News broke this week that according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, Mitt Romney is receiving zero percent support from black voters. Really? I can see only three alternative interpretations of this result, none of which are found in the main stream coverage:
Blacks are Racist
This one is easy. Just imagine if the results had been the other way around. What if the poll showed zero white support for Obama? Cries of societal breakdown would flood the airwaves. The shocking revelation of white racism against blacks would be the lead headline. Yet when the anti-Romney poll results were announced, it was summarized that there must be something wrong with Mitt Romney, not something wrong with the black voter.
Accusations of racism on blacks against whites usually falls on deaf ears. The reason I think was well spelled out by a civil rights worker (whose name I no longer remember) who said that racism is the potent combination of prejudice plus the power to use that prejudice to hurt the target of that prejudice. The notion is that a powerless black community can be as prejudiced against whites as they want. Without the power to DO anything the prejudice lacks any real punch.
I first heard this theory a good 25 years ago. Since then, both the corner office and the Oval Office have been occupied by blacks. The idea of the powerless black man has diminished considerably. This makes the charge of racism against whites in this case quite a bit more plausible.
Blacks are a Joke
While blacks may have gained more power in the past 30 years, the credibility of the black community still suffers. When we look at the effectiveness of policy by either party as it relates to blacks, one has to wonder if anyone is really taking black folk that seriously. These poll results don’t help in that regard. If we toss out racism as the motivating force we are left with the possibility that blacks really aren’t thinking very critically about this election. That would be true of any group that votes 100% against something. It kills their credibility as a voting block because it shows no diversity of thought or opinion. There are only two things that unite blacks, one total nonsense and one drop dead serious. Their nonsensical commonality is the color of their skin (for the most part …it must be said blacks run the gamut of skin color, this author being a prime example). Skin color is meaningless. The serious commonality is a legacy of systemic discrimination. Yet I submit that within those two common attributes there is a wide range of potential political opinion. Blacks run from ultra-liberal all the way to ultra-conservative. You would never know it from these poll results which make blacks look like a very stupid monolith.
The Poll is Flawed
The Wall Street Journal and NBC defend the poll results claiming the sampling was proper. This according to the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart:
“The numbers came from a statistically significant sample of more than 100 African-American voters out of 1,000 total voters in the poll,” Mark Murray, senior political editor for NBC News, told me via e-mail this morning. “Given the sample size of these African-American respondents, the margin of error is well within the 95%-4% split with which Obama won this group in 2008.” So, there’s a possibility that Romney could eke out some support on Election Day. A possibility of the very slim variety.
I say pure BS. You might not think that there is much difference between 4% support and 0% support, but symbolically it makes a world of difference. The pollsters can yell until they are blue in the face. I refuse to believe that there is a statistically non-existent black pro-Romney contingent. These poll results only serve to further propagate the notion of blind racial support which does a disservice to our national discourse.
What I think irks me the most is not which of the three above alternatives, racism, stupidity, or bad polling caused these results. What irks me is the media exclusively interpreting these results as a commentary on Romney and not a commentary on the group being polled. It makes blacks a club with which to pound Romney over the head. It makes them a useful tool. It would have been more worthwhile to get underneath what blacks really think. Where is there a diversity of opinion?
I’m not sure the media is really interested in what black people think and why. I think they’re just interested in scoring political points and fanning flames. This poll certainly served that purpose.
Post-script: Kudos to Melissa Harris-Perry for at least talking to some black conservatives and giving a damn about what they think.
Graphic via NBC News