With striking consistency, African-Americans can be counted on to deliver their votes in overwhelming numbers to Democratic candidates. For over forty years, 85% or more have cast ballots for the Democratic nominee in both congressional and presidential elections, making them the most valuable and relied upon demographic group in the Democratic Party.
However, in this very tough election season, with other key demographic groups–young people, Latinos, and women—rapidly peeling away, Democrats now find their most loyal group singularly unenthused about participating in the upcoming election, a prospect rife with unfortunate consequences.
Recent polls have shown only 24% of black voters are excited about the November election. The same polls, however, show over twice as many white voters eager to cast an anti-Democratic, anti-Obama vote this fall. Democrats now find themselves in a desperate mode to rally African-American turnout or face a complete electoral catastrophe.
Some attribute this malaise to the fact that Barack Obama will not be on the ballot in November. He still remains personally popular in the black community, perhaps just not at the staggering 96% vote level he received in 2008. Others say blacks are just as angry as everyone else about the economic situation they find themselves in but because of their antipathy toward the GOP, the only way they can demonstrate their displeasure is by not voting.
President Obama seems to have concluded that it is, indeed, his absence on the ballot that’s making blacks not dash to the polls, and not any discontent toward him or his policies. Speaking recently to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), he said:
A lot of folks may be feeling like politics is something they get involved in every four years when there’s a presidential election, but they don’t see why they should bother the rest of the time…I need everybody here to go back to your neighborhoods, and your workplaces, to your churches, and barbershops, and beauty shops. Tell them we have more work to do. Tell them we can’t wait to organize. Tell them that the time for action is now.
Still, it was an interesting audience in which to give an exhortation on the need to re-elect Democrats, given the self-immolation the CBC is currently going through. In recent months, the CBC has found itself in the crosshairs of a national debate on the ethical transgressions of the Democratically-controlled Congress.
First, Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) are both facing upcoming ethics trials involving tax fraud and influence peddling, respectively. Rangel and Waters’ initial “bring-it-on” bravado toward the idea that their trials be televised during the fall elections sent shock waves throughout Democratic ranks until cooler heads prevailed and the trial was bumped to after the election.
Then Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) was caught on a lobbyist’s answering machine leaving a message which sounded more like a shakedown than a request for campaign contributions. Norton, no stranger to ethical peccadilloes, almost lost her first election to Congress because she and her husband decided to not pay taxes for seven years. Finally, Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) were accused of handing out scholarships to relatives from the CBC Scholarship Foundation like candy from a Pez dispenser
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