As if we needed more data showing that black voters are not as far to the left as the Democratic Party’s progressive faction, the Pew Research Center released the results of a poll demonstrating that most black Americans identify as “moderate” or “conservative.” While most know that black Americans are typically more conservative than their fellow Democrats, the data presented by Pew confirms what we already know. 

A little over a week ago, I wrote a piece explaining why former Vice President Joe Biden is outperforming his competitors among black voters. In the piece, I ascribed Biden’s lead among black voters to the fact that he is seen as a moderate who has not promoted the far-left policies of Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Pew Research Center released the results of a poll last Friday supporting that theory. 

The poll, which also revealed that the growth of Democrats identifying as liberals has slowed, analyzed the political identities of black voters. The authors wrote: 

“More black Democratic voters continue to characterize their views as moderate rather than liberal. In 2019, 43% of black Democrats called themselves moderate, 29% called themselves liberal and 25% called themselves conservative.”

This means that about 68% of black voters reject the label of “liberal.” It’s also worth pointing out that the poll showed that, “Among Hispanic Democratic voters, 38% described their political views as moderate in 2019, while 37% called themselves liberal and 22% conservative.” Not surprisingly, 60% of Hispanics also do not identify as liberal. The researchers also concluded that it was white Democrats who were more likely to identify as liberal:

“White Democrats remain more likely than black or Hispanic Democrats to describe themselves as liberal. in 2019, a majority (55%) of white Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters identified themselves as liberal, an increase of 27 percentage points since 2000.”

These results beg the obvious question: “If the majority of black voters do not identify as liberals, why do they vote for Democrats?” It is a question that has vexed many in the conservative camp. As I’ve often pointed out, the GOP establishment has simply explained it away by using intellectually lazy arguments like “they’re all brainwashed,” or, “they just want free stuff,” rather than taking responsibility and evaluating where they might be going wrong. But perhaps delving into history might provide a more nuanced — and accurate — explanation. 

Between 1900 and the 1960s, the Republican and Democratic Party were locked in aggressive competition for the black vote. By the 1940s, the majority of blacks sided with the Democrats. This exodus from the GOP occurred because Presidents Roosevelt and Truman offered government programs that were ostensibly designed to lift blacks out of poverty. 

In the 1930s, the GOP moved away from the legacy of President Lincoln, and under Herbert Hoover, it embraced what was known as “lily-white Republicanism” to earn white southern voters. At this point, the Republican Party all but ignored black voters, meaning that they failed to offer an alternative to FDR’s socialistic policies. But things changed in the 1950s under President Eisenhower.

When Eisenhower appointed Everett Frederic Morrow as Administrative Officer for Special Projects, he became the first black man to serve in an executive White House position. Morrow worked hard to convince the President, and the GOP, to begin engaging with black voters again. 

Morrow received no small amount of pushback from some in the party, who feared losing the support of white southerners. Nevertheless, he managed to persuade party leaders to launch a comprehensive effort to reach black voters.

In her book, “The Loneliness of the Black Republican,” author Leah Rigueur wrote:

“Despite internal Republican sabotage, Morrow witnessed a ‘ground swell’ of black support for Eisenhower in Tennessee, North Carolina, New York, and New Jersey. In November 1956, the enthused White House aide cheered that a ‘great many Negroes are eager to be convinced that Eisenhower is the man they should support.’ His persistence was worth the effort, for, as Morrow described, ‘thousands of Negroes across the country broke their ties to the Democratic party,’ and offered Republicans 39 percent of their vote in 1956, helping the president claim reelection.”

To put this in perspective, President Harry Truman, who Eisenhower succeeded, earned 75% of the black vote in the 1948 election. By engaging with black voters face to face, without pandering, a Republican president managed to snag a sizable portion of the black electorate. Unfortunately, the GOP once again returned to the lily-white approach of Hoover in the 1960s and once again ceded the black vote to the Democrats. It has persisted this way up until the year 2020. 

This poll, and others like it, show that there are areas of commonality between conservatives and black Americans. But so far, the GOP has failed to challenge the Democrats for their support. Keep in mind, I’m not only advocating for Republican presidents to try to win over black voters — President Trump is already doing that — but, I’m once again asserting that the GOP must make a concerted effort to reach black voters at the local, state, and federal level. Conservatism cannot make a difference in the lives of blacks and other minorities if it fails to compete. 

There are several priority issues about which blacks are concerned. I’ll address these issues, and how conservatives can address them in another article. But the bottom line is this: If conservatives are serious about halting the spread of socialism in the United States, the GOP can no longer afford to focus on one group of voters; it must expand its horizons, or become irrelevant. 

 

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