FOR THE THOUSANDTH TIME: BLACKS ALREADY TURN OUT AT HIGH RATES AND VOTE OVERWHELMINGLY DEMOCRATIC IN THE SOUTH.


In the past 18 months since my book was published, I feel like I have had to repeat nearly a thousand times that the "problem" of blacks not turning out to vote in the South--a "fact" that an Obama candidacy (at the top or the bottom of the ticket) would purportedly remedy--is not a fact at all, but rather a complete fiction that people do not take so much as five seconds to confirm before spouting off about as some sort of partisan problem for Democrats.

Let's be clear: According to Census Bureau estimates, in 2004 African Americans were 17.9 percent of age-eligible southerners (in the 11 former Confederate states) and they were--buckle-up here--17.9 percent of actual voters in 2004. That is proportionate, for starters. But when you consider that blacks are, on average, poorer and/or from a lower socioeconomic station than southern whites, it means that, controlling for status, blacks actually turn out at higher rates than comparable whites. Put another way, a middle class 40-year-old black plumber and husband and father of two is more likely to vote in the South than a comparable white plumber.

And yet, we have to suffer careless assertions like this one from a Mississippi Sstate Rep. Earle S. Banks, who recently suggested to the L.A. Times that "the Illinois senator's presence on the ticket could spur dramatic increases in black turnout. And that, he said, potentially could put Mississippi in the Democratic column for the first time since 1976, when it went to Jimmy Carter."

Oh, please. Which brings me to my second myth-busting point, which I wrote about here at the Prospect long ago: The blacker the state, the wider George W. Bush's victory margins were in the southern states in 2004. Again, this is not because blacks fail to turn out (they do) or fail to vote Democratic (they do), but because the blacker the state the more Republican the white voters vote.

Look: Obama may be able to push up black turnout a bit in the South, but it's already pretty high and the Democratic share is already nearly maximized. The electoral black vote ceiling has not been reached yet, but Democratic presidential candidates are nearly bumping their heads against it already, Obama or no Obama.

--Tom Schaller

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