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June 17, 2004

GWBush's Slam Dunk

Juan Williams makes a convincing case that the President has a secret weapon in his arsenal: the black vote. He states little more than the obvious but I'll focus on his second point:

Second, it's increasingly clear that blacks are no longer willing to vote as a bloc, automatically lining up with the Democrats. This is particularly true of younger black voters. A 2002 poll by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a research group based in Washington, found a shift in the political identification of black voters. For example, 34 percent of 18- to 25-year-old black voters identified themselves as independents. Overall, 24 percent of black Americans of all ages see themselves as independents a four percentage point increase since the 2000 election. And now 10 percent of blacks call themselves Republican, a six percentage point rise since 2000.

Young black Americans seem ready for a forthright conversation about race and politics. While many older blacks responded with anger to Bill Cosby's recent call for poor black people to take more responsibility for their problems, the young people I encountered were uniformly supportive of Mr. Cosby's words.

It's worth noting that for this group, the president has an issue with considerable appeal: school vouchers. Despite strong opposition from civil rights leaders (and Democrats), 66 percent of blacks and 67 percent of Hispanics favor vouchers, according to a recent Newsweek poll. That is higher than the 54 percent of whites who say they want to see vouchers used to give students access to better schools.

Williams, because he's an NPR kinda-guy has no reason to overstate anything here. So while a lot of statistics about black voters in transition have been bandied about, I'll add these to the pile with a measure of credibility.

The Joint Center has pretty much a monopoly on black think-tankery. If I were a political scientist I'd be breaking my neck to get grant dollars for a second opinion. But even giving Bositis and company the benefit of the doubt, how likely is it that those black independents and conservatives are getting the kind of questions ranging of a sophisticated non-liberal issues?

Cosby has given us a new talking point about an old political dilemma, and people may just be beginning to reach inside of the black monolith (aside from the token contrarians) and realizing its depth and complexity.

So while it's a slam dunk, even for George W. Bush who is certainly unproven in his subtle grasp of domestic racial politics, to make big gains by appealing to 'the black vote', there remains a great deal of unknowns and unfocused energy and opportunity out there. Even Shaq sometimes misses slam dunks.

Posted by mbowen at June 17, 2004 04:43 PM

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For the GOP to win black votes... from Vision Circle
Ok. So my man Cobb weighs in on the black vote issue. Here's the real deal. Black political behavior has been shown to be tied closely to the "fate of the race." When African Americans enter the voting booth, what... [Read More]

Tracked on June 18, 2004 01:02 PM


Thanks for reminding me about ANOTHER thing I support GW over. Totally had forgotten about vouchers.

However, as with any good idea (Ms. Rice as VP was one I thought very good), it requires someone with smarts to grab and ride it. Politicians as a class don't have a very good track record of this. Let's hope it doesn't turn into another pipe dream, eh?

Posted by: scott at June 17, 2004 04:57 PM

The problem may be one on the supply side too. What I keep hearing about in local politics are appointments. People agree that black Republican appointees can make a big difference in visibility. So who has time to do appointment work and grass roots visibility? Black businessmen who can step away from the business, or who are retired and/or independently wealthy. An important pool, but not a big one.

I hear about vouchers all the time. I think they are a half-vast solution. But yeah that's a slam dunk too.

Posted by: cobb at June 17, 2004 05:07 PM

I know of a family that received vouchers. The son and daughter turned around and bloomed. For the daughter it happened in less than one quarter. For the son in happened after the first semester.


In Florida, private school parents demanded that their schools not accept voucher students. A Catholic bishop had to admonish the parents to act like Christians.

In Mil., the suburban schools refused to accept the vouchers. Many private schools refused to take part in the program. Other schools that took part, were soon overwhelmed; not enough spots.

And let's not forget the roots of the program, shall we?

Posted by: DarkStar at June 17, 2004 05:54 PM

DarkStar is right that the roots of the school voucher movement -- segregation academies -- isn't stellar. No way will white suburban parents go for school vouchers (at least outside city limits) when they realize it means that Buffy & Biff could attend school with (my gosh!) Shalonda and Leroy.

