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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Conservative political pundit Charles Krauthammer is in what I call a state of disingenuous denial. Writing in the Washington Post, he said
Let me get this straight. A couple of agitated yahoos in a rally of thousands yell something offensive and incendiary, and John McCain and Sarah Palin are not just guilty by association — with total strangers, mind you — but worse: guilty according to the New York Times of “race-baiting and xenophobia.”
…McCain has never said that, nor anything like that. When asked at the time to produce one instance of McCain deploying race, the Obama campaign could not. Yet here was Obama firing a preemptive charge of racism against a man who had not indulged in it. An extraordinary rhetorical feat, and a dishonorable one.
What makes this all the more dismaying is that it comes from Barack Obama, who has consistently presented himself as a healer, a man of a new generation above and beyond race, the man who would turn the page on the guilt-tripping grievance politics of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
It’s quite true that McCain has kept his own hands clean of the scurrilous attacks that have been made on Obama. But Palin and other Republican surrogates have had no problems with doing the dirty work, a fact that Krauthammer conveniently ignores.
And their dirty work is plain to see. The Republicans have engaged, and are engaging, in a massive effort to demonize Obama.
As described here,
Demonization is the characterization of individuals, groups, or political bodies as evil or subhuman for purposes of justifying and making plausible an attack, whether in the form of character assassination, legal action, circumscribing of political liberties, or warfare.
That’s the theory. Here’s how the Republicans have put theory into practice.
There’s been a lot of buzz on the Internet about an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll of the attitudes of whites toward blacks, and the possible effect of those attitudes on the presidential election. This is a summary of the poll results, from the AP article Poll: Racial views steer some white Dems away from Obama:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them “lazy,” “violent,” responsible for their own troubles.
The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 — about two and one-half percentage points.
More than a third of all white Democrats and independents — voters Obama can’t win the White House without — agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don’t have such views.
“There are a lot fewer bigots than there were 50 years ago, but that doesn’t mean there’s only a few bigots,” said Stanford political scientist Paul Sniderman who helped analyze the exhaustive survey.
The pollsters set out to determine why Obama is locked in a close race with McCain even as the political landscape seems to favor Democrats. President Bush’s unpopularity, the Iraq war and a national sense of economic hard times cut against GOP candidates, as does that fact that Democratic voters outnumber Republicans.
The survey of 2,227 adults was conducted Aug. 27 to Sept. 5.
Some of the more troubling findings of the poll are summarized in this graphic:
That graphic is worth a thousand words, all of them disheartening. When you consider that less than 30% of whites surveyed consider African Americans to be Law-Abiding, Hard-Working, Smart at Everyday Things, Intelligent at School, or Dependable… that is extremely troubling.
In the previous post (Will Racism Prevent White Americans from Voting for Barack Obama?, Part 1), I spoke about concerns that whites might not vote for Obama because he is black.
There are some who are skeptical of the idea that race will be a decisive factor in the election. Count the Wall Street Journal among them. An opinion piece by WSJ titled The Racism Excuse begins by saying “Things are supposed to be looking rosy for Democrats this November. But in case Barack Obama loses the Presidency, an excuse is all ready to go: America’s too racist to elect a black man. ”
So it’s worth noting that Republicans themselves are factoring racism into the way they view and manage the election. Consider this comment on polls, from reporting at the Republican National Convention by Southern California Public Radio:
(At a brunch for Californai delegates to the Convention) Republican Pollster and author of “Words That Matter” Frank Luntz was the featured speaker. He openly spoke of the “BRADLEY EFFECT.” That refers to the 1982 California gubernatorial election when then Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley was leading in the polls against George Deukmejian. Bradley lost the race. Analysts believe voters lied when they said they’d vote for Bradley, when in fact they were unwilling to vote for a black man. Luntz predicted the same thing would happen with Barack Obama. He told California delegates not to get discouraged if John McCain is trailing in the polls, because the Bradley effect will make up for some of that.
A more pointed comment comes from a unnamed Republican source in this article from Politico.com:
I was talking the other day to a prominent Republican who asked me what I thought John McCain’s strongest issues would be in the general election.
Lower taxes and the argument he will be better able to protect America from its enemies, I said.
Republicans have a pretty good track record with those two.
The Republican shook his head. “You’re missing the most important one,” he said. “Race. McCain runs against Barack Obama and the race vote is worth maybe 15 percent to McCain.”
The man I was talking to is not a racist; he was just stating what he believes to be a fact: There is a percentage of the American electorate who will simply not vote for a black person no matter what his qualities or qualifications.
So, Republicans know what we all know: race is a factor in the election. A bigger question is, are Republicans using overt or subtle appeals to race in this campaign? I have some thoughts on that here.
PS: See also: this article in USAToday dated 9/3/08: Armey: ‘Bubba vote’ to hurt Obama
The “Bubba vote” and underlying racism will hurt Democrat Barack Obama in key battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, Republican and former House majority leader Dick Armey said Wednesday.
“The Bubba vote is there, and it’s very real, and it is everywhere,” Armey told USA TODAY and Gannett News Service. “There’s an awful lot of people in America, bless their heart, who simply are not emotionally prepared to vote for a black man.
“It’s deplorable, but it is real,” said Armey, adding that he believes “Republicans would not encourage” such prejudices. He said the “Bubba vote” is “invisible” in pre-election opinion polls, because voters do not admit they would oppose a candidate because of race.
The “Bubba vote” is shorthand in politics for white, working-class voters who often live in rural areas — a group Obama did not dominate in state primaries.
Two recent articles have raised the mega-question concerning this year’s election: will racism be a decisive factor in determining who becomes president?
Jacob Weisberg, writing online for Slate, says in his article If Obama Loses: Racism is the Only Reason McCain Might Beat Him:
Much evidence points to racial prejudice as a factor that could be large enough to cost Obama the election. That warning is written all over last month’s CBS/New York Times poll, which is worth examining in detail if you want a quick grasp of white America’s curious sense of racial grievance. In the poll,
• 26 percent of whites say they have been victims of discrimination.
• 27 percent say too much has been made of the problems facing black people.
• 24 percent say the country isn’t ready to elect a black president.
• 5 percent of white voters acknowledge that they, personally, would not vote for a black candidate.
Five percent surely understates the reality. In the Pennsylvania primary, one in six white voters told exit pollsters race was a factor in his or her decision. Seventy-five percent of those people voted for Clinton. You can do the math: 12 percent of the Pennsylvania primary electorate acknowledged that it didn’t vote for Barack Obama in part because he is African-American. And that’s what Democrats in a Northeastern(ish) state admit openly. The responses in Ohio and even New Jersey were dispiritingly similar.
Such prejudice usually comes coded in distortions about Obama and his background. To the willfully ignorant, he is a secret Muslim married to a black-power radical. Or—thank you, Geraldine Ferraro—he only got where he is because of the special treatment accorded those lucky enough to be born with African blood. Some Jews assume Obama is insufficiently supportive of Israel in the way they assume other black politicians to be.
To some white voters (14 percent in the CBS/New York Times poll), Obama is someone who, as president, would favor blacks over whites. Or he is an “elitist” who cannot understand ordinary (read: white) people because he isn’t one of them. Or he is charged with playing the race card, or of accusing his opponents of racism, when he has strenuously avoided doing anything of the sort. We’re just not comfortable with, you know, a Hawaiian.