Did the lack of African American Voter Turnout Cause the Republican Election Tsunami?
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
When President Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, he received over 95 percent of the African American vote in addition to a large percentage of young voters, newly-registered voters, and many who had been disgusted with politics in general. He energized the masses, the grassroots, and they supported him, and of course, there were other peripheral factors. In the recent 2010 mid-term election, though his name was not on any ballot, his agenda and his supporters in Congress, Governors and state houses were. What went wrong; what happened?
In California and Los Angeles County in particular, the African American Voter REP (AAVREP) released a preliminary report, which included registration, direct mail, paid and earned media, grassroots outreach and phone bank targeting African Americans in L.A. County. It is easy to interpret the aforementioned information as the cause of Candidate Kamala Harris’ eventual lead over Candidate Steve Cooley in L.A. County especially since Cooley, as District Attorney of L.A. County, is a veteran of previous election(s) in the county.
Around midday (EST) on election day, during a check of the Gov. Deval Patrick’s campaign in Massachusetts, it was predicted that if there is a massive voter turnout in African American communities, the Governor would be re-elected. Gov. Patrick did get re-elected.
It would appear that both California and Massachusetts defied the Republican election tsunami and voted for Democrats throughout each state. California elected and re-elected a Democratic Governor, U.S. Senator, Lieutenant Governor and many representatives. Massachusetts voted similarly: a Democratic Governor, Attorney General and many representatives. The common factor seemed to be the African American vote.
What happened in some of the other states relative to their outreach to the African American communities? According to media reports, The Democratic National Committee (DNC) reported to have spent $50 million during the 2010 mid-term election, and of that amount, only $3 million was said to have been spent in the African American media. According to NNPA Chairman Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., “We (the Black Press of America) is still looking for that $3 million.” It appeared to have been a case of ‘you get what you pay for'; they did not spend much and they did not get much.
Bakewell continued, “At the urging of the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus, members of the Black leadership gave DNC chairman, Tim Kane, a modest budget to get the Democrats’ message to African American voters.” Kane was receptive but did nothing. “He dismissed the value of implementing a $2 million budget to stimulate the Black vote, “Bakewell added, “We know that no where near that amount went to Black newspapers, which is the most trusted, loyal and relied-on vehicle for Black voters to turn out. Black people look to Black newspapers the message on turning out. In addition, the people in the Democratic Party that won are those who spent time actually campaigning in the Black community to Black folks, and enlisted the support of the Black Press, like California and Massachusetts.”
Outreach to African Americans must be done early, often and real to be effective.
According to sources, those who valued the Black vote won including Harry Reid (D-NV) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). And even in some states that did not do as much as they could have or should done, they won including Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), Pat Quinn (D-IL).
In a special to NNPA from the Chicago Defender, the headline read, “President Obama to Black Press: ‘I still need your help.’ And as stated above, the President’s was not on any ballot, but it is obvious that he understood the value of the Black Press.
In looking at the history past mid-term elections, politics pundits and historians have reasoned that a changeover of power in Congress is usually expected at the mid-point of most presidential terms. But that sounds like voodoo politics because politics is not an exact science; there is a cause and an effect. And traditionally, the Democrats have had a history of ignoring the African American community and/or taking it for granted. They appear only at election season.