Recently, the Buttigieg campaign and his defenders were suggesting that he’s attracting very little (to be generous) black support due to black anti-gay bigotry. Needless to say, this did not go over very well at all. According to Pew, there is less support for gay marriage among black Americans:
Let’s forget Buttigieg (actually, let’s just do that) because there’s a larger point about the role bigotry plays and does not play in politics. Only a few years ago, the black-white gap on gay marriage was nearly twenty points. Yet, at that time, black voters still overwhelmingly chose Democrats–when the party openly supported gay marriage. It’s clear that, despite a significant amount of anti-gay bigotry (which also existed in other demographic groups to a lesser extent), this was not a key issue or a deal breaker for most black voters. Those who opposed gay marriage were voting Democratic in spite of and in opposition to their anti-gay bigotry (black voters were so overwhelmingly Democratic, a significant fraction had to have done this).
Now let’s revisit the most misunderstood graphic from the 2016 campaign:
Democrats dwelled on the most obvious–and politically convenient–part–which indicates that Trump supporters are a lot more racist than anyone else. But this figure also contains an inconvenient truth (to use a phrase)… I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that one in four [non-black] Democrats is racist–which admittedly is better than Republicans, especially once the Trumpists are factored in. We, too, have our deplorables.
As Kweku notes, however, these racists are still willing to vote for Democrats in spite of and in opposition to their racism. Figure out why they do so, and then do more of that.
…I’m not going Full Metal Ron Fournier and claiming ‘both sides do it’: clearly, one side does it much more than the other. Moreover, the Republican Party is dog whistling, not to mention air-raid sirening, to racists, while the Democratic Party openly espouses anti-racist policies (always could do more, but there is a difference in kind here).
If the Democratic racists stayed home, Democrats would be hard pressed to win 100 House seats (out of 435), and maybe control governorships in five states (no way Democrats reach ten). Of course, if all racists stayed home, Democrats would run the table on Republicans. The point is not to pander to the racists, but figure out why they are voting Democratic in spite of their racism.
…While much of the discussion often revolves around presidential dynamics (I’m guilty of this too), it’s the states where often the most retrograde policies are enacted. To win back states and thereby help Democratic strongholds, Democrats have no choice but to convince these voters to show up (or at least not vote Republican).
Finally, one more point: often the argument is phrased as ‘appealing to racists’, as if this doesn’t happen. Democrats already do appeal to some racists, in spite of their racism. Yes, I would like the scourge of racism to be eradicated, but that’s kind of a long-term project–think pulpits, not politics, for that. In the meantime, the question is do we want racists to vote for or against their racism?
The question pretty much answers itself.
There are a lot of bigots in the U.S. and a fair number of them vote Democratic, even though, were bigotry their North Star, they would not vote Democratic. Figure out how we reached these voters, and then do more of it. We won’t get all (or even many) of the bigots, but we don’t need to do so to win elections. We just need enough of them, distasteful as that might feel. It helps if we realize most of us have things to work on too; very few of us are as woke as we would like to think.