Why Hard Working Blacks Vote Democratic

Vote Baby Vote!Ed Kilgore wrote an article over at Talking Points Memo, Mississippi Is Just One Piece of the GOP’s African-American Problem. It’s remarkable for not being at the Washington Monthly, or as I like to think of it, “A megabyte of advertising for a kilobyte of content.” But given that I put up with the really miserable viewing experience at Washington Monthly to read Kilgore most days, I’m only to happy too read him at TPM.

In the article he goes over the history of the the African American community with the Republican Party. He notes, for example, that before the GOP decided they were going to be the conservative party, they got about 30% of the black vote. As I’ve noted before, Martin Luther King Sr was a Republican in those days. But in 1964, after Barry Goldwater voted against the Voting Rights Act, the African American community fled from the Republican Party. They only received 6% of the black vote that year, even though 32% had voted for Nixon in 1960.

This actually brings up something interesting that you hear from conservatives all the time. They say that blacks are just in the habit of voting for the Democrats and that the party doesn’t really do anything for them. The idea is that the Democrats promise them “goodies” but in the end, the inner cities just continue their destruction. But the truth is that black voters have been very responsive in their voting. When the Republican Party has become more reasonable, they’ve voted for it in higher percentages.

Of course, there is a contradiction in the way that Republicans look at the African American community anyway: they complain that blacks should just see that their best interests are with the Republican Party. As Kilgore concluded, “Perhaps it’s more accurate to say… that conservatives want African-Americans to change before they are worthy of outreach.” The problem is that politics doesn’t work that way. And Republicans know that. That’s why Romney and Ryan spent the whole 2012 election telling old people that Obama was taking away their Medicare.

Kilgore also quotes McDaniel’s campaign manager, Melanie Sojourner, “Where I’m from, in rural Mississippi, I grew up knowing lots of God-fearing, hard-working, independent conservative minded African-American families.”[1] This reminds me of a great quote from Ramesh Ponnuru. He was appealing to his fellow conservatives to stop saying, “Hispanics are natural conservatives because they’re hard working, family-oriented, and religious.” He noted that it was condescending to Hispanics and self-congratulatory to conservatives. He summed it up brilliantly, “I suspect most people throughout human history have been hard-working, family-oriented, and religious, without sharing conservative views about limited constitutional government.”

This perhaps more than anything gets to the heart of the Republican Party. The people who really matter—the Ramesh Ponnurus—know that the Republican Party is all about low taxes on the rich and no regulations on corporations. But Republicans themselves—even professional ones like Melanie Sojourner—think it is about cultural signifiers. These kind of people think that if you go to church, you should vote Republican; if you have a job, you should vote Republican; if you’re “independent,” you should vote Republican.

It shows what they think of Democrats: we all a bunch freeloading hedonist followers. But as I’ve noted before, the only real difference between conservative and liberal is how you think the resources of the world should be divided. I find it shocking that the conservative philosophy is that how ever the resources are divided up right now is the way they should be divided up. And ideologically, that’s incoherent because it changes from day to day. There is not acceptance that legal wealth today may be the result of theft and murder yesterday. All that is thrown aside. So it is little wonder that the poor vote Democratic and the rich vote Republican. Because ultimately, the people know which party is on which side. (Although sadly, the Republicans do a much better job for their side than the Democrats do theirs.)

[1] In the article, a couple of “[sic]” additions were added to the quote. My belief is that when it is clear what the writer means, it is better to just fix it. The addition of “[sic]” in this context just makes the person quoting seem small.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

3 thoughts on “Why Hard Working Blacks Vote Democratic

  1. The cultural signifiers do work fairly well for Republicans when you are talking about White voters, especially White men without a College education. I see it with my blue collar friends. Over their first beer, they talk about how little money they make and how bad their boss is and how they work undesirable hours. Over the second beer, you get to hear how bad Obama is and a rehashing of the right-wing talking points of the week.

    Working class whites vote Republican because they have deluded themselves into thinking that they are associate members of the ruling class. They get to walk around with guns, the police still treat them with a little bit of respect, the right never blames them for the nations’ problems. There is a certain brutal pragmatism in all of this. New Democrats are like Liberals in that they would take away or reduce white, male, hetero, christian privilege while acting like Conservatives when it comes to jobs and the economy.

    Minorities, gays, women and those who do not make religion a huge part of their identities, make the opposite calculation. They see a bleak Economic future but they can make their identity into less of a liability.

    Of course, we should have a super coalition of all those aforementioned groups and they should be demanding that the Dems improve their economic lot in life. For the time being, Liberals will have to be content with playing identity politics small ball. At least we win that one too (at least in quadrennial years).

  2. @Colin Keesee – Reagan did a really good job of getting blue collar men to vote for him because he said he was on their side. And then he went about destroying their unions. The only real ideological difference between the Republicans and the (New) Democrats is a certain set of social issues. On economic issues, they are pretty much the same but the Democrats are simply more competent.

    Americans are desperate for a choice. They are also terrified of it. It is sad to say but we get the government we deserve.

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