Black Turnout.

The election is in a few weeks, and Democrats are scrambling to boost African American turnout:

Without Mr. Obama atop the ticket this year, Mr. Kissell and a number of other vulnerable Democrats, mostly in the rural South, face the challenge of reviving the spirit of 2008 for black voters without alienating right-leaning white majorities in their districts. [...]

Among the endangered Democrats counting on a substantial black turnout are Representatives Bobby Bright of Alabama, Allen Boyd of Florida, Sanford D. Bishop Jr. and Jim Marshall of Georgia, Frank Kratovil Jr. of Maryland, Travis W. Childers of Mississippi, Steve Driehaus and Betty Sutton of Ohio, John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, Chet Edwards of Texas, and Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello of Virginia.

I'm a little amused by this. Despite representing large numbers of black people -- an average of 25.4 percent -- these lawmakers have consistently voted against President Obama's major initiatives. With the sole exception of Rep. Tom Perriello, each has opposed -- or actively disparaged -- policies supported by a large majority of African American voters. As far as their immediate self-interest is concerned, these voters have no real reason to support their incumbent representatives.

That said, given their higher levels of enthusiasm, there's a fair chance that African Americans will turn out in large enough numbers to save a few vulnerable Democrats. But insofar that black voters come out to vote, it will mainly be out of loyalty to Barack Obama, and to counter the innuendo-filled campaign against his presidency. In the immediate short term, this is a good thing; Bobby Bright isn't the greatest member of Congress, but he is far preferable to his likely Republican replacement.

As a matter of long-term politics, though, I worry about this categorical support for Democratic candidates; the longer Democrats don't have to worry about losing African American voters, the longer Democratic representatives can take advantage of their black support. Unfortunately, there's not much of an alternative. Republicans don't need black votes to win, and as such, have no real stake in advancing African American interests. The only conceivable strategy is for black voters to sit out an election, but that's just as likely to inspire enmity as it is to force engagement with their interests. African American voters are in a tough spot, to say the least.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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