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[Nettime-bold] [BRC-NEWS] The Black Electorate -- 2000 (fwd)

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Date: Sat, 6 Jan 2001 22:08:49 -0500
From: Jennifer Jones <>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] The Black Electorate -- 2000

Along the Color Line

December 2000

The Black Electorate -- 2000

By Dr. Manning Marable <>

	Black America tried its best to keep George W. Bush
out of the White House. Its inability to do so does not
negate the many significant gains it achieved in the
electoral arena.

	The 2000 presidential election was by far the
closest in terms of the Electoral College since 1876, and
the closest in terms of the popular vote since Kennedy's
narrow margin of victory over Nixon forty years ago. Yet
despite widespread reports that voter turnout was heavy,
the actual number of votes cast was about 104 million, only
one million more than in 1996. Less than 51 percent of all
eligible voters cast ballots, compared to 49 percent in 1996
and 50 percent in 1988. Considering that both major parties
spent more than one billion dollars in the general election,
with millions of phone calls and direct mail, the turnout
was remarkably weak. The lackluster major presidential
candidates, Bush and Gore, failed to generate any
enthusiasm or deep commitment among the voters.

	The African-American electorate, however, was the
exception to the rule. In state after state, black turnout
was stronger than anticipated, and comprised the critical
margin of difference for Gore and hundreds of Democratic
candidates in Senate, House and local races. Nationwide, a
clear majority of white voters went for Bush over Gore, 53
percent vs. 42 percent. African Americans, however, went
overwhelmingly for Gore, 90 percent vs. 8 percent. Bush's
feeble share of the black vote was actually less than his
father had received as the Republican presidential candidate
in 1992, or that Bob Dole garnered in 1996. Bush's 2000
black vote was the lowest total received by any Republican
presidential candidate since 1964, when Barry Goldwater
received only six percent.

	In Florida alone, the African-American vote jumped
from 527,000 in 1996 to 952,000. In Missouri, over 283,000
blacks voted, compared to only 106,000 four years ago.

	In state after state, African Americans were the
critical margin of victory for the Gore-Lieberman ticket.
In Maryland, Bush defeated Gore among white voters by a
margin of 51 to 45 percent. But African-American turnout
represented a substantial 22 percent of Maryland's total
statewide vote. Because black Maryland voters supported
Gore by 90 percent, Gore cruised to a 17 point victory in
the state. In Michigan, the white electorate backed Bush,
51 to 46 percent, but African Americans came out for Gore
at 90 percent, giving the state to the Democrats.

	In Illinois, a massive turnout of African-American
voters in Chicago helped to give Gore 56 percent of the
statewide total vote, and a plurality of over 600,000 votes.

	The NAACP's National Voter Fund, and the Association's
$12 million investment in the elections, was the principal
factor behind the surge in the African-American electorate.
The NAACP financed a political "command center" with dozens
of full-time staff members and volunteers running telephone
banks and a satellite TV uplink. Thousands of black churches,
community-based organizations, and labor groups mobilized
African Americans to turn out on Election Day. Jesse Jackson's
campaigning was also critical to Gore's success in the swing
states of Michigan and Pennsylvania.

	Less publicized, but potentially just as important
as the African-American vote, was the electoral response by
organized labor. The AFL-CIO devoted millions of dollars to
the effort to defeat Bush. In Michigan, for example, where
labor households represented roughly 30 percent of the state-
wide vote in 1992, the union vote eight years later totaled
44 percent of the state's electorate. In Pennsylvania, union
households comprised 19 percent of the statewide vote in
1992, but increased to 26 percent of all voters last year.

	The greatest tragedy of the 2000 presidential race,
from the vantagepoint of the African-American electorate,
was that the black vote would have been substantially larger,
if the criminal justice policies that have been put in place
by the Clinton-Gore administration had been different. As
noted by the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project,
and Human Rights Watch, over 4.2 million Americans were
prohibited from voting in the 2000 presidential election,
because they were in prison or had in the past been
convicted of a felony. Of that number, more than one-third,
or 1.8 million voters who are disenfranchised, are African
Americans. This represents 13 percent of all black males of
voting age in the U.S.

	In Florida and Alabama, 31 percent of all black men
as of 1998 were permanently disenfranchised because of felony
convictions, many for nonviolent crimes. In New Mexico and
Iowa, one in every four African-American males is permanently
disenfranchised. In Texas, one in five black men are not
allowed to vote.

	The selection (not election) of George W.
Bush should not discourage African-American leadership
or institutions. More than any other Americans, we fought
and died to enjoy the right to vote. Now we must mobilize
to insure that every citizen, including prisoners and those
who have been previously convicted of felonies, can exercise
their full democratic rights. The black vote is the decisive
constituency in the fight for democracy in America.


Dr. Manning Marable is Professor of History and Political
Science, and the Director of the Institute for Research in
African-American Studies, Columbia University. "Along the
Color Line" is distributed free of charge to over 350
publications throughout the U.S. and internationally.
Dr. Marable's column is also available on the Internet
at <>.

Copyleft (c) 2000 Manning Marable. Redistribute Freely.

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