As noted in an earlier post, the voting rate for blacks is way behind the white voting rate. In 2004, 67.2% of voting-age whites voted in that year’s presidential elections, versus just 60% of voting-age blacks.
The challenges in mobilizing black voter turnout are discussed in this excerpt from The State of Black America 2007, which was published by the National Urban League:
In the past, the conventional wisdom among many political operatives has been to motivate African american voters through one of two strategies:
1. A Sacrifice-Privilege strategy highlighting how the right to vote has been won through blood, death, and tears.
2. A Losing Ground strategy designed to motivate black votes into the voting booth to protect gains recently accomplished through programs and policies.
Regardless of the strategies used to motivate voters, we have heard an increasing level of discontent among black voters about the political establishment. African American voters over the age of 40 are more responsive to the Sacrifice-Privilege strategy, but express frustration with the lack of communication from some elected officials and government itself.
Conversely, for voters born twenty years after the passage of the Voting Rights act (in the 1980s), the Losing Ground strategy is not an effective motivating tool because their social equilibrium is balanced less through historical reflection and relevance and more through a self-analysis of how they see their lives and experiences in the language of political policies and messages crafted to motivate them. Consequently, their voting rate is less predictable and more inconsistent than voters who reached adulthood in the 1960s and 1970s.
The big news of the Obama campaign has been its success in attracting both old and young black voters.
That success can be seen in these two mini-documentary/campaign ads which were produced by the Obama campaign. The first mini-doc looks back at the struggle to register Mississippi voters in the mid-1960s; and looks forward to the elections of this year. It’s a moving piece; have a look:
The enthusiasm of the folks in the video just warms the heart.
And it’s more than matched by these students at the Atlanta University Center (with a guest appearance by actress Jasmine Guy):
It still remains to be seen if any of this will be enough to help Obama win the general election. But if Obama does lose, at least these folks can say, it wasn’t because we didn’t try hard enough.
Note: The quote from The State of Black America 2007 is from Essay 10: Who’s Going to Take the Weight? African Americans and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century, by Dr Silas Lee.