In an earlier piece here at The Village, I reviewed African American voting history. Given the overwhelming nature of black Democratic partisanship, we should expect the vast majority of black voters to support Barack Obama on November 6.
Interestingly, every election year, there appears a raft of articles all asking the same question, “Is the Democratic nominee for president taking the black vote for granted?” This year is no different. These articles bring no new evidence to the table and only represent the lazy journalism of reporters and pundits looking for an easy story. These stories do not take into account the deep roots blacks have with the Democratic Party nor do they examine the antipathy the GOP treats blacks with (Mia Love being an obvious exception).
Just because a policy is not explicitly racial in nature does not mean that African Americans benefit greatly.
Therefore, when examining the totality of the issues this election season, one conclusion becomes unmistakingly clear; both parties have doubled-down on their core groups.
Democrats want and need the black vote like never before and the GOP is pushing away the black vote more blatantly than at any time since 1964 when Republicans nominated Senator Barry Goldwater who voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Black unemployment remains high, but historically black unemployment floats at double the total unemployment rate. The question then should be, “Has Obama worked to fix the structural factors leading to persistently higher unemployment rate for blacks?” Here the answer again, is a definitive yes.
The surest way to gainful employment and long-term income security is through education. For k-12 schools, the Obama Administration allows states to opt out of the cumbersome and useless No Child Left Behind reforms of the Bush administration, and has given states and individual school districts incentives to choose their own innovations through Race to the Top.
For Higher Education, Obama has increased the total value of dollars available to Pell Grant recipients. One caveat is that there is a limit to when Pell Grants can be used. The Paul Ryan budget proposes cutting Pell Grant awards by one-third
Where African Americans have been particularly hard-hit in the Great Recession was through the collapse of the housing market. In many instances, such as with Wells Fargo, blacks were the deliberate victims of discrimination. Evidence points to the conclusion that black households are significantly more likely to be underwater on their mortgages, and as a result black households saw their net worth decline by 53% during the Great Recession. In 2009, the administration created the Home Affordable Refinance Program, and in 2012, because the results from the first plan were lackluster, overhauled the program to try and help homeowners save $3,000 on average.
This is on top of Obama’s extension of the Bush era tax cuts for households that earn less than $250,000 a year.
Health insurance will be quite the boon for African Americans once fully enacted. Among the less well-known provisions is the elevation of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities “from a Center to a full Institute, reflecting an enhanced focus on minority health.” Additional reforms include more investment in community health teams to tackle the chronic diseases that 50% of African Americans suffer from at some point in their lives. Yet, through lawsuits and defiant claims of not taking federal dollars for needed Medicaid expansions, Republican governors have squarely put their party on the side of limiting access to health care.
Yet, the clearest example of the difference between the GOP and Democrats this election season is the case of voting rights. Republicans definitely do not take the black vote granted, which is what is behind the voter suppression movement. The Brennan Center for Justice calculates that the onslaught of voter suppression measures will have a disproportionate effect on black voters. While Mitt Romney casually campaigns for the black vote, his surrogates in Florida, Ohio, Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and elsewhere are taking serious steps to deliberately make voting harder, especially for African Americans.
In the instances where the Department of Justice has jurisdiction over these laws which are designed to hinder access to American democracy, the Obama Administration categorically rejects Republican arguments that the real motivation behind these laws is to fight voter fraud. The evidence of fraud is so slight is enough to be laughable were the consequences not so severe.
The subtext of this election is that the two parties have doubled-down. Democratic policies have shown a commitment to securing the black vote, while Republican counter-measures indicate that Romney’s half-hearted campaigning for the black vote is mere lip service.