There are things I understand and things that I don’t. I understand the ideology and the mental manipulation it plays on many people. I understand that the psychology behind ideology is at times on a level that has been engrained over multiple generations. I understand that people vote for a person or group who they feel has their best interest at heart. That’s what the rational side of me believes. The emotional side understands emotions play a big part in people’s decisions on whom they vote for and whether or not they sit an election out. The stubborn side of me ignores the potential backlash a topic like this can bring. It’s obviously safer personally to talk about economics, politicians, and avoid racial topics at any cost. You can’t talk about politics without mentioning demographics, and politicians can’t win an election without winning a certain percentage of the black vote. We can’t come together as a nation unless we talk to each other and understand what’s important to each of us individually and as a whole. The Democratic stronghold over the black vote has always fascinated me. I honestly don’t understand why but want to if I can.
Recently, #BLEXIT has been trending on social media over the past year. The term is short for ‘Black Exit’ and was coined by conservative activist Candace Owens. In an article on Fox News, she goes into her feelings about the Democratic Party and why she encourages other African Americans to leave it. She said, “BLEXIT is the black exit from the Democratic Party. It’s the black exit from permanent victimhood, the black exit from the false idea that we are somehow separate from the rest of America.”
Candace Owens is very well-spoken and passionate about her beliefs. I’ve listened to her debate panelists on political shows and defend her positions against Congressmen on Capitol Hill. A common phrase she repeats is that the black vote is not monolithic, meaning it is not beholden to one party. She stresses that point although history has shown otherwise. The modern-day African American votes overwhelmingly Democratic to the tune of 90%.
I wanted to learn the history of the black vote and found an article online from NPR. It’s titled “Why did the black voters flee the Republican Party in the 1960s?” The main crux of the article is that a century prior a majority of African Americans were registered Republicans. The shift began after the Great Depression with the advent of Franklin Roosevelt’s (D) New Deal. According to political scientist Vincent Hutchings, crushing poverty and the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s are what motivated the mass exodus to the Democratic Party. They have remained there ever since.
The New Deal in 1933 and the subsequent Second New Deal in 1935 were instituted to create jobs to help the American people recover from the Great Depression. History.com has a fascinating article about that time which helps to explain what the country was going through. It also gives us a clearer understanding of why the black vote began its shift to the Democratic Party. Here is a portion of that article.
From 1933 until 1941, President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs and policies did more than just adjust interest rates, tinker with farm subsidies and create short-term make-work programs.
They created a brand-new, if tenuous, political coalition that included white working people, African Americans and left-wing intellectuals. These people rarely shared the same interests – at least, they rarely thought they did – but they did share a powerful belief that an interventionist government was good for their families, the economy and the nation.
Their coalition has splintered over time, but many of the New Deal programs that bound them together – Social Security, unemployment insurance and federal agricultural subsidies, for instance – are still with us today.
The second major event was the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. A major milestone was the elimination of Jim Crow laws. Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States. All were enacted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by white Democratic-dominated state legislatures after the Reconstruction period. The laws were enforced until 1965.
The Civil Rights timeline shows that Democratic and Republican leadership were responsible for many of the major legislative changes that gave black people in the United States more equality. On July 26, 1948, President Harry Truman (D) issued an executive order to end segregation in the Armed Services. On September 9, 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower (R) signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 into law to help protect voter rights. The law allows federal prosecution of those who suppress another’s right to vote. On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson (D) signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. It prevented employment discrimination due to race, color, sex, religion or national origin. Title VII of the Act establishes the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to help prevent workplace discrimination. He also signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to prevent the use of literacy tests as a voting requirement. It also allowed federal examiners to review voter qualifications and federal observers to monitor polling places.
Since Democrat’s were responsible for the majority of the policy changes that benefited African Americans the most, it makes sense that black people have overwhelming loyalty for the Democratic Party. That loyalty may be misguided as it only focuses on recent policy changes and not historical. Just like Jim Crow laws were implemented by Democrats, so too was the denial of reparations to former slaves by President Andrew Johnson (D). The Civil War showed President Abraham Lincoln (R) lead the fight against the Democratically controlled south to end slavery. Had the Confederate South succeeded in its attempt to keep slavery as status quo, one can only wonder if the Civil Rights movement Democrats championed a century later would have occurred.
Being the straightforward inquisitive person that I am I brought up this history to one of my coworkers. She is an African American woman in her fifties and as liberal as they come. We frequently have spirited political debates that are thought-provoking and entertaining. Often we agree to disagree but never end the conversation feeling disrespected. I asked her why do black people feel overwhelming loyalty considering the impact the Democratic Party had on wanting to keep slavery legal and the Republican Party abolishing it. When I put it to her that way she said, “I don’t know.”
President Trump (R) naturally came up and she said he was destroying this country and was a racist. I said unemployment for black people is at an all-time low of 5.2% with the overall unemployment rate being at 3.7%. The First Step Act signed into law by Trump was designed to help reduce the prison population, which has a disproportionate amount of black people in it. If the president were a racist why would he have worked to get bipartisan support to pass it? She said that makes sense but still thinks he’s tearing this country apart.
My feeling is that the Democratic Party has dominated the black vote because it atoned for its sins of slavery. Just like African Americans once were loyal to the Republican Party after the Civil War, they shifted their overwhelming support to the Democratic Party for helping them find jobs during the Great Depression, and create a level playing field with the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Acts. Identity politics is a mental manipulation tactic and is frequently used by Democrats to slander their political opponents. When used as a noun, identity politics is defined as a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics. With the majority of people in academia and media leaning liberal, identity politics is often promoted in colleges, Hollywood, newspapers, and TV. Identity politics is promoted to support social justice. What it does is create a victim mentality that blames entire groups problems on other entire groups. Rather than foster personal responsibility, identity politics blames skin color, racism, and “white privilege” for the majority of the problems facing the black community. Five decades have passed since the Civil Rights movement. While it’s easier to blame other people for your problems it serves this country no good to reinforce that false narrative. The only people that benefit from the strategy of divide and conquer are those who seek to retain power. When Trump went to black communities during the 2016 election he said Democrats have done nothing to improve your economic standing and you should vote for him because “what the hell do you have to lose?” While his rhetoric is divisive, his economic policy implementations are anything but. Just as the pendulum swung from Republican to Democratic, my feeling is that black people will begin to shift their loyalty to both parties in an equal amount over the next few election cycles. The reason is simple. Black people want what every other person in this country wants; a fair shot. As economic opportunities increase and more wealth is created in the black community they will shift their focus to what can be instead of being reminded of what was. When that happens we will truly embody the words so famously spoken by the late, great, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We live in a place where we are judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. When that day finally comes we won’t speak in terms of black or white vote, we will only count American votes. What a great day that will be!