Why most blacks tend to vote for democrats?


Black_Vote_Pres.jpeg (Source: FactCheck.org)

I get asked this question often: "why do blacks tend to vote for democrats when their social commitments tend to be more traditional and conservative?"

Here's the reason: white conservatives dropped the ball in the 1970s. The black middle-class in the 1970s was built on the following: government jobs (public education, postal workers, etc.), government forced minority contracting (construction, etc.), the Nixon administration using government programs to guarantee loans for black businesses, various affirmative-action programs mandated by government agencies, and so on. This creates a certain type of loyalty.

Who were the most resistent to racial integration in public schools? Answer: white conservatives--many of whom started private schools in the late 60s and early 1970s in quiet protest.

Who were the most resistent to voluntary diversity initiatives in the public and private sectors?" Answer: white conservatives.

Who were the most supportive of Jim Crow? Answer: white conservatives (whether they were democratic party or republican party conservatives).

Who opened up more job opportunities for blacks in the 1970s as told in the social narrative? Answer: the public sector.

These voting trends have more to do with political economy than social mores. Blacks have not had the luxury of choosing presidential candidates who are consistent with their moral values because the economic and liberty issues took priority. Issues and values voting [on themes related to personal sanctity] comes with a certain amount of cultural privilege.

Pay attention to this from the Department of Labor:

Black workers are more likely to be employed in the public sector than are either their white or Hispanic counterparts. In 2011, nearly 20 percent of employed Blacks worked for state, local, or federal government compared to 14.2 percent of Whites and 10.4 percent of Hispanics. Blacks are less likely than Hispanics and nearly as likely as Whites to work in the private sector, not including the self-employed. Few Blacks are self-employed -- only 3.8 percent reported being self-employed in 2011 -- making them almost half as likely to be self-employed as Whites (7.2 percent).

Do you expect blacks to vote themselves out of a job?

Think: what was it that set blacks up to be so tied to government in the 1970s in the first place? Answer: the "War on Poverty" programs of President Johnson announced in 1964. Richard Nixon increased the coupling of blacks and government by expanding these programs during his administration. America has wasted trillions of dollars on programs that don't work. Trillions.

So my question is this, "Given that most people vote according their perceived economic advantage anyway, why would anyone NOT be surprised that most blacks vote for democrats (given recent history)?"

Two things to keep in mind: (1) Conservatives often ask, "but what about all the failed government social programs that have destroyed urban cities? Why don't blacks see this?" Answer: conservatives since Nixon have done a pathetic job of telling stories that connect those dots and, instead, have chosen to argue ideologically. This approach makes no sense. For example, conservatives believe that The Moynihan Report (1965) "The Negro Family: The Case For National Action" [Office of Policy Planning and Research United States Department of March 1965] appeals to the heart. Seriously? You'd be surprised how many times conservatives today refer to this report. They seem to have not yet figured out that the document is not persuasive as literature; (2) Through the 1980s and 1990s democrats and progressives were successful at crafting the narrative that republicans were against black progress for reasons of race and class. In fact, progressives should be noted for successfully creating a narrative that government programs fail (now and in the past) because Republicans sabotage their success. Republicans have yet to shake that stigma.

In the end, then, a far more important question is, "why do blacks vote for libertarians and republicans at all?


"I'll have those ni**ers voting Democratic for the next 200 years." (Lyndon Johnson)

Thanks, Julia! That quote reminded me of the War on Poverty programs as context. I added that to the post. Thanks!

I completely agree with this post, particularly the ideological vs. narrative approach to persuasion. The only thing I would add is that Democrats have had a lot of help from most of the media (not that this excuses or takes away from the massive failures of Republicans in this department).

If the mighty fortress of black loyalty to the Democratic party is to come down, it will be by the persistent, gentle erosion of water on rock, not by the flinging of pebbles and stones. (And it will likely make the formation of the Grand Canyon look like a rush job.)

Wow, Julia. LBJ really said that?
Thanks for the post, ab.

Yup. (Remember, LBJ was a good southern boy of Scots-Irish descent ;) Most of the southern state legislatures didn't flip Republican until the 2000s. Some like AK and WVA are still Democratic.)

Anywho, I think it's important to remember (as Dr. Bradley pointed out) that a generation or two of perceived economic self-interest becomes cultural loyalty, potentially outliving its usefulness. Black Americans are not the ethnic enclave characterized by this (although blacks do vote Dem more reliable than either atheists or homosexuals). Jewish people are another typically reliable Dem voting block. (Jewish Republican friends of ours griped during the 2008 election that Obama could have campaigned with Arafat himself and still gotten the Jewish vote.)

