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The Bond Between Democrats and Black Voters
Hat tip to Patrick Ruffini for the link to this interesting piece that shows how social pressure cements loyalty between Democrats and black voters.
There’s a kind of “Bradley Effect” where black voters are more likely to say they’re Democrats when asked by a black interviewer rather than a white interviewer. They also found that black voters will donate more money to Democratic candidates when faced with similar social pressure from other black Democrats.
This corroborates my hypothesis that voting Democrat, for black voters, is not a behavior. Rather, it is an attribute. It’s now what you do; it’s who you are.
I think it would be interesting to take the study a step further to see what effect black Republicans have on black voters. I’d be especially interested in testing the hypothesis that as the number of black Republicans increases, the social pressure, and stigma, will dissipate and momentum will continue to expand GOP support. Food for thought.Published in Politics
It would make sense, wouldn’t it? Thanks for posting the question!
This might be a good time to post a long-standing thought I’ve had, somewhat difficult to express.
Black Republicans have almost universally been very strong Christians, many arriving at their conservatism through religion. Nothing wrong with that. Another common thread is these people are/were very well-educated and well-spoken. I hesitate to say articulate because I recognized that word long ago as being a slight against other black folks who might pronounce words differently. There are different accents, shall we say, and someone who pronounces words in the same accent as Urkel or in Dave Chappelle’s ‘white voice’, will never be mistaken for having grown up in the ‘hood, and therefore their political affiliations and arguments remain suspect. Obviously they grew up in suburban neighborhoods surrounded by white folks. If not, that’s still the first impression.
These people are not generally regarded by the majority of the black community as coming from their culture. Sure, they too are black, but it’s like they don’t really count. They are in a sense, seen as outsiders. Not as outsider as white, but not of them. It’s sad, and wrong, but understandable. Being African American isn’t just a color or a race, it has a mainstream culture in America. People of this culture were almost universally Democrats.
But now there are many blacks who have much more mainstream cultural accents and experiences who aren’t buying the Democrat schtick, and they aren’t all conservative Christians either. I find these voices much more compelling and likely to get more acceptance.
I have some sense of this because I was married to a black woman for 10 years who had an extensive family and we have a 30 year old daughter.
The confessional and the voting booth are both places where a person may confront options of lasting import away from the influence of the masses.
Publicly identifying oneself as a conservative brings opprobrium enough for a white guy; I imagine it would be far more socially destructive for a black person.
I’ve said this before, probably, but I’ll confess it again: I found the completely-private process of signing up for a conservative website—this one—an anxious one. Ridiculously so. What if someone finds out? was an actual sentence that spiraled through my head.
Part of this is tribalism. Part of it, surely, is how friggin’ mean Democrats are. Who wants to be on the receiving end of Barack’s condescension, Hillary’s scorn or kindly, addled ol’ Uncle Joe’s strange insults?
I think you’re right, Bereket—there is a shift, and there will be a tipping point. One way you can tell is by the hysteria with which black people who don’t toe the party line are vilified. See Spike Lee’s freaked-out response to black Trump supporters, for example, or the #BLM stalking of L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
I agree the hysteria of the threatened left indicates they’re approaching some limit. A preference cascade requires a large reservoir of consensus driven falsification, however. Much of black America really does buy into the philosophy of the left and therefore isn’t falsifying anything with their votes and opinions.
If the cascade comes, it’ll have to have a broader base. The disillusionment of black Americans will be part of it, but not enough on its own to move us past the inflection point.
I have long been curious as to why the black community votes so consistently for the party of slavery, Jim Crow and eugenics.
Oddly enough, I think it’s because the Democrats have been so successful at persuading people that the Republicans did all the bad stuff. And the Republicans were too polite (or too self-serving; take your pick) to contradict them loudly enough and long enough.
People don’t know stuff. And by “people,” I mean all of us.
I had a conversation the other day with a gentle, accepting, good-listener loved one who only reacted with what I think of as the usual leftist intemperance when I mentioned Melania Trump. “What’s wrong with Melania?” I said. It turned out that my loved one was deeply offended that Rush Limbaugh received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (and Melania is the one who placed it around his neck). She loathes Rush because people like her do. I get this; I used to loathe him too. “listens to Rush Limbaugh” was a sneering throwaway line for most of my adult life. And, of course, she thinks him undeserving of so high an honor.
“Compared to whom?” I asked. And because she’s an unusually gentle, accepting and good-listener sort of person, she didn’t get all huffy when I looked up previous honorees on Wikipedia. Lo-and-behold, the list is replete with celebrities and Personalities, along with a few genuine heroes (Vaclav Havel, Mother Theresa and a bunch of others no one has ever heard of because heroism does not equate with celebrity). To her credit, she changed her mind, about that question at least, admitting that for many Americans, Rush Limbaugh might appear roughly as heroic as, say, Barbara Streisand.
But my point is this: Why would she know the list of PMOF-winners? Who can keep track of these things? Yes, we should all be in the habit of questioning all our presumptions and presuppositions, but my gosh, how exhausting and time-consuming that would be?
