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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I guess the Republican Party just can’t help it. Making crude comments about African Americans, even one who has reached the position of POTUS, seems to be in their DNA. Consider these clumsy remarks by the Republican Party about Barack Obama and his wife Michelle:
• From Newscoma: Tennessee GOP state Senator Diane Black (R-Gallatin) sent an email with this image of our country’s presidents.
• From the Indigo Journal: Mike Green, a Republican operative who is helping to run the campaign for GOP gubernatorial candidate Gresham Barrett, posted the following joke about President Obama on his Twitter account:
JUST HEARD OBAMA IS GOING TO IMPOSE A 40% TAX ON ASPIRIN BECAUSE IT’S WHITE AND IT WORKS.
• Fitsnews.com reports: Republican Rusty DePass, a former SC State Senate candidate, supporter of former President George W. Bush, and Longtime GOP activist, made this comment after hearing about the escape of a gorilla from a zoo in Columbia South Carolina:
“I’m sure it’s just one of Michelle’s ancestors — probably harmless.
And yet they wonder why they can’t get more black votes…
”Please send some folks to the convention that look like Florida. Could you help a brother out? No more national conventions with [only] 36 people of color in the room.”
– Michael Steele, Chairman, Republican National Committee, speaking at a meeting of Florida Republicans in early April.
They say that, to solve a problem, you first have to know what the problem is.
But after you know what the problem is… you need a way to solve the problem, otherwise, the problem doesn’t go away.
I’ll give this to Michael Steele: he’s not afraid to say what the problem is. As discussed in Blacked Out: African Americans Near Invisible at the Republican Convention,
The 36 black delegates to the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul is the lowest total in 40 years for a Republican National Convention. These delegates represent 1.5 percent of the total number of delegates, substantially below the record setting 6.7 percent in 2004. (Editor’s note: The United States is 13% African American.)
Steele’s statement is useful, insofar it as it acknowledges the GOP’s obvious problem in attracting minorities, and signals that the Republican Party (or at least, that Michael Steele) wants minority input and participation.
The question is: where do they go from there? What is their plan to attract African Americans and Hispanics to the fold?
I have yet to hear it. If you have, drop me a line and let me know.
Mississippi, like several states in the deep South, is polarized politically on the basis of race. The majority of whites are Republican, and the overwhelming majority of blacks are Democratic.
The Democratic Party in Mississippi winds up being an integrated group, but it’s hardly a place of racial harmony. Bob Moser, in his book Blue Dixie, explains some of the history behind this:
Beginning in the 1970s, Mississippi Democrats had been split by race into two different parties-a fissure far deeper than in most of the South. For years, there were black and white cochairs statewide, and many counties had exclusively black or white executive committees. The divisions stemmed from the 1960s, when most whites who’d historically dominated the party refused to accept black Democrats into the fold-a refusal symbolized by the standoffs over delegations at the national conventions in ’64 and ’68.
The book goes on to note that over time, black and white Democrats have reconciled and unified throughout the state. But it seems there’s still a ways to go before tensions between the two groups are eliminated.
Case in point: the recent reality show drama of the Mississippi Democratic Party’s Executive Committee. Consider these events:
• In February, the Mississippi Democratic Party’s Executive Committee selected Sam Hall as its new Executive Director. Hall, a political consultant, formerly served the party as a communications director, and was also director of the Mississippi House Democrats’ Political Action Committee. As Executive Director, Hall would oversees the daily operations of the party and its staff at the Jackson, MS headquarters.
The vote for Hall was split along racial lines: whites on the Executive Committee voted for Hall, while the black vote was split between the current interim director Rosalind Rawls and Chris Smith. Both Rawls and Smith are black.
Willie Griffin, a black member of the Executive Committee, was publicly critical of Hall’s selection. Griffin said that Hall has a history of endorsing Republicans, including Gov. Haley Barbour, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, Congressman Chip Pickering and others. Griffin added:
In the last eight to 10 years, our party has been pushing party loyalty… We don’t need a Republican speaking for us. We have competent people who can run our party.