The important takeaway (to me) is that Republicans now have to contend with several generations of cultural loyalty. They/we can crab about how black loyalty to Democrats is irrational and get absolutely nowhere (but feel good about themselves/ourselves!), or they/we can humbly offer an alternative vision for black progress. (Also useful is gently pointing out that behind every entitlement program is the underlying motivation of control. Royal Meeker, adviser to Woodrow Wilson, famously wanted to get as many blacks on welfare as possible b/c he thought it would make them less resistant to mass-sterilization efforts. Fun stuff!)

I would say something about libertarians, but while they are fun conversation partners, they are basically irrelevant to the political process ;)

"Issues and values voting comes with a certain amount of cultural privilege."

This is an insightful sentence.

@Julia, pretty good reflections....thanks...for now I am still a Democrat....it will take time to be convinced otherwise...DW

Thanks, Dwaine! Take all the time you need :) :)

Dr. Bradley:

Are you speaking on behalf of (what I might call) the black mindset when you consistently point the finger at "white conservatives" as being "most resistent to integration / diversity" and so forth, or are those your own conclusions?

Do you (or they) have any substantive examples of this alleged resistance that I could read up on?

Also, it's pretty tough for Conservatives and/or Republicans (basically, any non-Liberal, any non-Progresive-Democrat) have had a hard time "connecting those dots" and "shaking that stigma" for some very simple, very obvious reasons:

(1) The media, and the entertainment industry, are -- and have been for generations -- self-admittedly Liberal; so unless the black community reads non-mainstream material, or consumes non-mainstream content (movies, T.V., news, Internet, etc.), they are going to hear the same Liberal themes repeated so often that those things are accepted as "truth", complete with the underlying assumptions and the misguided and misinformed projections of Conservative ideas and persons...

(2) Indeed, those blacks who break the cycle and turn their eyes toward something else, something other than the standard script, tend to see these issues in a brand-new light; here are some good examples:


So it boils down to whom we listen to. You can't light a match near a hurricane; one has to muzzle the media in order to be able to think independently, that is, with Clarity, in order to see the Truth.

I would be very interested in your thoughts on how the Conservative message might find some play in the black community.

This might explain why African Americans started voting for Democrats in even larger numbers beginning in the late 60s, but what is the explanation for why 7 out of 10 African Americans voted for Democrats even in the 30s? Was it due to economic policies back then as well?


Wait, that quote made you think of the War on Poverty?!? LBJ said it about civil rights. He also said that Dems would lose the South for a generation because of it.

Good point Jason. You have to remember that blacks were denied the vote in the South until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And before WWII, there were few blacks in the North and they were concentrated in large cities. Their voting Dem then was likely a function of big city democrat machine politics.

Another point that shows this analysis to be extremely poor, is that since 1968, black voting for Dems is very stable. The was no effect on their voting from the War on Poverty. The big jump comes in 1964, just after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Which was the occasion for the LBJ quotes in the other comments. How do you write a post on black voting and not mention Civil Rights?

Mark, interesting point but you may be missing the original point. I'm not sure if you read the post or not but question was about voting versus social mores versus failed policies to explain voting trends in 2012. The social mores of the democrats in 1964 and the social mores on democrats in 2012 are NOT the same. This is why it does not make sense to some. To state it another way, why do socially conservative blacks continue in 2012 to vote for democrats. The discussion today is about social programming not the Civil-Rights act of 1965. Moreover, the Civil-Rights generation is the black minority. The median age for African Americans in this country is 30-years-old. My guess is social programing has more to do with 2012 voting patterns than 1965 given the fact that the Civil-Rights movement is NOT a part of the median political consciousness. The right to vote alone won't explain the median blacks voting patterns in 2012. Since a Republican emancipated slaves many expect, on your voting rights logic, that blacks would always be Republicans. Explaining trends in recents years can't be reduced to 1965 when the median of today's black weren't even born. So yes, that quote made me think of the years and years of programing that was set into motion during LBJ's tenure that Nixon expanded well into the 1970s that Carter picked up as well. The Civil-Rights Act was passed on Feb. 10, 1964 and the War on Poverty speech was given on March 16, 1964. Also, the Civil-Rights act vote was split North/South NOT by party affiliation. Then, later, there was a move for voting rights.

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This page contains a single entry by Anthony Bradley published on August 6, 2012 9:52 PM.

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