The “free stuff” trope in relation to the black community has been one of the main misconceptions that the right has held about black voters. Many believe that one of the primary reasons why black voters support the Democratic Party is because they want “free stuff.”
Yes, it is also a common argument that conservatives make about most Democratic voters, especially when it comes to presidential elections. In this vein, it makes sense considering the fact that many of the Democrats vying for the nomination are pushing free college and free healthcare.
However, this label has been specifically applied to black Americans by the right over the past few decades. In this instance, conservative pundits claim that blacks vote Democrat mainly because they wish to keep their food stamps, welfare payments, and other government benefits.
This stereotype paints blacks as lazy individuals who would rather live off government largesse rather than get a job. This particular trope is prevalent on the right — especially on social media and elsewhere. But it has also been prevalent in Republican politics. During the 2016 campaign, Jeb Bush repeated the claim that blacks support Democrats because of “free stuff.” When Mitt Romney ran against President Obama in 2012, he made the same argument.
I’m not the only one on the right who sees the problem here. In a piece for The National Review, author Theodore R. Johnson wrote:
“GOP attempts at black outreach are inconsistent and repeatedly undone by inadvisable strategic communication choices and a basic callousness about the black experience in America. Jeb Bush’s recent comment that he would give African Americans “hope and aspiration” instead of bribing them with “free stuff” is a prime example. This sentiment — one that casts the black electorate as a soulless and indolent bloc up for sale to the highest bidder — is as pervasive among some Republicans as it is spurious.”
Here’s the truth: Blacks don’t vote for “free stuff” any more than anyone else. In fact, their priorities are the same as most other Americans. In fact, a recent study revealed that the top three issues for blacks are jobs/economy, affordable (not free) healthcare, and education. Welfare and other forms of government assistance didn’t even make the list.
Numerous other studies reveal the same results. Put simply, the data doesn’t bear out the “free stuff” trope. In fact, the data debunks it. As with many other erroneous talking points on the right, this particular stereotype is another argument that repels black voters. It’s hard to blame them for giving the GOP the side-eye when they repeat these points because while black Americans make up a disproportionate percentage of those using welfare, the majority of black Americans are hard-working individuals who are not using government assistance.
Now, does this mean that NO black people vote for free stuff? Of course not. There are people of all races who support the “free everything” platform of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). But the notion that blacks are somehow more into the “free stuff” is patently absurd and it presents yet another distraction from the real reasons why blacks vote for Democrat.
Instead of buying into tropes given to us by the media, conservatives will make true progress with the black community when they seek to truly understand what blacks want. It is only then that we can start presenting conservative solutions to a voting block that is open to them.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
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