thing happened. When he began attending political meetings, he noticed, “Oh, my, I’m the only black guy here. What’s up with that?”

That question led Rogers on a quest that has resulted in a book nearing completion, “Silence Is the Loudest Sound,” in which he attempts to explain how the party of Lincoln lost its black soul. Through five years of study and interviews, Rogers reached the conclusion that the chasm between the black community and the Republican Party is more emotional than philosophical. And, he says, that chasm is more a media template than reflective of reality.

The best explanation for what’s gone wrong, he says, was articulated by Jack Kemp, who told him during an interview: “The Republican Party has had a great history with African Americans and they turned away from it. The Democratic Party has had a terrible history, but they overcame it.”

Part of the turning away followed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy,” which tried to harness votes by cultivating white resentment toward blacks. Rogers is no Pollyanna and recognizes this period for what it was — a “bruise” on the GOP. But he insists that Democrats use the Southern strategy when it suits them.

The biggest problem for today’s Republican Party, he says, is tone-deafness, as manifested by conservative talk radio and TV. Rogers says he and most blacks can’t listen to Rush Limbaugh because all they hear is anger. “They might agree with Rush on the issues, but they can’t hear him because he sounds mad. People don’t follow fussers. People don’t follow angry men. They follow articulators.”

The article reminded me of a point made by one of my college instructors: a key to understanding American politics is to realize that this is a two-party country.

In other countries, especially those with a parliamentary form of government, there can be many parties. But in America, you have have the big two, Democrats and Republicans, and a few smaller parties that lack a record of sustained success.

This means that particular constituents and interest groups are forced to form coalitions with other groups that support one of the dominant parties. That often leads to uncomfortable alliances. But this is the reality of American politics.

And in fact, you will find many African Americans at BOTH the conservative and progressive ends of the spectrum who are not entirely comfortable with the Democrats.

http://23.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_kpzvv6xGNY1qa3xbjo1_500.png
Protesters at the September 12th march on Washington
How many black conservatives want to join with these people?

But consider what blacks would have to put up with, if they were in a coalition with conservatives and Republicans:
The Hate That Hate Produced: The Demonization of Barack Obama by the Republican Party

There are many more examples that could be provided, in addition to the ones noted in the link. Many more. Many many many more.

To be clear: it is unfair and incorrect to say that all Republicans, or even a majority of Republicans, harbor racist feelings toward Obama or African Americans.

But there’s a whole lot more of those kinds of folks, making and sending overt or implicitly racist messages, on the extreme edge of the GOP than there are at the extreme edge of the Democratic Party. And these crazies scare black folks a lot more than the Democratic crazies.

The bottom line is this: most black people will not tolerate, nor join in coalition with, the kinds of extremists that we see in the GOP. Until that changes, the Republicans will continue to get a small portion of the black vote.

See also: Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats?

Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? MLK, JFK, and LBJ

{This is the third in the series, “Why do Blacks for Democrats?” The previous two posts are:
• Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? Inclusion and Diversity.
• Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? See Jesse Helms.}

All people live through history. Great people change it.

The course of history was changed in the 1960s. And in this case, I am talking about African Americans’ preference for the Democratic and Republican parties. Consider these statistics from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies:

Presidential Vote and Party Identificaiton of African Americans, 1956-1964

Source: Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Blacks & the 2008 Democratic National Convention, page 8

As you can see, over the course of just eight years, African American support for the Republican Party practically evaporated.

How did this happen? It can be tied directly to the acts and leadership of three men: Martin Luther King, Jr., who was the leader of the Civil Rights movement; John F. Kennedy, the nation’s president from 1961 through November, 1963, when he was assassinated; and Lyndon Baines Johnson, Kennedy’s successor as president.

Most know who Martin Luther King, Jr, was, and probably President Kennedy as well; President Johnson, although pivotal in the passage of civil rights laws, is undoubtedly the lesser known and least revered among these three historical figures.

But they were all key players in eliminating segregation and legalized discrimination in the South. This excerpt from the book Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America, which was written by Lee A. Daniels, talks of how these three men were linked in changing the face of African American politics:

In October of 1960, less then three weeks before the presidential election, Martin Luther King Jr., already recognized as Black America’s most prominent civil rights leader, had been arrested in Georgia on a traffic technicality: he was still using his Alabama license, although by then he had lived in Georgia for three months.

