Tagged: Democrats and Republicans

Election Wrap-up: Black Republicans Go to Congress

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%.


Allen West, Congressman-elect, 22nd District-Florida

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.
****


Tim Scott, Congressman-elect, 1st District-South Carolina

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.
Continue reading

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?

Racial Divide – Or Competing Political Ambitions – May Cost Louisiana Democrats a House Seat

In an earlier post, I spoke about the tangled web of race, politics, and ambition in Louisiana:

The Democratic Party was overjoyed by this spring’s victory of Don Cazayoux in Louisiana’s 6th congressional district, which includes the city of Baton Rouge. The 6th district had been held by the Republican Richard Baker since 1986. Baker vacated his office in February, and the state of Louisiana held a special election to fill the seat in May. Cazayoux won, beating out Republican Woody Jenkins, and will represent the district through the end of the year.

However, there still needs to be an election to fill the seat for the term that runs from 2009 through 2010. And this is where things get complicated.

Many black Democrats in Louisiana are upset that the state and National Democratic Party haven’t been supportive of black candidates running for congressional and state-wide offices.

Things got so bad that an associate of Louisiana state representative Michael Jackson sent out “robo-calls” to Baton Rouge’s African-American neighborhoods on the day of the May special election, telling voters to “teach white Democrats a lesson” by staying home and not voting. Jackson, who had not approved the calls, had to step in to have the calls stopped.

And now Jackson is threatening to run in the November general election for the 6th district as an Independent. Jackson has reportedly run television ads stating his intention to run in the November general election.

If Jackson does run in the November general election, it could have a devastating effect on the Democrat’s chances of holding onto the seat. Cazayoux and Jackson would probably split the Democratic vote, making it easy for the Republican to get the plurality of votes and win the election.

But on the other hand: Cazayoux and the Republican candidate – who almost certainly will be white – could split the white vote. And if Jackson could get the more votes than either white candidates, he could win the election outright, even if he only gets a plurality of the votes. (In Louisiana, there is no requirement for a runoff election where a candidate must get the majority of the votes.) The 6th district’s population is 33% African American.

And that explains why Jackson might be willing to run what is a high risk but dangerous campaign as far as the Democratic party is concerned.

Continue reading

Black Partisanship Trends, Pre-Election

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies recently conducted a National Opinion Poll which surveyed 750 African American adults from across the country. The survey was conducted between September 16 and October 6, 2008. The survey covers a range of topics including the politics of the 2008 election and various issues, including education.

This is a breakdown of the partisan identification for those in the survey:

African American Political Party Identification – 2000, 2004, 2008

Source: The 2008 Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies National Opinion Poll
Note: The table shows the percentage of survey respondents who consider themselves to be Democrat, Independent, or Republican. The numbers in the “Total” column reflect the count of persons who were surveyed.

Democratic identification among African Americans has grown from 63% in 2004 to 73% now. The percentage of blacks who identify themselves as Republican is down from 10% in 2004 to 4% now.

And what is the voter preference for president? From the Survey:

Suppose the 2008 Presidential election were being held today. Who would you like to see win, the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama or the Republican candidate, John McCain?
• Obama: 84%
• McCain: 6%
• Don’t Know: 10%

Black Partisanship Trends, Pre-Obama

Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama for president has re-ignited the discussion of African American support for the Democratic and Republican Parties. It’s useful to take a quick look at black party identification patterns prior this election, as a way to provide some perspective on the eventual voting numbers we’ll see this year. Then we’ll be able to gauge just how much of an impact Barack Obama had on black voting behavior.

The following two charts are from reports prepared by the Joint Center for Political Studies. They show trendlines in African American identification with the Democratic and Republican Parties up to 2004.

Chart 1: Percentage of Blacks Who Identify Themselves as Democrats

Chart 2: Percentage of Blacks Who Identify Themselves as Republicans

What’s interesting is this: African Americans under the age of 30 were increasingly identifying themselves as Democrats through 2004. Meanwhile, the African American population overall was trending toward being less Democrat, and more Republican.

That’s an ominous trend for the Republican Party. Given the Obama campaign’s success in engaging both young and black voters, there will almost certainly be an increase in under-30 African Americans who identify themselves as Democrats following this election. The GOP’s job of attracting a new generation of black voters has become much more difficult – and it wasn’t easy before now!

This is in addition to the bad news for Republicans that the Obama candidacy seems to bringing many older blacks back into the Democratic camp.

Some other notes from the Joint Center report:

YOUNG BLACK VOTERS

While the 74 percent of African Americans who identify with the Democratic Party in the Joint Center’s 2004 National Opinion Poll is down from the recent high point (2000), there is ample reason for the Democrats to feel confident about their black support (especially with Senator Barack Obama as their 2008 presidential nominee), because the previous decline in support from young African Americans has been reversed. The 74 percent of African Americans who identify with the Democratic Party consist of 63 percent who clearly identify with the party, and 11 percent who are political independents who “lean” more to the Democratic Party than to the GOP.

Prior to 2004, declines in black Democratic identification had been driven by younger, i.e., under 35 year old, African Americans. In Joint Center national opinion polls conducted prior to 2004, only 50 to 60 percent of 18-to-25-year-old African Americans identified with the Democratic Party (Figure 2). However, since the Bush Administration launched the Iraq war, younger African Americans have moved decisively leftward, with 75 percent identifying with the Democrats in 2004. In the 2004 election, 18-29 year-olds were the only age cohort where Kerry defeated Bush.

VOTING IN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

Between the presidential election years of 2000 and 2004, the black Democratic presidential vote declined from 90 to 88 percent, which does not represent a statistically significant change. This suggests that the relationship between the Democratic Party and African Americans remained on very solid footing during those years. The black Democratic vote since 1964 has remained in the range of 90 ± 5 percent, except when H. Ross Perot ran as a third-party candidate. With Senator Barack Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket this fall, black support is likely to increase from these already high levels.

The prospects for an increase in the black Republican vote in 2008 are nonexistent. While black public opinion is neither as liberal nor as uniform as observers in the press, politics, and academia have thought, the poor economy, high gas prices, Bush’s unpopularity, and the war in Iraq—coupled with Obama’s popularity—suggest a possible 50 percent decline in black Republican support.

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.

Continue reading