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Democratic Party

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With 90 percent of black voters and 65 percent of Hispanics supporting Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 election, Mr. Gore’s successor as the Democratic presidential candidate has to understand that he can’t possibly win this year without similar support from both groups. Indeed, John Kerry, as recent polls suggest, will win just such support, but that doesn’t mean black and Hispanic leaders are not badgering him for not paying them more attention.

Late last month the Washington Post reported that “African Americans … experienced in getting out the vote say the candidate has done little to energize a constituency that could ensure [Mr. Kerry's] election.” [Kerry Urged to Do More to Get Black Votes By Darryl Fears, June 29, 2004]

The experienced black vote-getter-outers included the Rev. Joseph Lowery, formerly of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who told the Post “he is ready to get off the bench and into the game for Kerry, but no one is asking.”When was the last time Mr. Jackson felt that someone paid him too much attention?

Hispanic leaders have rumbled similar noises, whimpering that Mr. Kerry just hasn’t courted them enough. For his part, Mr. Kerry was quick to make up for his insufficiencies in pandering.

Only 24 hours after the Post story appeared, he popped up at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition convention in Chicago, where he vowed to do more for blacks. Just before that, he spoke at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, where the chief such official complained that neither presidential candidate has courted them enough. Finally (at least for midsummer) Mr. Kerry traveled to the national conference of the Hispanic racist organization, the National Conference of La Raza (The Race), where he prostrated himself yet more shamelessly.

The point of rehearsing all these tales of Mr. Kerry’s epic efforts to court the non-white blocs that are the mainstay of the Democratic Party is to emphasize that this election will change nothing. Back in the fall, when the now-forgotten Howard Dean was muttering about the need for Democrats to appeal to white “guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks” and was thoroughly denounced by his comrades for even suggesting such a thing, it sort of looked like some Democrats might possibly take or maybe just think hard about Mr. Dean’s advice. It is now clear that nothing of the kind happened or will happen.

Indeed, it can’t happen because the Democrats have created their own constituency through decades of delivering on their pandering to the very kind of organizations to which Mr. Kerry spoke earlier this month. At the La Raza rally, for instance, he virtually promised a full amnesty for illegal immigrants, a position he had long endorsed but which he found expedient to repeat again.

Having constructed for the last 40 years or more a party that serves up civil rights laws, affirmative action, liberal judges who enforce and create more civil rights laws and more affirmative action, hate crimes laws, welfare of all descriptions, and more immigration and more “rights” for immigrants and other minorities, the Democrats have built their party around an agenda that caters to blacks and Hispanics and the ever-dwindling number of whites willing to support that agenda. It would be astonishing, similar to the moon leaving its orbit and circling around the Sun, for Democrats not to appeal to such interests or for those to whom they appeal to support a rival candidate or party.

Nevertheless, that is precisely what the Republicans seem to expect both blacks and Hispanics to do. Hence, every year (and this year is no exception), Republicans boast of how much black and Hispanic support they’re getting and how they’re finally going to break through and start winning majorities. This year they’re especially excited because Arnold Schwarzenegger in California won all of some 30 percent or more of the state Hispanic vote last year, a marginal improvement over what previous GOP candidates had won. Therefore, the Republicans have convinced themselves, Mr. Bush will win even more this year nationally.

But Mr. Bush is no Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the rest of the nation is not California (yet). And even if the Republicans really wanted to win non-white votes, they simply don’t have the track record of pandering to them to match, let alone beat, the Democrats.

They don’t have such a track record and cannot create one for the simple reason that the Republicans’ base is middle class white people who intensely dislike the Democrats’ agenda and the interests to which it appeals. There is no way for the GOP to imitate that agenda and attract the non-white votes Democrats attract without alienating and perhaps losing its own white base. Nevertheless (again), if the Republicans keep pandering, alienating their base is exactly what they might accomplish—even as Mr. Kerry solidifies his own.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: 2004 Election, Democratic Party 
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With Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry now the obvious winner of the Democratic primaries, it has proved to be true once again that highly unified black voters determine the party’s nominee.

Last fall I wrote a column arguing this would be the case this year as it has been in every election since 1988 where there was no Democratic incumbent, but I suggested—wrongly as it turned out—that Howard Dean might be the man who won it.

