The many months of political posturing and rhetoric will finally come to an end on Election night when we learn who’s hand will be raised in victory in this year’s battle between the Democrats and Republicans. Reading the recent news accounts, polls and analyses about this year’s mid-term elections, is almost like reading a political obituary for the Democratic Party – the forecast just doesn’t look good for Democrats. Simply put, Democrats are faced with daunting odds to win elections and will probably suffer more than just a few defeats. To make matters worse, this year’s election cycle is taking place during an off presidential election year when people typically don’t vote. Meanwhile the 2014 mid-term elections are framed for public consumption as one where there’s a lot at stake – how many times have you heard that during this year’s election cycle? Typically during these election cycles you will find news stories about the significance of the black vote as well as contrasting stories about the black vote being taken for granted by the Democratic Party. But what appears to be different with the 2014 elections is the degree of just how important, how significant the black vote will be for the DemocraticParty.
The issue, however, is that while President Obama is not running in this year’s election – his legacy certainly is in the running. Consider for a moment just two items and how they would impact the President’s legacy - the Republican’s incessant chatter about impeachment along with the repeal of President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With 36 Senate seats up for election: 21 belonging to Democrats versus 15 for Republicans, Black America’s vote is under heavy pursuit to help the Democrats retain their majority in the Senate. The Democratic Party is looking for Black America to shield and protect the President’s legacy from GOP obstructionism. The chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) recently told the New York Times: “Anybody who looks at the data realizes that if the black vote, and the brown vote, doesn’t turn out, we can’t win. It’s just that simple,” Ms. Fudge went on to say: “If we don’t turn out, we cannot hold the Senate.” African-Americans could help swing elections in Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and possibly Arkansas, a New York Times analysis of voter data shows, but only if they turn out at higher-than-forecast rates.
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released a report entitled, “Black Turnout & The 2014 Midterms” where they concluded: “The analysis of voter turnout data corroborates the suspicion that this will be a challenging year for Democrats. Assuming black turnout consistent with recent midterm elections and current polling data, Democrats will find it hard to put together winning coalitions, even with overwhelming African American support. Democratic candidates with the best prospects of winning include those running in states with relatively strong third party candidates who can serve as spoilers and states with small black populations where Democrats (or, in the case of Kansas, Independents) are performing strongly among white voters.” Wow! So basically the Joint Center report is saying that while the Black vote is being heavily pursued, the black vote still needs the presence of third party candidates to make a difference in the elections.
Yet this pursuit of the black vote presents a bit of a dilemma for Black America; on one hand there’s the sentiment that the Democratic Party routinely takes the black vote for granted while on the other hand, the failure to vote Democratic will compel Republicans to advance a conservative agenda that is in direct contrast to Black America’s political interests. But there’s another motivating factor to consider here… the relentless campaign waged by Republicans, who took a legislative approach to shrinking the pool of voters. The stench of 19th century Jim Crow slowly rises from the graveyard of American racism as Republicans justify their actions with claims of addressing voter fraud. In essence, they’ve proposed and passed legislation to address a nonexistent issue – incredible don’t you think? These voter suppression measures include requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote and proof of citizenship to register, cutting back on early voting, eliminating Election Day registration, new restrictions on voter registration drives as well as additional barriers to voting for people with criminal convictions.
Subsequently, there’s a political battle setting the Get Out The Vote activities versus stringent voter suppression measures. Now these measures have been passed – for the most part - by several state legislatures since the election of the nation’s first African American president. So now, you can get a better sense of the significance of the 2014 election when you begin to understand how these voter suppression measures may possibly affect one’s ability to cast a vote. Bear in mind that the Brennan Center for Justice reported that of the 11 states with the highest African American turnout in 2008, seven passed laws making it harder to vote. In addition, of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth in the 2010 Census, nine have new restrictions in place. And of the 15 states that used to be monitored closely under the Voting Rights Act because of a history of racial discrimination in elections, nine passed new restrictions. These reasons alone will almost certainly compel the public’s attention…and their scrutiny on November 4th.
If nothing else, a review of the exit polls for the 2014 mid-terms can begin to answer at least two critical questions: First, how will Black America respond to the SOS call sent out by Democrats – particularly after revelations of Democrats refusing to stand up in support of President Obama? And the second question - how much did the various voter suppression measures impact black voter turnout and what role, if any, did this have on the many elections held across the nation?