Why do Blacks vote Democrat?

– Robert Patillo

Why do Blacks vote Democrat?

One of the enduring political truths of the past half century of American politics since the Civil Rights Movement is that African Americans vote overwhelming for the Democratic Party.  When I say overwhelmingly I mean at 90% or above of the Black Vote as gone to the Democratic Party candidate for President in every election since Ronald Reagan first ran in 1980.  In many ways, African Americans have become synonymous with the Party itself.  Because of this, each election cycle Republican’s do less and less outreach to Black voters (since they know they aren’t going to get their votes anyway, so why bother) and Democrats produce less and less tangible public policy to benefit Black communities (because they know they’re going to vote for them anyway so why bother legislating for them when you can be focusing on important swing groups.)  But how did this happen?

In the 19th Century African Americans were solid Republican voters.  The Party of President Lincoln, in an effort to fully cripple the Former Confederate states all but outlawed the Democratic Party in the South, passed the Civil War amendments and used the military to protect former slaves all the way until the late 1870s.  However, after the Hayes-Tilden compromise of 1877 and the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 Republicans effectively abandoned Blacks to live under Klan rule and Jim Crow for the next century.

Despite being abandoned by the only party that they had ever known, Blacks remained Republicans in the south solidly until the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt and WWII.  Millions of African Americans found work thanks to the public works projects of the New Deal and thousands more added in the War effort and entered the Middle class in the late 1940.  African Americans had become “swing” voters.  So much so that in 1948 Herbert Hoover proposed that the Democratic National Committee adopt a
“Civil Rights plank” to the party platform.  The adoption of such caused a Dixiecrat Revolt in which Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and many other Southerner in the party left the Democratic Party and formed the Dixiecrats principally composed of former Confederates.

This fight between the parties to secure the black vote led to massive advances in the black community over the next 20 years.  Throughout the 1950’s Republican President Eisenhower worked to integrate schools, appointed the liberal Justices that decided Brown v. Board and used the National Guard to protect African Americans.  In reaction to this Democrats in the 1960s led by John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson passed sweeping legislation protecting the Civil Rights of Black, protecting voting rights, ensuring fair housing and also creating Affirmative Action programs to lift Blacks into the middle class.

However, a growing number of former Dixicrats in the South felt leftout by this process.  Republicans understood that because of the number of legislative victories on the part of Democrats they could no longer compete for the Black vote.  Thus in the 1970s Richard Nixon and Lee Atwater worked to devise a “Southern Strategy” whereby they worked to  convert Southern Dixicrats who were unhappy with the Democratic parties stance on Civil Right into Southern Conservative voters.  Ideologically, they couched their argument on the premise that the government was growing too large and therefore needed to return to traditional values and support “State’s Rights.”  This was coded languages to mean they wanted an end to forced integration, busing and minority centered social programs.  With this strategy, Republicans dominated the final quarter of the 20th Century electing Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush President.   But this strategy also seemingly forever pushed black voters away from the Republican Party.

Perhaps now, with the new demographics of the 2012 election, the Republicans will finally allow the Dixiecrats to die.