Since FDR’s New Deal Coalition and increasingly since LBJ passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, most African-Americans have been party aligned to the Democratic Party. Democratic Presidents, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, secured their elected offices because of high turnout rates and support from the African-American community. In U.S. politics, African-Americans have consistently been viewed as the Democratic Party’s core base. However, is it time this theory was questioned for its simplicity?
Over the past week, rapper Kanye West declared his support for Republican President Donald Trump, through a series of provocative tweets. While the rapper received praise from some, a lot of his more liberal supporters were very critical of Kanye’s turn of political beliefs. After famously saying “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” and after supporting both Obama and candidate Hillary Clinton, Kanye West’s sudden U-turn on beliefs shocked many.
Chance the Rapper was quick to defend Kanye West’s comments – indirectly – simply tweeting “Black people don’t have to be Democrats.” Despite receiving backlash for his comments, he brought up an important point that, in the rise of hyper-partisanship, many political figures forget: black people don’t have to be Democrats.
Voting patterns in the U.S. are getting easier to predict with the rise of partisanship, the decline the split-ticket voting and the increased importance of primacy factors. Typically, women, African-Americans, Latinos and city dwellers vote Democrat, and men, Caucasians, and rural and suburban areas vote Republican. However, it is far top generalist to say that a person’s location, gender or ethnicity will determine their voting behavior.
Every candidate, for congress, at state level, or for presidential races, has their own specific set of policies. But the general trend for each party is: the Democrats are socially and fiscally liberal, the Republicans socially and fiscally conservative, all to varying degrees. To oversimplify the two parties’ polices, the Democratic party wants gun-control, to expand healthcare and support federal intervention, while Republicans are anti-gun control, want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and argue that power should be devolved to the states where possible.
So while African-Americans would have been aligned to the Democratic party after Lyndon Johnson, current policies may prove to be of more importance. The decrease in support from African-American support for the Democrats will be largely due to the decrease in support for their socially and fiscally liberal policies. There should not be a presumption that all African-Americans will vote Democrat, if the conservative policies suit them better.
However, the issue that faced Kanye West was not so much that he supported a typical Republican, but that he voiced his support for President Donald Trump. Trump has caused controversy with multiple xenophobic and racist comments against Mexicans and Muslims, and in 2017, defended members of the alt-right Charlottesville protest, calling them “very fine people.” There is an irony that a man that said Bush “didn’t care about black people” could turn around and endorse a man who refuses to condone the actions of white supremacists. When white people continue to support Trump despite his outrageous racist comments and actions, it’s white privilege. When Kanye West supports Trump, it creates a paradox.
The clear message to be taken from this, however, despite one’s views on the current administration, is that voter profiling can have negative impacts, if we presume that all African-Americans will vote Democrats. Policies and recency factors are important too, and stereotyping voting behavior, while it can be accurate, we need to do while considering other factors before generalizing too far.