Black Votes, Not Trump Votes

by William Turner 9 months ago in president

The Democratic Nominee should pursue African Americans, not Trumpsters.

Black Votes, Not Trump Votes

The Democratic nominee for 2020 should work hard for black voters and not at all for Trump voters.

The latest poll from Iowa shows former Vice President Joe Biden in the lead for the Democratic nomination for president. It's still very early, and this result is likely a function of name recognition. After Obama, Biden is the most famous Democrat in the country. He did just spend two terms as vice president to Obama, who gets criticized from both sides, but did win election twice and so was a successful president on that score.

Another article starts out with a vignette about a black woman who is not thrilled with Biden, but currently accepts the received wisdom (!) that he is the most likely to beat Trump, which is her main goal, so she's willing to take Biden as the nominee to achieve that goal.

This woman is free to think what she wants, but we should take a step back and evaluate the claim that Biden is the most likely of the current crop to beat Trump.

Really, the best way to beat Trump is to start now with an impeachment investigation, and continue it either until the Judiciary Committee votes out articles of impeachment, or the election. The Republicans explicitly dragged the Benghazi investigation out for months to harm Hillary, and an impeachment investigation of Trump would be valid on its own terms, so no reason not to do that. But Speaker Pelosi is too addled to pursue that avenue at the moment, so we should focus on choosing the best candidate while we press her to wake up and smell the cat food.

Of the last five presidential elections, the Democrats have won three, and lost in the Electoral College once. The other two times, the winner was the first black man to hold the office.

Any Democrat who wants to pay more attention to Trump voters than to black voters should be off the list immediately. We hear constantly about how Republicans win by playing to their base. In policy terms, this is bad for the country because their base is a noxious mix of racists and other white people who are either badly misinformed or rich enough that they actually benefit from stupid policies like the recent tax cut. They support prohibiting abortion because they know that rich women will always be able to get them and they don't care about poor women. They reject the expansion of Medicaid because they think they don't need it and they ignore the benefits to everyone that flow from an obviously smart policy choice. They refuse to admit that climate change is a huge problem.

And they're the minority. The Republican base has not won a presidential election since 2004.

It makes zero sense for any Democrat to try to appeal to these people. Democrats govern on behalf of everyone, unlike Republicans, so a Democratic president who wins no Republican votes will not try to punish red states. The greatest policy achievements of the Democrats came in the New Deal and the Great Society, which helped us all, whether Republicans want to admit it or not.

The greatest policy achievements of the Republicans came from Reconstruction, when they wrote and ensured ratification of the Reconstruction Amendments, in the 1860s, when they were acting like modem Democrats.

Okay, and the interstate highway system, which was Dwight Eisenhower's idea, but he was the last responsible Republican president, and Democrats want to repeat that performance by spending on infrastructure to rebuild what the Republicans have left to rot. But Trump is throwing one of his fits over that issue.

The point of the New Deal was to help the whole country, so it helped African Americans incidentally just because they were here. The Tennessee Valley Authority must have provided electricity to black as well as white households. Some agricultural subsidies must have made their way to black farmers. Discrimination was still the norm, but the demands of World War II created opportunities for everyone.

The Great Society was much more focused specifically, although certainly not exclusively, on helping African Americans. Racial segregation was good for no one. It was a complete waste that imposed arbitrary, unjustifiable restrictions on the opportunities and realities of an entire segment of the population to zero benefit.

Nixon set up the political dynamic that still prevails in the United States, and he did so entirely cynically, for the purpose of breaking the New Deal electoral coalition by pitting working class white people against African Americans, a tested tactic that white supremacists had used since the end of slavery. Since Nixon, when Republicans have won the presidency, they have done so by relying on this racist tactic, except 2004, when George II had the psychologically gratifying substitute of same sex marriage as red meat for the anti civil rights crowd.

Until Trump, the move was to find some dog whistle racist image or symbol that would attract the "white supremacist" vote without alienating the white people who don't want to recognize systemic racism. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and, obviously, Barack Obama appealed effectively to black voters and they won.

So we have African Americans, the ambivalent middle, and the "white supremacists." Again, Obama proved that the Democrat wins if that person can fire up African Americans without scaring away too much of the ambivalent middle. 2016, when Hillary won the popular vote, and 2018, when the middle got less ambivalent and emphatically joined the African Americans to repudiate the "white supremacists," augur even more strongly for success by the Democrat who really fires up the Democratic base (remember them?) without scaring off the ambivalent middle that has now started to figure out that letting "white supremacist" rubes govern the country is a disaster all around.

So we hear a lot about the Republicans appealing to their base. Why do we not hear as much about the Democrats appealing to their base?

We really don't have majority rule at all in the United States. The most vocal groups usually end up getting their policy agenda enacted. The Populists were a dismal failure as a political movement, but they got almost their entire policy platform enacted by the end of the New Deal.

African Americans spent much of the 50s and 60s (and the decades preceding) vocally protesting the worst forms of discrimination they suffered, and finally won major policy reforms.

The environmental movement got loud enough in the early 70s to get the Environmental Protection Agency created.

They've been pretty subtle about it, but since 1972, the plutocrats, who have cultural inertia and Christianity on their side, have been pushing back. Their agenda sucks, but they finally found their dream candidate in Donald Trump, who is a complete disaster.

The best thing would be to remove Trump via impeachment, which would render him ineligible to hold office ever again in the United States. That's unlikely right now, although it might well get a lot more likely if the House would open an impeachment investigation.

Too many people accept the apparent received wisdom (?) that impeaching Trump and beating him in 2020 are conflicting goals, which is nonsense. They are entirely compatible goals.

Again, insofar as we are currently stuck with timid, incompetent political leaders who will not act decisively, we can discuss whom to nominate, which is a valid question in its own right.

The best candidate is the one who will most excite African American voters, ignoring Trump voters and Republican critics along the way as necessary.

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William Turner
William Turner
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William Turner

Ph.D. in U.S. history from Vanderbilt, with an emphasis in the history of public policy; two articles published as a graduate student, two books as a historian. J.D. from the University of Wisconsin; eight law review articles in print.

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