Doubting Black voters intelligence, intentions

LEE A. DANIELS | 5/2/2016, 11 a.m.
If it’s presidential-primary time it’s a given a significant part of the political discourse will involve dissing Black voters.
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His most recent book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America. He collaborated with Rachel Robinson on her 1998 book, Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait. NNPA

(George Curry Media) – If it’s presidential-primary time it’s a given a significant part of the political discourse will involve dissing Black voters.

Sometimes this gambit takes the form of citing Blacks’ reliable massive support for the Democratic Party as proof they don’t “understand” the issues at stake and who their real political “friends” are. Or, it takes the opposite tack – of using differences of opinion among Black Democrats – for example, those who support Hillary Clinton versus those who support Bernie Sanders – as proof that Blacks are “split” and ineffective in marshaling their voting power.

In other words, Black voting patterns are widely consistently discussed as if they reflect a lack of political sophistication.

Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

This perverted discourse almost always ignores or discounts such things as the fact that eight years ago Black voters, first, effectively and quickly ensured the Democratic primary contest would be between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Then, they switched massively to Obama only when he won the Iowa caucus in January 2008 – which they correctly saw as evidence that Obama had forged a sophisticated campaign and that a substantial number of White voters would support a Black man for the presidency.

And this perverted discourse usually ignores the fact that the Black-voter turnout, which in 2012 surpassed that of Whites for the first time, had been rising significantly since Bill Clinton’s first election in 1992. In other words, it wasn’t just the imperative of electing the Black presidential candidate in 2008 and re-electing the Black president in 2012 that was pushing more and more Blacks to vote.

In addition, Black voters’ actions at the national, state and local levels are rarely discussed in terms of the consistently racist character of the GOP itself. It’s rarely acknowledged that they, shunned for a half century by the GOP, have expertly played the traditionally American two-party game within the Democratic Party to become its bedrock voting bloc. And it’s rarely stated that Black voters saved the Democratic Party from collapsing during the 1980s-1990s “wilderness years” of the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

It’s also rarely stated that Jewish-Americans, too, are a reliable majority Democratic voting bloc; and that Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and Muslim Americans have become so as well. No one questions whether these groups are too “emotionally” attached to the Democratic Party.

Such disrespect of Black voters has been the standard operating procedure of conservatives since the 1960s.

One can hear it in the “free stuff” excuses Mitt Romney made after his “shellacking” in the 2012 election – a remark that was echoed last fall by Jeb Bush in the midst of his free-fall from contention in this season’s GOP presidential sweepstakes. And recently Bill O’Reilly showed off – again – his credentials as an arch-racist by asking his buddy Donald Trump how he could create job opportunities for Blacks and gain Black votes when many African Americans are “ill-educated and have tattoos on their foreheads.”