HOW THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY TAKES BLACK VOTERS FOR GRANTED
Exclusive to Vice.com
far, the 2016 election cycle has been the angriest in recent memory, with
vitriol and disillusionment coming from every end of the political spectrum,
boiling over on cable news, social media, and in the comments section of every
news site. Divisions in the electorate have deepened, splitting voters between
those unhappy with the country's perceived shift away from traditional - and
mostly unequal - norms, and those who think America hasn't been quick enough to
embrace new realities of equality and inclusion.
don't have to look any further than a Donald Trump campaign rally to see that
the political animus between these two groups has fueled a growing amount of
racial strife. And things only seem poised to get uglier as the presidential
race drags on.
course, America has a long history of racial division, reflected in the sad and
alarming recurrence of dog-whistle politics used to appeal to the lowest
instincts of voters. From George Wallace's 1962 election as governor of
Alabama - in which he swore to "never be outniggered again," - and George H. W. Bush's infamous "Willie Horton" ad in the 1988 presidential race, to this year's "Make America White Again" congressional ad campaign and Donald Trump's xenophobic rages against Muslims and
Mexicans, racial hatred has long been a staple of right-wing politics in
America, creating scapegoats for a misinformed and dissatisfied segment of the
decades, this conservative disdain toward all things not white, male, and rich
has spilled into Republican policy positions, manifesting itself in voter-registration laws, resistance
to minimum-wage hikes and healthcare reform, the expansion of the prison-industrial complex, and opposition to affirmative
action, among other things.
it should come as a surprise to exactly no one that the overwhelming majority
of black Americans who vote do vote for Democrats. In presidential elections
dating back to at least the 1970s, the GOP has struggled - and often failed - to
break double-digits among black voters. And according to the latest Quinnipiac University survey, a full 91 percent of black voters back Hillary Clinton in 2016, compared to just 1 percent who support Trump.
While the Republican Party's alienation of minority voters is disturbing in its own
right, it has also had the unfortunate side effect of allowing the Democratic
Party to take black votes for granted. Standing virtually unopposed as the perceived
political party of inclusion and acceptance, Democrats have cast themselves as
the only antidote to right-wing hate-mongering. What they don't mention, of
course, is that it was Democrats who helped bring about cruel and crushing
welfare reform, the deregulation of the telecommunications and banking
industries, and tough-on-crime policies like the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act
that more than doubled the federal prison
Even as the party increasingly relies on minority voters to win national elections, Democrats
have still failed to take meaningful steps on the pressing, life-or-death
issues facing those voters - issues like structural economic inequality, gun
violence, the mass incarceration of young black men, and police terrorism in
Under President Barack Obama-viewed, perhaps mistakenly, by some
African Americans as the "Great Black Hope"- conditions continue to worsen in many black communities. Recent studies show that nearly 28 percent of black now Americans live in poverty, compared to just under 10 percent of
whites, and black children are almost four times as likely as white
children to live below the poverty line. Blacks are also twice as likely as
whites to be unemployed, and the median income for black households is less
than 60 percent of what it is for white households, according to US Census data. And on a number of other policy fronts, including
deportation policies, bank regulation, and mass surveillance, the Obama
administration has fallen short of expectations.
yeah, to many of us, both the Obama administration and the Democratic Party
have failed colossally when it comes to dealing with Americans of color. Yet every
election cycle, we are told that the "stakes are too high" to not get onboard
with the Democratic Party, regardless of whether the party meets our political
needs. Many black voters - indeed, many voters - often feel pressured to vote for
the lesser of two evils. Rarely are we completely satisfied with our political
choices, but we've become resigned to this false choice. And so real progress
is never made.
voters of color, the consequences of this are particularly profound, resulting
in a national dialogue that rarely reflects the issues that concern us. For
many, the desire to keep the "greater evil" out of public office isn't a
good enough reason to engage in a democratic process that seems rigged,
designed to maintain the illusion of choice while protecting the status quo.
say that voters of color are once again faced with a less-than-desirable choice
for president in 2016 is perhaps an understatement. I, for one, still remember
Hillary's reference to black youth as "super predators," the racist undertones of her 2008 race against
Obama, and her cozy relationship with the private-prison lobbyists bundling donations for her presidential campaign. Faced
with the toxicity of Trump and his party, it's perhaps tempting to dismiss this
record; indeed, Clinton's potent support among black voters suggests many
already have. But that is exactly the problem.
Pointing out these Democratic shortcomings hardly amounts to an argument for the GOP; it simply illustrates that there are far more similarities between the two parties
than we should be comfortable with. And granted, the Obama administration
has made some strides when it comes to civil rights. But while it's OK to
applaud the achievements of the first black president, it's also OK to lament the fact that those same achievements-and other so-called
solutions provided by Democrats-are nowhere near enough.
Paris is a hip-hop artist and activist from the Bay Area.
He's owned several businesses that never went bankrupt. Follow him on Twitter.
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