With Dean’s rapid decline after the Iowa caucuses in January, that’s obviously not what happened, despite his early promise of gaining key black support. But if the former Vermont governor was unable to carry the black bloc, the current Massachusetts senator was.

In doing so, he repeated the pattern that has been true in Democratic presidential primaries ever since the invention of “Super-Tuesday” in 1988—the series of Southern primaries held on the same day in which black voters deliver a huge wallop for whichever candidate they back.

The secret of internal Democratic Party politics is that blacks—more than almost any other group in the country—tend to vote as a block. This is obviously so in the national elections, where their vote has gone to the Democrats and against Republicans ever since the 1960s.

But it is true also inside the Democratic Party itself. And in the Southern primaries in particular, blacks have a heavy hand to wallop with.

Thus, in 1988, Jesse Jackson walked off with more than 90 percent of the black vote in the primaries and was for a while a major contender for the party nomination. He didn’t win it because Michael Dukakis was able to corner the white ethnics who then remained Democrats, a group that is dwindling fast.

In 1992, the black vote in the Southern primaries made Bill Clinton the frontrunner and soon the party nominee. Mr. Clinton, later called “America’s first black president” because of his popularity with blacks, took more than 70 percent of the black vote in the heavily black Southern primaries that year.

In 2000, Vice President Al Gore won the black vote in early primary contests with his main rival, New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley. Before the Iowa caucuses, the two candidates bickered over who would do more for blacks—they weren’t campaigning for the 98-percent white Iowa vote, but for the black votes in the Southern primaries that followed.

Mr. Gore won 75 to 90 percent of those votes in the early March primaries. Mr. Bradley dropped out, and Mr. Gore won the nomination.

A recent article by Democratic pollster Patrick Reddy in Insightmagazine [Analysis: Black Vote Key to Kerry's Charge Feb. 17, 2004 By Patrick Reddy] shows that the same pattern holds this year. John Kerry got a boost in the mainly white bastions of Iowa and New Hampshire, but since then his victories have depended to a large extent on the black votes he was able to capture.

“Kerry carried the black vote in Missouri handily,” Mr. Reddy points out, while in Tennessee he won 47 percent and in Virginia 61 percent.

Obviously, both Mr. Kerry and his rivals—now mainly North Carolina Sen. John Edwards—have white voting bases as well, but whites don’t vote as solidly as blacks do.

As Mr. Reddy notes, “If history were any guide, the Democratic nomination in 2004 likely would be decided by the votes of African-Americans and Hispanics. Blacks make up roughly 20 percent of Democratic primary voters nationally and more than 40 percent of Democrats in most Southern states, while Hispanics constitute about 10 percent of the primary electorate and twice that in big states such as California, Texas and New York.”

Like blacks, Hispanics, the party’s newest voting bloc, have already gone for Mr. Kerry. “Returns in heavily Hispanic New Mexico and Arizona have shown Kerry to be leading among Mexican-Americans,” Mr. Reddy writes.

On March 9, “the South, with the highest percentage of black voters (roughly 40 percent of Southern Democrats), will largely finish its voting. On March 16, black votes could well decide the critical industrial state of Illinois, where they will cast about 30 percent of the primary vote. Minority voters appear to be well-positioned in February and March to determine the next Democratic nominee.”

If Mr. Reddy, a professional pollster, understands this, you can bet your ballots the politicians themselves do too, which is precisely why all the Democratic candidates (not to mention the Republicans) regularly pander to black voters and demands as much as they do.

Whoever carries the Democrats’ banner this year, non-whites will have handed it to him.

Whites, though they constitute the vast majority of Democrats and of the nation itself, have little to do with picking the nominee of one of the country’s two major parties anymore.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Blacks, Democratic Party 
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Well, I guess Jesse Jackson won’t be endorsing Howard Dean after all.

After suggesting in a recent column (before Mr. Dean’s now famous Confederate flag remark) that the ex-governor of Vermont might be on his way to winning the bloc support of black Democrats and therefore the party nomination, I must now predict that such may not be the case.

