Why This Election May be the End of the Road for the Relationship Between President Obama, Blacks, and Democrats

(Mario Tama/Getty Images)
(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

by Keli Goff

The Obama era represents a peak in black voters’ identification with the Democratic Party, which will have to fight to retain their loyalty.

While President Obama made history by becoming the first black president in 2008, black voters made history four years later. In 2012, for the first time ever, black voter turnout nationally surpassed that of all other groups. But that is unlikely to happen in tomorrow’s election. An even bigger question to consider, however, is whether it will ever happen again. Black voter enthusiasm has been at an all-time high during the era of the first black president, but will this enthusiasm last in the post Obama era?Clearly there were black voters before Barack Obama, but to put in context the difference between black voter turnout in the Obama era and black voter turnout before, consider this. In 2008 two million more black voters showed up at the polls than had four years before. Among young black voters ages 18 to 24, there was an 8 percent increase in turnout from 2004 to 2008, the highest increase among any demographic, across racial, gender and generational lines.

In a phone interview, Andra Gillespie, a Political Scientist based at Emory University said, “People historically thought black voters participated in the political process and voted because they had confidence in their own ability to effect change in the political system, irrespective of whether they believed politicians cared about what they thought. But there was some work that came out about 25 years ago that suggests that’s not true and that in fact that blacks feel empowered when they see blacks in positions of power.” Gillespie explained that this research did find a connection between the number of likely black voters and black elected leaders..

Though it is an insult to black voters, and frankly to all Americans who voted for Obama, to assume that any black person that voted for him did so because of his race, there were some black Americans inspired to vote for him in the same way there were some Catholic Americans inspired to vote for President John F. Kennedy. Both men’s elections served as a point of pride for some Americans who share cultural commonality with them. There were also voters who believed their ascendance would signal how far we have evolved as a nation, while others simply agreed with them on the issues. And there are others who may be moved to vote for a candidate from an underrepresented group because they believe that it takes a person from a non-privileged background to truly understand the trials and tribulations of the non-privileged, and to represent them effectively.

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SOURCE: The Daily Beast

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