She chose her political tribe as a young adult back in the late 80s and early 90s, when the Democrats were the party of inclusion, specifically of the gay and lesbian persons my loved one cares about, the ones who were (or felt) excluded and maligned by Republicans. In the 1990s, the Democrats were far more centrist; pro-capitalism, pro-law enforcement and pro-safe-legal-and-rare. You didn’t have to believe that America is a white-supremacist country, or that a man can become a woman just by believing, or that Borders=racism and, indeed, most of the Democrats I know are 1990’s-style Democrats who haven’t realized just how much, or how fundamentally, the party has changed (or self-actualized; take your pick). My guess is that black Democrats are more or less like white ones in this way—focusing on their own lives and letting peripheral vision handle politics. Given the external and internal pressures within black America to keep the blinders on (how’d you like to be called a house slave by Spike Lee?) it would be have to be even more strenuous and stressful to question the faith that to be a Democrat is to be a kind, inclusive, non-nutty American citizen…
Read up on the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson. He was the worst thing to happen to the Republic in the second half of the 20th century.
I’m old enough to remember the Solid South. If you’re not into ancient history, the Solid South was the overwhelming political control of Southern states by the Democratic Party, and it existed well into the 1970s. (I haven’t done any research, but I imagine it was Ronald Reagan who breached that wall.)
Which raises the question, who did black voters pull the lever for in those days? Jim Crow laws were gone, but, surely, not forgotten. And the Dem candidates were not exactly making appeals to the black community. And, yes, there were black voters. I imagine turnout was not high, but of those who did vote must have found a way to vote for the lesser of two (or three or five) evils.
Years ago I was on a Sierra Club backpack trip; also on the trip was a father and son from the Pedernales TX area where they had a sheep and cattle operation. They absolutely loathed Johnson. One night at the campfire we heard about the contested election that launched his career, the ballots awaiting a recount in the morning, and the building they were in somehow burning down.
I quite like this formulation.
I’ve always questioned if the 90%-plus figures for blacks voting Democrat was suspect. People will lie to pollsters to protect themselves, even if the poll is conducted over the phone. It’s the same with union voters. If asked who they voted for in an exit poll, they’re not going to say they voted for candidate XYZ when the union leadership directed its members to vote for candidate ABC. Why? Because you never know who might overhear you, or who the person on the other end of the phone line really is . . .
You may be right – and that would mean that Trump’s alleged popularity (relative) among black people might not translate to significantly more votes.
It could also mean Democrats have been taking 90%-plus for granted, they don’t realize they’re one step away from finding out publically they never had 90%-plus to begin with . . .
There is a lot of inertia at work.
1) The political structure of black voters arose from the civil rights movement. Only a few fossils from that era like John Lewis remain in office but the grievance culture and the whole notion of using political power based on grievance to obtain patronage is hard to dislodge. Black women in particular support government employment and program -dependence as the primary engine for and guarantor of the quality of life. The entire grievance structure and all the political goodies it provides depend on a standing accusation of racism.
2) There is still a need to find extant racism. It was pathetic to see Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson increasingly race to the same scene when some company was accused of discrimination in hiring showing (a) there were just not enough instances of racism to go around anymore and (b) how desperately they needed to preserve that narrative.
Many of those who are third and fourth generation victims of the Great Society and who lack the skills and personal formation to get ahead instinctively resent the gospel of self-help and self-reliance because (a) they don’t see how it would work and (b) it would mean accepting more of the blame for a hideous state of affairs in their lives when it is more comforting and very human to blame institutional racism.
The catch-22 is that unless and until people see those around them are finding ways out of the social chaos, they will not believe it is possible and if they don’t believe it’s possible, they nobody will try, much less achieve it. I don’t know how to break that loop or jump start it but it would end the politics of big government forever if we could.
And lastly, the DOJ report about the Ferguson riots admitted that the main fuel of resentment is that the petty, fine-grabbing government assault on people of limited means is the single biggest factor in resentment against cops. Fines and tickets that one can’t afford to pay, followed by penalties, car seizures, and then bench warrants make people outlaws mostly for being poor. Government giveth then government taketh away and cops enforce the taketh part not the giveth part. Freedom from the costs and grinding pettiness of government could be a key message. There is a lot of latent libertarian sentiment among the urban poor.
From your lips to god’s ears. I think you’re right in theory. As the number of black republicans grows the stigma will subside. All stigmas depend upon a social consensus that puts certain ideas or behaviors outside the bounds of the permissible, and dents in the wall of that consensus will reduce the stigma. Still, it looks to me like we’re quite a long way from any tipping point. When republicans consistently get 20-25% of the black vote, we might be approaching a point where a snowball effect is conceivable, but at the current 5-10% (a level that hasn’t changed much in a while) I don’t think we’re close.