So intense is the hatred most blacks feel for the Confederate flag, a hatred engendered by racial demagogues like the Rev. Jackson and Al Sharpton, that Mr. Dean’s one brief comment last week may be sufficient to lose him the black support he seemed to be gaining.

Nevertheless, the reaction to his slip by his rivals for the nomination tends to bear out my larger point. That point was that the Democratic Party has now become so dependent on its black voters that it is virtually impossible for any candidate to win the nomination without their support.

Only if the black bloc is split (which to my knowledge has never happened) could a candidate win without its votes. Moreover, most Democratic candidates know this, even if they don’t usually say so, and that’s why they spend most of the primary campaign pandering to blacks as shamelessly as possible.

Mr. Dean has done more than his fair share of pandering, claiming to a black audience last summer that a popular rap tune was his personal favorite song and winning several endorsements from black elected officials already.

Now, his remark about the Confederate flag may have undone that.

The first to sniff the blood in the debate’s water was the well-seasoned shark, Mr. Sharpton, a man thoroughly at home with character assassination since the days when he was peddling the Tawana Brawley fable in the 1980s. As soon as Mr. Dean had expressed his ambition to be “the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks” and the banality that “We can’t beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats,”Mr. Sharpton flicked his fins and cruised in for the kill.

If a southern person running … had said that, they’d have been run out of the race,” the Harlem preacher ranted. Mr. Sharpton, already peeved because Mr. Dean had cut deeply into the black votes he needs for himself, had every good political reason to snap at his rival’s flanks.

And so did the other candidates. With Mr. Dean threatening to capture the black vote, the tactical problem they face is how to dislodge the black support he enjoys. Jumping up and down at any sort of friendly remark about the Confederate flag is a good way to do that.

And so they did. North Carolina Sen. John Edwards denounced the remark as condescending,” while Mr. Sharpton moaned that the Confederate flag is “America’s swastika.” Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt, locked in battle with Mr. Dean in the Iowa caucus, spouted that the Vermonter was trying to win votes from people “who disagree with us on bedrock Democratic values like civil rights.”

“I don’t want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks,” Mr. Gephardt piously announced in a statement. There is really small danger of that.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry accused Mr. Dean of having “pandered” to the National Rifle Association and of now trying to “pander to lovers of the Confederate flag.”

“I would rather be the candidate of the NAACP than the NRA,”Kerry said in a statement.

What is significant about all these little temper tantrums by grown-up and politically sophisticated men is that every one of them acknowledges why it was important to cast Mr. Dean as a bigot or insensitive or condescending or flirting with rejection of civil rights.

Getting that message across to black voters, who make up 40 percent of the Democratic vote in Southern primaries, would finish off any prospect of Howard Dean winning that vote and with it a place on the party’s ticket.

It would also mean—maybe—that the man who most viciously denounced Mr. Dean and the Confederate flag and the white people who like it would stand a chance of gaining the black vote himself.

Every serious Democratic presidential candidate understands that for purposes of getting to Square One, the party nomination, the NRA’s approval is not terribly useful. It’s the NAACP’s that counts.

But what Mr. Dean understands is that in order to win the election, the NRA and the kind of people who join it are essential.

That was his point in his controversial remark, and until some Democrat is able to say that and act on it and bring back the white voters the party’s racial pandering has lost to Republicans, no Democrat will ever win the White House.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Democratic Party, Howard Dean 
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It’s hardly news when the Rev. Al Sharpton denounces a white politician as “anti-black,” but when the veteran racial demagogue who gave the world the Tawana Brawley hoax blasted his fellow Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean last week, there was a ripple in the press. [Sharpton Calls Dean's Agenda 'Anti-Black,' By Brian Faler, Washington Post, October 29, 2003]

There was no reason there should have been more than a ripple, but what was really important about Mr. Sharpton’s accusation is not what it says about the black clergyman from Harlem but what it might tell us about Mr. Dean: He may be on his way to winning the Democratic nomination next year.

The reason is that Mr. Dean seems to be extremely popular with a great many of the black voters on whom Mr. Sharpton was counting to support his own candidacy.

And the larger point is that if you do win the black vote in the Democratic primaries, you are likely to win the party nomination.

