Eugene Robinson wishes there were more competition for African American votes:
I'm firmly convinced that the progressive agenda championed by the Democrats is much better for African Americans, and for the nation as a whole, than the conservative agenda favored by Republicans. But I also believe that in politics, as in business, competition is good. Monopolies inevitably take their customers for granted. [...]
Given the stakes, I see no real choice for African Americans but to go to the polls in November and stick with the Democratic Party, which at least asks for our votes. The Republicans haven't offered an alternative. I wish someday they would.
With respect to Robinson, it's actually pretty easy to see why Republicans have little interest in contesting African American votes. In 2000 and 2004, Republicans assembled winning presidential coalitions with very few -- if any -- African American votes. What's more, most Republican House members come from districts with small or insignificant black populations, and their numbers will only increase if the GOP wins a majority in November. I'm confident that Republicans will lose the 2012 presidential election, but if they don't, it will be with a coalition that -- again -- includes very few African American voters.
The simple fact is that Republicans don't compete for African American votes because Republicans don't need African American votes. Barack Obama could have lost 20 percent of the black vote and still won the election, given the geographic distribution of black people. That is, a good chunk of those votes would have come from states on the margins of Obama's victory, like Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, and Indiana. With their moderate to high African American populations, Obama couldn't have won them without near total black support. But if he had lost them, he still would have won the presidency. As for other states with large black populations, Republicans don't have enough white support in the Northeast for black votes to make a significant difference, and they have so many white votes in the South that black votes are irrelevant.
One last point: Despite the fact that African Americans were nearly unanimous in their support of the Democratic Party two years ago, they only made up 13 percent of the electorate. Even if they gave half of their votes to GOP candidates, African Americans would only be a bit player in Republican politics. On any given issue, the interests of the GOP's older white majority would vastly outweigh the concerns of its African American minority, to say nothing of the poor blacks who might vote for the Republican Party. Really, the only thing that would really make African Americans matter to the GOP is if they all moved to rural swing districts in the country's interior. Barring that, they're basically irrelevant to Republican success.
-- Jamelle Bouie