The Irrelevant Black Voting Bloc
The African-American voting bloc has become powerless and irrelevant due to its decades-old blind allegiance to the Democratic Party and the growing likelihood that the group will soon be eclipsed in size by the Hispanic voting bloc.
In the 2012 elections, African-Americans accounted for about 13% of total votes, while Hispanics accounted for about 10% of the electorate. White voters cast around 70% of total votes.
Someone might theorize that a voting bloc which accounts for 13% of total votes would have a great deal of influence. Indeed it's true that African-American voter turnout rose to 66% in 2012 versus 2008 and accompanied by a decline in white voter participation helped to push Obama to reelection.
However, this did not result in greater political power. In the case of the African-American voting bloc, if a group of voters overwhelmingly supports a particular political party of its candidates regardless of performance or circumstances, what need is there for either the party or its candidates to give anything other than lip service to the group? That's been the case for years and continues up until present day.
Blacks have supported Democrats for the presidency at a clip of 80% or more since the 1972 election and more recently by 90% or more (93% in 2012).
There is no major, or perhaps even minor, group that approaches such an enormous amount of support for either party. That support has existed despite Democrats doing little on behalf of the African-American voting bloc as a whole and it's occurred regardless of the individual Democratic politician.
Take former U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. for example. Jackson represented the 2nd Congressional District of Illinois from 1995 until he resigned in 2012. The Chicago Democrat was being investigated in October 2012, as he was seeking reelection, for potential illegal use of campaign funds. He eventually pled guilty in February 2013 to a wire and mail fraud charge. He's now serving a 30-month term in federal prison.
When Jackson left office in February 2013, Kankakee county, a collar county of Chicago that Jackson represented, had a 13.2% unemployment rate versus the national rate at that time of 7.7%. Other counties, parts of which he represented, are Will County, which had a 10.9% jobless rate in February, and Cook County which posted a 10.5% unemployment rate on Jackson's departure.
Still, in the midst of a massive scandal and worse than average unemployment, Jackson managed to haul in 63% of the vote to win reelection.
We've seen inexplicable support of Democrats by African-Americans on local levels as well. African-Americans have supported Democrats for years to serve as mayors in what are now some of the most economically-challenged cities in America.
Look at Detroit. It's an economic ghost town and recently declared bankruptcy. The city is comprised of 83% African-Americans and has elected a Democratic mayor since 1962. During that span, the city has lost half its population, with now more than 1 in 3 Detroit residents living in poverty and its mean income is well below the national average.
Detroit, of course, is not alone. A host of other cities, including the aforementioned Chicago, are among other cities with a high proportion of African-Americans who have consistently elected Democrats yet are struggling economically.
Yet, the beat goes on for African-Americans supporting Democrats. The most prominent example of this is the strong support given to Barack Obama's reelection campaign in 2012. Despite the fact that African-Americans had disproportionately received the brunt of the effects of the Obama-led stagnant economy, African-Americans still turned out for Obama at a 93% rate.
Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?
So tell me, 93%, why does Barack Obama or any other Democratic political candidate need to concern himself with addressing your needs and wants if you'll vote for him regardless of what he does or doesn't do for you?
Democrats may soon have even less reason to address the African-American voting bloc when you consider that Hispanic voters may surpass African-American voters in numbers within a few presidential elections. Hispanics have already begun to outnumber blacks in a number of cities. The 2010 census shows that Hispanics outnumber blacks in 191 of the 366 metro areas in the country.
While Hispanics have traditionally supported Democrats, former Republican President George W. Bush was able to garner 44% of the Hispanic vote during his reelection bid of 2004. So, while Mitt Romney only captured 27% of Hispanic votes in 2012, there is at least history to show that the Republican Party can make inroads among Hispanic voters.
The same cannot be said of the African-American voting bloc, which is unfortunate. There's no doubt that more than 7% of black voters have more ideologically in common with the GOP. A recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute found that 30% of African-Americans believe abortion should not be legal, a view of abortion in line with the Republican Party.
African-American opposition to gay marriage is even stronger, with about half of all African-Americans opposed to gay marriage, according to a March 2013 NBC/Wall Street Journal report.
Another NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted in June found that Barack Obama's approval rating on the economy among blacks stood at 74%, a figure slightly less than the overall Democratic number (76%) and well less than the 93% of African-American votes he won last year.
Based on African-Americans' views of the major social issues of the day, along with Obama's handling of the economy, we might expect support for him among African-Americans to be far less than that 93% total.
Therein lies the issue. Until African-Americans pull a significant percentage of their votes away from the Democrats, either by voting GOP or staying home, the Democratic Party will continue to whistle in the wind at their requests and instead cozy up in earnest with the soon-to-be-larger and already persuadable Hispanic group.
Chad Stafko is a writer and political consultant living in the Midwest. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org