Ever since 1988, when the institution of “Super Tuesday” was established, blacks who vote in the several Southern primaries held simultaneously on that day have largely determined who the front runner for the party nomination is.

In 1988, it was Jesse Jackson who walked off with what Congressional Quarterly called “nearly unanimous [black support] across the South on Super Tuesday” with only 14 fewer delegates than Michael Dukakis, who eventually won the nomination by mobilizing white ethnics.

In 1992, the Super Tuesday victor was the obscure governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, later called “America’s first black president.”He won (and catapulted himself into the front runner position) by taking 71 percent of the black vote in the day’s primaries.

In 2000, Vice President Al Gore and his main rival, Sen. Bill Bradley, spent most of their time in lily-white Iowa bickering over who would do more for blacks. Blacks went for Mr. Gore by some 85 percent on Super Tuesday. Mr. Bradley dropped out soon afterwards.

The brute fact of the Democratic Party is that black voters make up about 40 percent of the Democratic electorate in Southern primaries, and because those primaries come fairly early in the electoral season and because blacks almost always vote as a bloc, the contender who can win black support makes himself the front runner. Unless one of his rivals has a secret weapon of mass political destruction, he soon wins the nomination.

So why would Mr. Dean, a white Yankee from a white state, win black votes?

It’s not clear why, but he does seem to win a lot of black favor. The immediate reason Mr. Sharpton denounced the Vermonter is that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. endorsed him instead of the Harlem race-baiter. Mr. Jackson is not a major powerhouse himself, but his father’s name among black voters is. The father is staying out of the primaries, much to the displeasure of Mr. Sharpton, who wants his endorsement.

As for Mr. Dean, last summer he purported to a black audience that a song by a famous hip-hop artist was his own personal favorite. No doubt his wife and kids hear the governor humming it in the shower every morning. But—contrary to Mr. Sharpton’s accusations—he’s made pretty explicit appeals to blacks in the course of his campaign—and it seems to have worked.

The Washington Times reports that 10 of the 13 (all black) members of the District of Columbia’s City Council, as well as several black congressmen, state legislators and county officials, have already endorsed Mr. Dean. He “has actively sought to improve his appeal among black voters,” and one of the endorsing councilmen, Adrian Fenty, says the ex-governor “is the only one [of the Democratic candidates] who has come out to talk to us.” [Blacks show interest in Dean, By Brian DeBose , Washington Times, October 26, 2003]

This doesn’t mean Mr. Dean will win the black vote in the primaries or that he’ll get the party’s nomination. It does seem to mean that he understands how to get them, and the way to do one is the way to do the other.

The problem for the Democrats, of course, is that in order to win the black vote to get the nomination, they have to ignore and often alienate the white voters who settle the actual election. I can’t tell you who the last Democratic nominee to win a majority of the white vote was, but it hasn’t happened since at least 1972. In every election but two (1992 and 1996, when the Republican and Ross Perot split the white vote), a white majority has voted Republican.

If the Republicans want to win again, that’s what they need to win again.

Mr. Dean may get the party’s nomination and he may win all the black (and Hispanic) votes there are, but without the key constituency of white voters, the door to the White House doesn’t open.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Blacks, Democratic Party, Howard Dean 
Sam Francis
About Sam Francis

Dr. Samuel T. Francis (1947-2005) was a leading paleoconservative columnist and intellectual theorist, serving as an adviser to the presidential campaigns of Patrick Buchanan and as an editorial writer, columnist, and editor at The Washington Times. He received the Distinguished Writing Award for Editorial Writing of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in both 1989 and 1990, while being a finalist for the National Journalism Award (Walker Stone Prize) for Editorial Writing of the Scripps Howard Foundation those same years. His undergraduate education was at Johns Hopkins and he later earned his Ph.D. in modern history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His books include The Soviet Strategy of Terror(1981, rev.1985), Power and History: The Political Thought of James Burnham (1984); Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism (1993); Revolution from the Middle: Essays and Articles from Chronicles, 1989–1996 (1997); and Thinkers of Our Time: James Burnham (1999). His published articles or reviews appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, National Review, The Spectator (London), The New American, The Occidental Quarterly, and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, of which he was political editor and for which he wrote a monthly column, “Principalities and Powers.”