A swift series of moves by the state’s segregationist power structure resulted in King being sentenced to four months of hard labor on a Georgia chain gang. He was quickly spirited away to the state’s maximum security prison, and many of his supporters, fearing for his life, urgently called both the Nixon and Kennedy camps for help.

Nixon, about to campaign in South Carolina in hopes of capturing the sate’s normally solid Democratic vote, took no action. Kennedy took swift action. He made a brief telephone call to a frantic Coretta Scott King, speaking in soothing generalities and telling her, “If there’s anything I can do to help, please feel free to call on me.”

It’s likely that Kennedy did not at that moment realize the political implications of that call. Ever the pragmatist, he had resisted the pleas of several aides throughout the campaign that he take bolder public stands on civil rights issues. The telephone call came because one aide caught him late at night after a hard day of campaigning and staff meetings as he was about to turn in. The aide, Harris Wofford, pitched it as just a call to calm King’s fearful spouse. Kennedy replied, “What the hell. That’s a decent thing to do. Why not? Get her on the phone.”

King was soon released, unharmed, due to a groundswell of pressure directed by blacks and whites in numerous quarters toward Georgia officials (Robert F. Kennedy himself, who was managing his brother’s campaign called the judge who sentenced King to prison). At the time, the white media paid little attention to the call, which suited the Kennedys fine. But it likely transformed the black vote. King’s father, Martin Luther King Sr., a dominating, fire-and-brimstone preacher with wide influence throughout Black America, had, like many black Southerners, always been a Republican and until that moment had said he couldn’t vote for Kennedy because he was a Catholic.

(But) the day his son was released from prison, the elder King thundered from the pulpit of his famed Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta: “I had expected to vote against Senator Kennedy because of his religion. But now he can be my president, Catholic or whatever he is… He has the moral courage to stand up for what he knows is right. I’ve got all my votes and I’ve got a suitcase, and I’m going to take them up there and dump them in his lap.”

From that moment on, JFK’s bond with blacks, despite his initial tepid support for the movement, was sealed. His assassination, less than six months after proposing what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964, cemented his place of honor among blacks: for years afterward, inexpensive commemorative plates with his likeness were ubiquitous in the homes of blacks across the country. And when his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, took up the civil rights cause and pushed both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act through Congress, black voters moved in massive numbers to the Democratic party.

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Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? Inclusion and Diversity.

{This is the second in the series, “Why do Blacks for Democrats?” The other two posts on this subject are:
• Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? See Jesse Helms.
• Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? MLK, JFK, and LBJ.}

Why do African Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats over Republicans? One reason is that the Democratic Party is representative of the America that black people see, and the Republican Party isn’t.

This is illustrated by the following two photographs. The first shows the early field of Republicans candidates for the 2008 Presidential election. The second shows the early field of Democratic candidates.


Republican Candidates for President, 2008 (not in order): California Rep. Duncan Hunter, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Sen. John McCain


Democratic Candidates for President, 2008: former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Sen. Joe Biden of Deleware, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio

The Republican candidates are all white males. The Democratic candidates include a white woman, a black male, a Hispanic male, and five other white males.

Other examples of Democratic diversity, and Republican non-diversity, abound.

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Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? See Jesse Helms.

{This is part of the series, “Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats?” Other parts of the series are:
Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? Inclusion and Diversity.
Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? MLK, JFK, and LBJ.}

Black Republicans often bemoan the fact that African Americans vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party. One charge made by black Republicans is that Democrats are somehow bamboozling blacks into voting for them. Thomas Sowell’s comments in an issue of Black Republican magazine are typical:

How then can the Democrats consistently get the lion’s share of black votes? And why can’t the Republicans make any serious inroads? Democrats understand that the key to their success is in keeping blacks dependent and fearful. They cry “racism” at every opportunity and resurrect every grievance of the past.

{See also “The Myth That Blacks Only Vote Black” and “Where are the Black Republicans?”}

But if black Republicans really want to understand why African Americans are rejecting their party, they need look no further than Jesse Helms, the former US Senator from North Carolina who died on Friday at the age of 86.

Jesse Helms, former NC Senator
Jesse Helms, Conservative Icon
and Race Baiter Deluxe

Within the Republican Party Helms is viewed as an icon whose conservative positions on and against communism, gay rights, and the liberal media helped key the rebirth of the Republican Party in the South and the success of the Reagan Revolution.

But for others, Helms was the embodiment of the so-called Southern Strategy, the “Republican method of carrying Southern states in the latter decades of the 20th century and first decade of the 21st century by exploiting racism among white voters.”

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