The Myth of Blacks Voting Black
In the immediate aftermath of Barack Obama’s election one of the cries I heard from conservatives was that he got 99.999% of the black vote. This assertion wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t followed by an implication (sometimes pretty explicit) that whites discern whom they vote for. They think about the issues. Blacks, however, just see the dark skin and blindly pull down the lever for their bro. Of course this ignores that blacks initially supported Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary race until Obama won the lily white Iowa caucus and it dawned on some blacks that the dude might actually win the whole enchilada.
Fast forward to last Tuesday night in the Alabama Democratic primary for Governor. Artur Davis, a black congressman, was seeking to become the first black Governor of Alabama. To do this he would have to win a substantial amount of the white vote. His preoccupation with how he would fare in the general election made him lose sight of the fact that he needed to win the primary first. He apparently bought the old “blacks vote for blacks” line and he got the surprise of his life. Blacks in large numbers contributed to Ron Sparks, a white challenger, giving Davis a good old-fashioned Southern ass-whupping.
Davis made two key mistakes. First he voted against health care reform in the House of Representatives, a bread and butter issue among the liberal base. Then he basically ignored the very people whose vote he thought he had in the bag. He would not speak to black organizations. He would not appear on black oriented media outlets. He discovered the hard way that black folk are no different from anyone else. They don’t like being ignored. They want to be taken seriously. And yes, they will evaluate a candidate before voting for him.
Personally, I was absolutely delighted by this outcome. It always irks me when elections seem to fulfill some demographic profile. It was refreshing to be reminded that when the individual enters the voting booth, regardless of race, he brings his unique considerations to the table. No one’s vote should be taken for granted.