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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP Pitch for Black Votes Bears Little Fruit

If they gave an award for least comforting argument for Social Security privatization, the slam-dunk winner would be President Bush, for his comment that the lowered life expectancy rate of African Americans in comparison to whites makes privatization an especially good deal for the Black community. The President’s pitch, delivered at a meeting with hand picked African American conservatives in late January, was part of a broader GOP effort to win greater support for his agenda.
Despite media reports to the contrary, the GOP’s inroads into the black vote have been limited at best, as Chris Bowers explains in an interesting wrap-up over at MyDD. Although Bush did increase his percentage of the black vote from 9 percent in 2000 to 11 percent in 2004, Bowers points out that John Kerry received 10 million African American votes more than did George Bush. This was a 25 percent increase over Gore’s margin, significant because overall voter turnout increased by only 16 percent in 2004. This was the largest margin of African American votes for a presidential candidate in history. In a two-party, head-to-head comparison, Kerry’s portion of the Black vote was even higher than Clinton’s in ’92 and ’96. Lastly, and perhaps most encouraging for the 2006 congressional elections, African Americans, along with union members and voters under 30 are the three groups whose partisan self-identification shifted more strongly toward the Democratic Party in the ’04 election, according to the National Annenberg Election Survey.
The mainstream media has made much of the opposition of some African American religious leaders to same-sex marriage as a harbinger of increased future support for the Republican agenda among Black voters who hold strong religious convictions. But Bowers also notes that a late January meeting of leaders of 15 million African American Baptists joined together in declaring their opposition to such GOP causes as increased funding for the war in Iraq, the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General and the continuation of recent tax cuts. They also expressed strong support for leading Democratic Party priorities like a higher minimum wage, greater investment in public education and reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. It appears that African American voters will continue to support candidates and policies that respect their interests — and that’s good news for Democrats.