Don’t write-off Democrats just yet, as a newly released report found that African-American voters could help Democrats retain control of Congress, and gain ground at the state level, if they show up at the polls.

“It is clear from this analysis that we have not reached the final chapter of the election story in many key states and congressional districts, and that African-American voters could end up being the authors of events if they match their turnout rates from other recent mid-term elections,” said Ralph B. Everett, president and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and a leading authority on Black politics. The center released the report Oct. 14.

Titled, “In Anticipation of November 2: Black Voters and Candidates and the 2010 Midterm Elections,” the study reported that Black voters stand to play a key role in 20 House races—including 15 in the south—14 Senate contests and 14 gubernatorial races.

David A. Bositis, Ph.D., senior political analyst at the Joint Center and author of the study, said because of the competitive nature of the races, Black voters may be more engaged and more resources will be spent on getting those voters to the polls.

Bositis pointed to the 1986 and 1998 mid-term elections as evidence of the power of the Black vote in changing the Democrats’ fate. In 1986, harnessing the momentum from the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s mobilization of Black voters in his bid for the White House, Operation Big Vote registered and drove African-American voters to the polls and the Democrats regained a majority in the Senate. And in 1998, Black voters turned out in a showing of support for a beleaguered President Bill Clinton, who faced a challenge by the then-Republican Congress.

Similarly, a perception among Blacks that President Obama is being unfairly targeted could drive that electorate to the polls, Bositis told the AFRO.

“I think that’s an element to how Black voters see the political scene, that in fact, what they’re seeing is President Obama is being attacked and they want to do something about it,” he said, pointing to a recent rally at Bowie State University, where a young participant told President Obama, “We’ve got your back.”

Predictions of a Republican victory in the midterm showdown—the party needs 40 congressional seats to take control of the House—are fueled by perceptions of an “enthusiasm gap” between likely Democratic and Republican voters. That gap is based mostly on the momentum of the tea party movement, which has been aligned with the GOP.

But, it is the increasing traction of the Tea Party—including its racist elements—that may propel Black voters to the polls and possibly deny the Republicans wins, Bositis said.

“There is a whole new generation of African Americans who are being increasingly exposed to conservative White people, who have shown without question that they look down on and demean African-Americans,” he said. “So, there’s a fear factor.”

 

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO