Southern Dems Hope Black Voters Can Save Them

But does the president's party deserve the support?

By Jamilah King Oct 18, 2010

Over the weekend, Kevin Sack reported for the New York Times on how much Democrats are banking on black voters in this election:

Without Mr. Obama atop the ticket this year, Mr. Kissell and a number of other vulnerable Democrats, mostly in the rural South, face the challenge of reviving the spirit of 2008 for black voters without alienating right-leaning white majorities in their districts.

Working against them: turnout for midterm elections is often a third lower than in presidential years; some African-Americans are disillusioned with the pace of economic recovery; and several Democratic incumbents, including Mr. Kissell, who is white, have angered black constituents by opposing Mr. Obama on major initiatives like the health care law.

In their favor: the Democratic National Committee plans to spend 10 times more than it did in 2006 to get out the black vote; the Tea Party movement and the questioning of Mr. Obama’s religion and birthplace are motivating many black voters; and the Democrats are summoning them to defend the first black president from Republican assault.

But with all the talk about boosting turnout among black voters, Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect is amused:

Despite representing large numbers of black people — an average of 25.4 percent — these lawmakers have consistently voted against President Obama’s major initiatives. With the sole exception of Rep. Tom Perriello, each has opposed — or actively disparaged — policies supported by a large majority of African-American voters. As far as their immediate self-interest is concerned, these voters have no real reason to support their incumbent representatives.

As a matter of long-term politics though, I worry about this categorical support for Democratic candidates; the longer Democrats don’t have to worry about losing African-American voters, the longer Democratic representatives can take advantage of their black support. Unfortunately, there’s not much of an alternative.

And I’m sure all of those highly publicized ethics scandals don’t help matters any.