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January 4, 2004
Does the GOP Have a Chance with African-Americans?

Today's Washington Post has an interesting editorial by Jonetta Rose Barras that persuasively argues that the Democrats may be losing their iron grip on a traditional base of their power:

In 2002 the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a liberal think tank, asked black respondents in its national survey to identify themselves as either Democrats, independents or Republicans. Although 63 percent claimed to be Democrats, the number was down from 74 percent in 2000. The decrease occurred in nearly every age group, including among respondents 65 and older (where the drop was from 82 percent to 75 percent). There was a significant increase in those calling themselves independents, especially between the ages of 26 and 35. Respondents identifying themselves as Republicans also increased: Between ages 26 and 35, the share tripled, going from 5 percent in 2000 to 15 percent in 2002.

These changes occurred during an administration that the Democrats are touting as radically right-wing; obviously, this section of their base isn't buying that message. As Barras states, the African-American demographic is increasingly well represented in the middle class, with college degrees and an appreciation for market-based economics as opposed to government entitlement. More significantly, they also increasingly resent what Barras calls "plantation politics": a social pressure to conform to a partisan agenda that more and more obviously does not benefit them.

The Bush campaign has set a public goal to attract 25% of the African-American vote, a huge improvement over the 8% it received in 2000, but still a modest goal; after all, 75-25 qualifies as a huge landslide in any election. Barras provides examples of Republicans who have received significant support from this group, but the examples hardly represent the Bush base of the Republican party (Schwarzenegger and Bloomberg). However, if the Bush administration would pick up the banner of school choice -- even if limited to selected urban areas -- there may be a huge upside in inner-city support with almost no risk of alienating anyone who would be supporting Bush anyway, as I argued earlier.

Barras intends her article to be a warning to the Democrats, but it serves as notice to the entire field. The African-American vote is not to be taken for granted, but increasingly is available to those candidates who can promise real progress for African-Americans, not simply increases in entitlements and more bitterness for their children. Real equality and acceptance will only come when their children have opportunities for first-class education and to build friendships and networks with children from all walks of life. School vouchers have the ability to deliver this, and the Democrats are too hamstrung by their associations with teachers' unions to put them into wide practice. This is the opening that Bush and the GOP needs, and next term Bush has to deliver if they want to compete for the African-American vote in 2008. (via Real Clear Politics)

UPDATE: Blogs for Bush has picked the story up as well.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 4, 2004 10:45 AM

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» WHY BLACKS SHOULD BE IN THE GOP from Patterico's Pontifications
There is a wonderful op-ed in the Washington Post today, titled Black Votes -- No GOP Fantasy. The article says that there has been a "measurable rightward shift in the black electorate" as measured by recent polls. The author explains:... [Read More]

Tracked on January 4, 2004 11:58 AM

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