• On Saturday, March 21, the Mississippi Democratic Party’s Executive Committee held a meeting. Jamie Franks, the Democratic Party Chair, was out of town As such, the vice chair-Barbara Blackmon-conducted the meeting. Note that, Franks is white, Blackmon is white.
At the meeting, Hall was ousted from the Executive Director position by a vote of the Executive Committee – or at least, by the members who were present at the meeting.
• Also at the March 21 meeting, Ike Brown, who is black, is voted onto the Executive Committee. Brown is an extremely controversial figure in Mississippi politics. As noted here:
Brown, the former chair of the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee, was removed from that position by a federal judge as a settlement of a federal voting rights lawsuit. Brown was accused of discriminating against white candidates and disenfranchising voters in Noxubee County with his actions. Noxubee County is majority Black. Brown was not re-elected to the state executive committee last year due to his legal troubles.
In a statement, Brown says that in his “zeal to support the Democratic Party and its candidates, I ran afoul of the Voting Rights Act… I look forward to the opportunity to redeem myself as a member of the committee. My future conduct will reflect that I respect the rights of all voters of every race to participate in the election process.”
The Mississippi Republican Party immediately made political hay out of Brown’s election. Brad White, chairman of the state GOP, said in a news release:
“I think it is outrageous that the leaders of the Mississippi Democratic Party would vote to put Ike Brown, who has been sanctioned by the Department of Justice for violating the voting rights of members of his own party, on their state executive committee which is charged with representing all Mississippi Democrats.”
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 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.
Incoming Nebraska State Senators Tanya Cook and Brenda Council
As reported by the Washington Post in its article Racism Rears Its Head in European Remarks on Obama, the election of Barack Obama to US president hasn’t been hailed universally across the globe:
Europe erupted in cheers to celebrate Barack Obama’s election as president, but the continent is seeing its share of insensitive racial blunders, too.
Over the past week, a number of European lawmakers and journalists have made foot-in-mouth comments regarding America’s black president-elect, suggesting that some otherwise respected public figures in Europe are far from enlightened on racial matters.
The day after Obama’s victory, a leading Austrian television journalist said on camera that he “wouldn’t want the Western world to be directed by a black man.” A Polish lawmaker stood up in Parliament and called the election result “the end of the white man’s civilization.”
Some racist comments have come from people who have expressed such views before. “Africa Conquers the White House,” read a headline on the Web site of the National Democratic Party of Germany, a political party that sympathizes with neo-Nazi groups. In an accompanying article, Jürgen Gansel, a party leader and an elected lawmaker in the German state of Saxony, blamed Obama’s victory on “the American alliance of Jews and Negroes.”
Who says black Republicans don’t have a sense of humor?
The National Black Republican Association posted this wonderfully laughable piece of satire on their website. Share in the amusement:
White Guilt Emancipation Declaration
We, black American citizens of the United States of America and of the National Black Republican Association, do hereby declare that our fellow white American citizens are now, henceforth and forever more free of White Guilt.
This freedom from White Guilt was duly earned by the election of Barack Hussein Obama, a black man, to be our president by a majority of white Americans based solely on the color of his skin.
Freedom is not free, and we trust that the price paid for this freedom from White Guilt is worth the sacrifice, since Obama is a socialist who does not share the values of average Americans and will use the office of the presidency to turn America into a failed socialist nation.
Granted this November 4, 2008 – the day Barack Hussein Obama was elected as the first black president and the first socialist president of the United States of America.
Ha ha ha!
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.
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.
Most of the reporting about Barack Obama’s election victory makes it appear that there is an almost universal euphoria over this historic event.
But this post at King Politics, Racist Incidences In The Aftermath of Obama’s Election, indicates signs of anger, resentment, and disgust on the part of some Americans over Obama’s win.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.