Will Black Voters Turn Out This Year? Why Should They?

There is a lot of buzz today about this article in the New York Times: “Black Vote Seen as Last Hope for Democrats to Hold Senate.”

The confidential memo from a former pollster for President Obama contained a blunt warning for Democrats. Written this month with an eye toward Election Day, it predicted “crushing Democratic losses across the country” if the party did not do more to get black voters to the polls.

“African-American surge voters came out in force in 2008 and 2012, but they are not well positioned to do so again in 2014,” Cornell Belcher, the pollster, wrote in the memo, dated Oct. 1. “In fact, over half aren’t even sure when the midterm elections are taking place.”

That last line sounds like a takeoff on the old joke, Democrats vote on Wednesday. But the broader point is no doubt correct: President Obama was re-elected in 2012 despite his poor record in office because of a historic turnout by African-Americans. There was no similar surge of black voting in 2010, and Republicans swept. Much the same will happen this year unless Democrats succeed in their efforts to motivate African-American voters, which the Times article goes on to describe.

But the Democrats may have a problem here that goes beyond the nuts and bolts of driving turnout. Barack Obama is not on the ballot this year, but as he himself has insisted, his policies are. It is easy to understand why black voters consider Obama to be their guy and support him loyally, but do they have the same motivation to vote for a continuation of the policies of the last six years? Blacks have been hurt more than anyone else by the Obama administration’s economic policies; their labor force participation continues to be alarmingly low. And vastly expanding importation of low-skilled workers, as the Democrats want to do, will further devastate the black working class.

So if blacks don’t turn out this year in the numbers they did in 2012, the reason won’t necessarily be that they don’t know when the election is. It may be that lots of them, like the rest of us, would just as soon see different policies implemented in Washington.

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