However, that's not my primary concern. My focus is how can black Americans utilize school vouchers to improve and shape OUR schools? More competition would help. Schools that met black parents' educational needs (e.g., school prayer, desire for high discipline, more black folks in the curriculum) would help.

Posted by: shay at June 18, 2004 10:46 AM

I concur with Shay. Vouchers' inauspicious beginnings should not deter people from using them now. Just about anything you can think of has been used for "evil" in some way or another. A thing isn't necessarily evil per se; it can be used for both good and evil purposes.

And we can talk all day long about private schools refusing kids or private schools not accepting vouchers. As a private school, that is their right, as long as the refusal is based on test scores, grades, etc, and not on race (like it is in public colleges and universities). There are other private schools who do accept vouchers and children from underperforming schools.

That's the freedom of government disentanglement: freedom to make decisions based on merit, the market, supply and demand, etc.

Posted by: La Shawn Barber at June 18, 2004 12:14 PM

Well the harsh truth of the matter is that black Sunday Schools ought to start teaching more than bible verses. But I am basically not convinced that the churches where the majority of blackfolks attend services are interested. I am ill-prepared to document what I'm saying, but if I were, I'd deliver a stinging indictment.

Separate topic to come.

Posted by: cobb at June 18, 2004 12:16 PM

I've said it at Visioncircle and I'll say it here. Bush doesn't get 5%. Blacks support vouchers...ok.

But they also support:

1. aggressive enforcement of civil rights violations.

2. affirmative action.

3. police-citizen review boards.

4. urban investment.

5. day care subsidies.

and this stuff is just for starters. if we all recognize that blacks aren't monolithic, we should in turn recognize that blacks have the sophistication to recognize which issues are most important to them. vouchers are important to black men and women, but compared to the five above, where does it stand?

Posted by: Lester Spence at June 18, 2004 12:27 PM

Given that after illegitimacy, education is our #2 challenge -- education (school vouchers) should rank VERY high. You forgot to add:

-- blacks support the pro-life position on abortion

-- blacks oppose gay marriage

-- blacks want to increase their share of business enterprise

-- blacks support historically black colleges (40% funds increase, thanks to President Bush)

-- blacks support diabetes research (funds there too, which disproportionately benefit us)

-- blacks oppose slavery (liberals TOTALLY missing in action on the Sudan issue, while the Bush administration and Christian conservatives have been pressing the issue)

-- blacks support more AIDS funding and help for Africa (funds to Liberia, which has U.S. ties; billions to AIDS in Africa)

In addition to the issues that people cited above, Bush has a record where he can run a decent campaign and give the Democrats a little run for their money with black voters.

President Bush's goal shouldn't be to attract ALL black voters. Impossible task. He should focus on CERTAIN black voters (blacks under age 45, blacks who own stock, black homeowners, black businessfolks), especially in swing states where a slight black vote shift could work in his electoral favor. If he gets even 15% of the vote (theoretically doable, since recent polls show 17% of black Americans approve of his job performance) he further puts a dagger into the heart of liberalism for some time.

Posted by: molotov at June 18, 2004 03:23 PM

I agree that parents are more concerned about their children and don't think about the schools that don't accept vouchers. Yes, it is the school's right. But, when the vouchers become useless by those who receive them because schools don't accept them, as has occurred, then what?

If a voucher were offered, and my child were able to use it, I'd take it. But I'd also scream/complain/whine about the schools in the area that won't take them.

There is competition among colleges and universities. And many schools, like the University of Maryland, College Park, has benefitted over time by attracting better students. But is the school education better?

Posted by: DarkStar at June 18, 2004 05:19 PM

"...If he gets even 15% of the vote (theoretically doable, since recent polls show 17% of black Americans approve of his job performance) he further puts a dagger into the heart of liberalism for some time..."

Off topic, but on: I object to the use of "liberal" to describe the American Left. They have appropriated the good name of Liberal, when their stance is inimical to individual liberty.

The Left could use a lesson in etymology. Can we be so bold as to teach it?

Posted by: True_Liberal at June 18, 2004 08:03 PM