Political Animal


December 27, 2012 5:25 PM The Long Road From 1965

By Ed Kilgore

Via Josh Marshall, here’s some interesting and important data from Pew:

Blacks voted at a higher rate this year than other minority groups and for the first time in history may also have voted at a higher rate than whites, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data, election day exit poll data and vote totals from selected cities and counties….
[A]ccording to census data and the election day exit polls, blacks made up 12 percent of the eligible electorate this year but accounted for an estimated 13 percent of all votes cast—a repeat of the 2008 presidential election, when blacks “over-performed” at the polls by the same ratio. In all previous presidential elections for which there are reliable data, blacks had accounted for a smaller share of votes than eligible voters.

No wonder Republicans were waging a “war on voting,” though they seem to have lost at least the latest battle.

Some hearing this news may attribute the numbers strictly to Barack Obama’s presence on the ballot, and suggest they won’t repeat themselves in future elections without an African-American contestant. But I dunno about that. Elections where African-Americans voted at higher rates than whites may be a brand new possibility at the presidential level, but not so much at the state and local level. I distinctly recall this happening in my home state of Georgia in 1998, producing a big pro-Democratic upset in a governor’s race with no African-American candidate present (significant increases in black turnout also helped Democrats win gubernatorial upsets in Alabama and South Carolina the same year—an entirely unexpected “Dixie Trifecta.”). What did happen in Georgia, however, was a late series of heavy-handed racially-tinged ads by a Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor, run by his consultant, a guy named Ralph Reed, that helped mobilize African-American voters. You know, sorta like the poorly disguised 2012 ads attacking “welfare” and “voter fraud.”

So Republicans hoping for a lower or less lop-sided African-American voter turnout in the future might want to eschew race-baiting, overt or covert. Those of us who remember the many sacrifices that led to the now-endangered Voting Rights Act of 1965 should be gratified by this year’s turnout numbers, and resolve to help make them a floor rather than a ceiling.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on December 27, 2012 6:06 PM:

    "[A]ccording to census data and the election day exit polls, blacks made up 12 percent of the eligible electorate this year but accounted for an estimated 13 percent of all votes cast..."

    Sure, I understand what that means.
    But, I think we can all see how the Conservatives can twist that into saying, 'LOOKITTHAT!! It was ACORN! They was bussin' Niggra's all over the damn country, votin' fer their damned Muslim Communist 'brother!'"

    For these morons, statistics need to be put into careful persepctive.

    Not that it'll make any difference to the morons.
    But maybe, some of the non-morons might understand better, if things are explained to them in way that's different from what they usually hear from the cowardly, compliant, and/or complicit, MSM.

  • C. P. Zilliacus on December 27, 2012 7:18 PM:

    President Lyndon Baines Johnson would be pleased.

  • Anonymous on December 27, 2012 11:34 PM:

    I would suggest that republicans left such a dismal impression this time, that voters will hit DEM on the touch screen time and time again....and everyone hates the Bush years too. Depressing

    Reminds me of 'Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.' We DEMS.

    And this was one of the best lines on the web:
    We'll remember: Conservatives are really only good at conserving two things, Wealth and Power.
    ".... sick to death of hearing about what Republicans don't like and what the Republicans refuse to do. Let's hear what the party that WON the election for the second time want and force the Republicans to acknowledge their position as losers, whiners and obstructionists.

    I think this will still resonate in 2014 and 2016


  • 14All on December 28, 2012 8:34 AM:

    I don't know how long it will last, but the explicit voter suppression efforts of the GOP really seem to have raised awareness of the importance of voting among minority voters. I remember arguing about the extent of Democratic voter turnout with a coworker of mine right before the election. I told him that nothing makes people angrier than being told they can't do something. It seems I was right. Good for them, and for all of us.

  • superdestroyer on December 28, 2012 8:46 AM:

    It has been known for years that if blacks and Hispanics voted at the same rate as whites, the Republican Party would be irrelevant.

    The real question for the future is what happens when there are enough automatic Democratic Party voters that the Democrats cannot lose national or large state elections. What happens to politics when the general election is no longer relevant to politics?

  • boatboy_srq on December 28, 2012 9:00 AM:

    @superdestroyer: two illustrations: California and Massachusetts. You can't say the consequences have been all bad.

    Conversely, the primaries are nearly irrelevant in places like Texas, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Utah and Kansas because of the GOP ubermajority at the state/local level. It's not hard to see what the US as a whole managed to (narrowly) avoid in 2012: shredded safety net and industry regulations, long-term damage in the name of short-term profits, and regular and systematic demonization of any and all opposition, right down to otherwise-loyal GOPers who dared to ask questions of The Party.