Ed Kilgore has been following an interesting bit of demographics from Tuesday’s election, More on VA and the African-American Vote That Saved Terry McAuliffe. In comparing the 2009 election where the Republicans in the top spots won big, the 2013 electorate looks the same. Except: the turn out of African American voters was very high: more like the 2012 election. And this is the only reason that Terry McAuliffe will be the next governor of Virginia. Both Asians and Latinos voted at their 2009 levels.
The question is why this is and the truth is that no one knows. But Kilgore mentions a tantalizing possibility, “I’ve heard a few random folk cite the pre-election voter purge executed by Virginia as a provocation to black voters.” Ah yes. I talked about this a few months back with regard to Ross Douthat’s idea that Voter ID laws will, in the end, hurt Republicans. Given the southern history of voter suppression, African Americans especially will push back hard. It is one thing to not vote in an election where all the candidates are losers. It is quite another thing when people are actively trying to stop you from voting for those losers. And guess who they’ll vote for? The Democratic loser!
Or it could be that African Americans are just really pissed off. After all, this recession has hurt them far more than it has whites. As usual. That is a cheery thought: the poor might be coming to terms with the fact that we may not have money or individual power, but together through the profound act of voting we are the most powerful entity in the nation. The interesting thing is that as a group, African Americans don’t want that much—mostly just a reasonable chance at a decent life. Meanwhile, conservatives are obsessed by the thought that the government will have to pay reparations for slavery. That is how big a gulf there is between the thinking of the poor and the rich. Clearly, being rich does not generate clarity of thought.
Throughout American history, there has been a balance between the direct power of the rich and the electoral power of the poor. It has moved one way and then the other. But for the last 35 years, we have seen the pendulum swing toward the rich. Now we are at a point where income inequality is as bad as it has ever been. The time for the pendulum to swing back the other direction is long overdue.
Regardless of the reason that African Americans voted in large numbers in this off-off-year election, it is a good thing. And I hope that it is part of a trend. This nation has long been held back by conservative gains in off-year elections. The American people are center-left. The Democratic Party is center. The American voter is slightly center-right. And the Republican Party far right. Anything that makes the voting public more like the actual public is a very good thing.