Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Myth's in Politics Part 2: Black support for Obama
Welcome Hooligan-istas to the second installment of Political MythBusters. In our first installment we tackled and busted the myth that Republicans advocated small government. Well in this installment I plan on tackling a myth that seems to have become just as accepted into political "common knowledge", one that annoys me even more than the GOP=Small Government Myth. Today's myth:
That Black People Supported Barack Obama because he was Black. This is an insidious myth that undervalues the political intelligence of African-Americans. It makes African-Americans seem as if they will support any black candidate regardless of how terrible or spectacular they are. We know this to be untrue.
There have been many black political candidates/personalities that African-Americans did not and do not support. Just to name a few: Alan Keys, Armstrong Williams, Clarence Thomas, Condeleezza Rice and Micheal Steele. Black people have an understanding of politics, and do not support candidates they feel do not support their interest, and don't support candidates who they do not think can win. So there is a mature process in which African-Americans respect, and transfer their vote. African-Americans do not want to see it wasted, or misused and being black is no indicator of whether or not you will gain the automatic support of the black community. Black people have been very conscious of those within our community that do not have our communities best interests at heart. There is a plethora of terminology dedicated to naming these people: Toms, Coons, House Negroes, Stepin Fetchit, so on and so forth. So just having common skin color is no indication of cultural support, there also has to be a congruence of interests.
Additionally, the numbers do not hold this Myth to be true. While it is true that African-Americans did support Barack Obama, the numbers were not statistically overwhelming if you compare them to other Democratic candidates. In 1996 Bill Clinton received 84% of the African-American Vote. In 2000 Al Gore won 90% of the African-American Vote. In 2004 John Kerry received 88% of the black vote, and in 2008 Obama won 95% of the black vote. If you look at the numbers as a trend its clear to see that with the exception of Kerry (as an anomaly who didn't excite the African American base as much as the previous 2 Democratic contenders) the percentage of the African American vote was steadily treading upward for democrats. Clinton received 83% and 84 %, Gore 90% which is a 6% jump. If Kerry would of held the trend the jump to Obama's 95% is true to the trend, as it is, the 5% boost is still not the 6% boost that Gore received after Clinton's term was up.
Simply put, Black people support democrats, there hasn't been a Presidential Democratic candidate who hasn't received at least 80% since before Jimmy Carter. Three Candidates in the last 7 cycles received 90% plus, Walter Mondale , Al Gore, and Barack Obama. While it is true that black voter turnout rose to a record high 13% of the total voting electorate, there has been a constant trend upward for the part 5 voting cycles. 8% in 1992, 10% in 1996 & 2000, 11% in 2004, and peaking at 13%. That looks like natural growth over time. And yes, I will agree that there was an excitement about Barack Obama because he was black, but that was not the primary factor in him getting support from the black community. Looking at the amount of money the Obama campaign poured into voter registration, I wonder if a similar amount would of been utilized by other candidate would we have seen a similar jump in voter turnout.
In conclusion, don't underestimate a section of the electorate based on one set of exit poll numbers. People saw that Obama had received 95% of the black vote and some just assumed it was due to race. (which is borderline racist in and of itself) People and pundits didn't take into account trending over time or the fact that black opponents had come and gone in the past with little or no black support. Cynthia McKinney was in the race as a third party candidate and received little attention from black voters. Did some black voters vote for Obama strictly along racial lines, I'm sure they did. Is that number larger than those Catholics who were excited about Kennedy, and voted along religious lines? I think that underestimating the political electorate is a mistake, even that part of the electorate that until recently has been delegated to the margins.