The neighborhood is littered with yard signs, the mailbox is stuffed with fliers, the phone is constantly ringing with robo-calls, and there’s no escaping the negative advertisements on the radio and television airwaves. There’s no surer sign that election season is in full swing, though, than the biennial recurrence of racial controversies.
Even the most polite political observers no longer bother to deny that the Democratic party’s electoral fortunes rest largely on turning out large numbers of black voters, and that it routinely stokes racial resentments in order to do so. In the upcoming mid-term elections that task is more difficult than usual, without any black candidates at the top of ballot and the average black voter faring poorly under the current Democratic administration, so this year the party’s efforts have been unusually brazen. The tactics might succeed in dragging a few more black voters to the polls, but we expect they also run a risk of alienating the rest of the electorate.
Nothing seems to motivate black voters more than the idea that Republicans don’t want them to, and once again that reliable trope is being trotted out. This year’s variation on the theme is that photo identification requirements and other common sense rules limiting voting to eligible citizens are just the updated version of poll taxes and literary tests, and while the Democrats are waiting for the courts to rule in favor of massive voting fraud the Democrats are proudly touting their brave defense of the franchise of blacks and deceased Americans of all races. The stance is less likely to appeal to the vast majority of Americans who support such measures, however, and the Democrats’ arguments might prove offensive to those blacks who bother to listen. The Department of Justice introduced an “expert witness” to a North Carolina court considering that state’s voter identification law who calmly explained that the requirement in inordinately onerous to black citizens because they tend to be “less sophisticated,” “less educated,” and “less attuned to public affairs” than other Americans. This has been the apparent logic of the Democrats’ arguments all along, and such patronizing condescension seems to inform almost every Demcoratic position on matters of race, but hearing it so explicitly stated under oath isn’t likely to do much for the get-out-the-vote effort with anyone sufficiently sophisticated and educated and attuned to public affairs to have heard about it.
The Democrats also had great hopes for exploiting the past summer’s hooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, which led to weeks of protests and riots and looting and media frenzy. In Georgia, where the Democrats are hotly contesting a Senate race, black communities have been inundated with advertisements warning that a Republican victory would lead to countless more cases of trigger-happy racist cops gunning down innocent youths as they kneel in the streets with their hands up. Aside from the pertinent facts that the shooting occurred in a Democrat-controlled city and state, and no Republican we’re aware of is running on a platform of gunning down innocent black teenagers, the ploy has also been weakened by recent revelations in such not-all-right-wing publications as The New York Times and The Washington Post that all the forensic evidence and at least seven black eyewitnesses have corroborated the officer’s story of self-defense. None of this is likely to satisfy the lynch mob that has gathered around the country, but the vast majority of Americans who are uncomfortable with lynch mobs will not be impressed to see the Democratic handing out the pitchforks and torches.
Another race card being played is black America’s predictable loyalty to the first black president, complete with claims that a Senate controlled by Republicans would quickly oust him from office. Only the least sophisticated and uneducated voters who are not attuned to public affairs don’t realize that the Republicans have no chance of gaining the 60 seats needed to convict in an impeachment trial, and that the timid Republican leadership in the House of Representatives would never bring the charges without that magic number, so of course the Democrats consider this a winning argument. The president has also made the argument that although he’s not on the ballot his policies are, a line that almost every Democratic candidate and even the press and the president’s past advisors have regretted. By now the president is far more popular than his policies among blacks, and the rest of the country doesn’t seem to like either the man or his plans. Here in Kansas, where the black vote is rarely decisive, almost all of the Republicans have been endlessly re-running the president’s remarks to bolster their non-block turnout.
In states where the black vote is more numerically significant the Democrats’ strategy will probably provide some help, and elsewhere it’s not likely to them do much harm, but it’s hard to see how it’s going to improve the nation’s race relations. Facilitating voter fraud, fomenting lynch mobs, and supporting failed policies as a matter of racial solidarity will not win black Americans greater respect, and it won’t solve any of the daunting problems that disproportionately affect their community. The Democrats clearly believe that black voters aren’t educated or sophisticated or attuned enough to public to see through their cynical ploys, and will now even express this opinion under oath, but real progress will be measured how far this fails.
– Bud Norman