Thursday, February 15, 2018

Democrats Got Nothing More Pro-Black Than Trump's Gutting The Replacement Negroe Program


alternet |  The black community is one of the Democratic Party’s most reliable voting blocks. Using survey data collected from some 400 black interviewees, political scientist Theodore Johnson created a number of hypothetical political situations to assess black voting patterns. Party was an overwhelming factor in their political decision-making; faced with Republican and Democratic contenders with identical policy positions in identical social climates, the black respondents resoundingly chose the Democrat.

Unfortunately, their loyalty has not always been repaid with proportionate policy responsiveness, most disappointingly from Democrats. Political scientist Nick Stephanopoulos conducted a study to determine the extent of group political power on effecting policy outcomes at the state and federal levels. Unsurprisingly, black voters had less power than whites: Unanimous support among whites for a federal policy corresponded to a 60 percent chance of adoption, while unanimous support among black Americans for such a policy corresponded to a 10 percent chance of adoption. Somewhat correspondingly then, Stephanopoulos found that the less support a policy had among black Americans, the higher its likelihood of enactment. A policy with no black support had a 40 percent chance of enactment compared to the aforementioned 10 percent for a policy with unanimous support.

Analysis from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies corroborated Stephanopoulos’ 2015 findings. With data collected between 1972 and 2010, researchers found that black voters were “policy winners” 31.9 percent of the time, while white voters were “winners” 37.6 percent of the time. Less power means less policy.

Political scientist Paul Frymer first articulated the underpinnings of these studies in his 1999 book, Uneasy Alliances: Race and Party Competition in America. He observed that politicians focus their appeals and energy toward white swing voters at the expense of black voters, thereby rendering them politically paralyzed. The result of the need to entice white voters is that explicit arguments for racial reconciliation during presidential campaigns have been waning since the 1970s, lest they turn white voters off.

In light of this history, it’s difficult to know exactly to what extent the party will advocate for black voters. However, there are encouraging signs to be found. In 2016, the Democratic Party platform pledged “to make it clear that black lives matter.” The party promised to commit itself to addressing issues that more explicitly affect the black community, including the racial wealth gap, and that implicitly affect them, like attempts to cut funding from SNAP and Medicaid. They actionized those promises in December 2017: Not a single Democrat in the House or the Senate voted for the Republican tax plan, a massive payout to the top one percent that will widen the racial wealth gap.

Progressives in the Democratic Party have every reason to buck their history of neglect, having seen what black voters can do electorally. In spite of a history of electoral disenfranchisement, electoral neglect, gerrymandering, and voting purges, black voters have potential to flip elections when they turn out at a time when Democrats desperately need them to. Furthermore, the party itself has explicitly acknowledged that it needs to do better. Mirroring Chairman Perez, Virgie Rollins, chair of the DNC’s Black Caucus, insisted that the party apparatus is well aware of this: “We learned valuable lessons last month and last night; when we invest in our communities, we win. The DNC knows black voters are a force to be reckoned with at the ballot box.”

The midterm elections are nine months from now. Progressives in the Democratic Party must actively compete for black votes, running not only on an anti-Trump platform, but on one that offers tangible protections from Republican assaults and tangible solutions to the challenges the black community faces. Not only is advocating for black Americans the right thing for the Democratic Party to do morally, but it also makes sense politically. Loyalty from the black community cannot be taken for granted, especially at a moment when the stakes of doing the opposite are so high.