By the way, part of that’s on republicans. Republican candidates tend to write off black voters in the same way that democrat candidates tend to take them for granted. In that regard, kudos to Trump for making an express appeal to them. I’m not sure how well it will work, but it’s refreshing, and I’m not sure I can recall another republican president who’s done it in my lifetime.
But analysis of precinct by precinct returns where race-composition is known tends to confirm the polling percentages. There was not a lot of hidden support for Bush McCain, Romney or Trump in Baltimore, Detroit or Philadelphia.
Excellent point that the Republican Party since 1932 have for the most part written off the African American Vote. There is a core 8-10% of African Americans who vote Republican (Bookerites if you will) and that would be a great place to start. Furthermore, the main party structure needs to make sure Candice Owens, Brandon Tatum, Jason Riley et al are brought securely into the party. Some here will disagree with me but I also think the party needs to entice Condoleezza Rice back into the lime light. I may not agree with everything President Trump has done (The deal with the Taliban is beyond the pale and it has nothing to do with getting out of Afghanistan) but his attempt, political as it may be is finally getting the Republican Party to wake up. Finally, this is also something that those like David French are totally missing.
GrannyDude, there was nothing centrist about being pro-homosexuality in the 1990s. There was an overwhelming bipartisan consensus against it — officially.
Except that the Democrats were lying. Including Clinton, in my opinion.
This is why he adopted “don’t ask, don’t tell” in his first term, late 1993 (shortly before he lost the House for the Dems for the first time in about 50 years). Then the Republicans stuck it to the Dems, proposing the Defense of Marriage Act in the election year of 1996. This bill was so overwhelmingly popular among the public that many Dems in Congress, and Clinton, had to go along with it.
But I think that they were lying. I don’t believe that they were centrist. I believe that they were pretending to be centrists, like Obama and Buttigieg.
Fast forward to today. If you Google “don’t ask don’t tell,” the very first entry is this from Human Rights Campaign, which opens with:
How clueless are these people? When DADT was adopted, it was a radical pro-homosexuality policy, allowing homosexuals to serve in the military as long as they kept it hidden. Before that, they could be asked — and, of course, until 2011, homosexuality was prohibited in the military. DADT was an instance of deliberate non-enforcement, like Obama’s actions on DACA and marijuana.
I don’t think that all of it is persuasion. Democrats are willing to support open, legal discrimination in favor of blacks. I could see why a black voter might want to vote for that. Also, blacks are disproportionately represented among the poor, and especially among the recipients of welfare-type benefits, so if beneficiaries of such programs are likely to vote for the Dems who will continue them, this will include a lot of black voters.
There are urban black precincts where over 100% of the voters vote Democrat. That figure explains a lot of it. Some is historical ignorance and Republican disinterest and indifference.
Suspira, I had to look it up. Believe it or not, it was actually Goldwater who flipped the Solid South, at least at the Presidential level.
The South wasn’t completely solid. Democrat Adlai Stevenson carried most of the South against Eisenhower, in both 1952 and 1956, even though both were landslide elections (55-44 and 57-42). Kennedy carried most of the South against Nixon in 1960 (though some Alabama and Mississippi electors voted for Byrd/Thurmond).
Goldwater carried the deep South in 1964 — South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. These were his only victories outside his home state of Arizona.
The South went third-party in 1968; then for Nixon in 1972; then for Carter in 1976; and then for Reagan.
Clinton did make some inroads in the South in both 1992 and 1996.
And then there is walking around money and the way it works. If the organizers get their bottles handed out early (9a.m.) rather than late (9 p.m.) it will make a difference. Have seen it happen.
If being “pro-homosexuality” means being pro-SSM, then I agree. But in the 1990s a conservative-group inaugurated a referendum campaign here in Maine to preemptively block any future attempt to include gays and lesbians on the list of those protected from discrimination by the state’s version of the civil rights act. After much debate, that referendum was defeated and the status quo (no LGB civil rights protections) remained until, a few years later a pro-LGB rights referendum passed that protected gays and lesbians from being fired or evicted for being gay or lesbian, but did not include the right to marry (Maine didn’t pass SSM until 2015) Maine was a a more red and less “purple” state in those days; even so, to be in favor of civil rights protection for gays and lesbians did not push one outside the scope of “centrist” politics.
Mulling it over. Exit and entry polling data suggests that neither black nor Hispanic/Latino voters may be taken for granted within the Democratic Party. That is, a summary slogan or label just will not get you the self-reported voting behavior in choosing between big government establishment (FDR/LBJ/Clinton/Obama/(Biden, Bloomberg) versus openly socialist candidates. We would especially do well not to sling around any pejorative or dismissive labels, like “on the plantation.”
What you report here is actually universal behavior. See Salena Zito on the difference in voting behavior of white college educated management/professional class when they are in a homogeneous work and living community versus when they are regularly interacting with people of different social strata. Big difference. Peer pressure matters to human beings generally. Look back to Adam Smith’s first book, A Theory of Moral Sentiments. You are right, then to point to the potential of reducing or changing community pressure.