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Republicans and African Americans

Any incursions Republicans make into the Black vote would be devastating both for African Americans and the Democratic Party. Mehlman continues to peddle his snake oil though, claiming "no matter how well we do in elections, the party of Lincoln will not be whole until more African Americans come home."

The efforts of Bush and Mehlman are, anecdotally, having some effect in Black evangelical churches. Gay marriage, abortion, and "faith based initiative" money may be coalescing into a wedge capable of splitting some Black votes into the Republican column.

Articles on the Black vote:

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Black Evangelicals: Bush's New Trump Card, 1/27/05. (See also his Hutchinson Report).

Julia Scott (Salon), The Republican Gospel on Gay Marriage, 2/4/05.

Chris Bowers, Republican Lies About African Americans Appearing Everywhere, 2/3/05.

Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger, Black Clergy Wooed for Values Fight, LA Times, 2/2/05.

Pesudo-Adrienne, Personal Morality or Civil Rights?, 3/7/05.

Wes Allison, Black Conservatives Gather Momentum, St. Petersburg Times, 2/28/05.

Terry Neal, Republicans Come Up Short Courting Black Conservatives, Washington Post, 1/10/05.

Manning Marable and Donna Brazile, On the Future of the Democratic Party, Democracy Now, 12/17/04.

The Black Commentator has lots of good coverage of the issue. Political Research Associates' Deborah Toler published a history of black conservatism in 1993.

A history lesson, from T.H. White's The Making of the President 1960:

Time was, forty years ago, when Negroes voted solidly Republican out of gratitude to Abraham Lincoln and emancipation. ("I remember," once said Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, "when I was young in Kansas City, the kids threw rocks at Negroes on our street who dared vote Democratic.") But Franklin D. Roosevelt changed that. Under Roosevelt, the government came to mean social security, relief, strong unions, unemployment compensation. ("Let Jesus lead me, and welfare feed me" was a Negro depression chant.) And, like a heaving-off of ancient habit, as the Negro moved north he moved onto the Democratic voting rolls.

Many of the most eminent Negro leaders in America today have personally lived through this political transition. "I was born in Dougherty County, Georgia," said Congressman William Dawson of Chicago, senior Negro in the American Congress, several years ago, "just one step this side of Hell. I stood guard with my father all one night to stop a lynching when I was fifteen. I hated the word Democrat when I came north. I saw them bring Negroes up from the South in World War I and stuff them in here, into four and a half miles of the Black Belt, until it was the most populated spot on the face of the globe. I saw them ripping basements out of stores and pushing people to live in rat-infested filth, until the Black Belt was the damnedest pesthole ever conceived by the mind of man.

But Roosevelt made Dawson switch from the Republican to the Democratic side. Roosevelt brought assistance and relief in the depression. "Negroes would have died like flies if he hadn't kept his hand on the money until it got to them," said Dawson. And so Dawson became, as he still is, a Democratic political boss in Chicago, at first only of the Negro wards, then in the senior council of Cook County.

Just how much the Democratic Party owed to men like Dawson and the Negro did not become apparent until 1948. But when in 1948 Harry Truman squeezed ahead of Thomas E. Dewey by 33,612 votes in Illinois, by 17,865 votes in California, by 7,107 votes in Ohio, no practicing politician could remain ignorant of how critical was the negro vote in the Northern big city in a close election.

Since then, as the Negro migration from the South has quickened in pace and size, the importance of the Negro vote has grown to be almost obsessive with Northern political leaders. Running proportionately in some places (like New York) at 3 to 1 Democratic and in others (like Detroit) at 8 to 1 Democratic, the Negro industrial vote is one of the most solid political properties in Democratic custody. It represents power.


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