Election 2010 surprise: rise of black Republicans
The Republican Party has fielded more than 30 African-American candidates this year, renewing a historic alliance.
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But today, many blacks have different hot-button issues: school choice, job creation, family values. And on these issues, black voters have not been well served by the Democratic leadership. After the 2004 presidential election, Democratic pollster Ron Lester warned that "there is a lot of compatibility and similarity between a lot of the positions that black folks take in terms of social issues and issues advocated by the Republicans."Skip to next paragraph
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Not that this triggered any great shift among black voters. John Kerry captured 88 percent of their support in the 2004 presidential election.
But Democratic pollsters noticed uneasily that Mr. Kerry's percentage had slipped two points from Al Gore's percentage of the black vote in 2000, and in swing states like Ohio in 2004, the percentage of black voters pulling the Republican lever went from 9 percent to 16 percent. The Obama candidacy reversed that slippage. But the Scott nomination may be a small reminder that the mere presence of Obama as the first black Democratic president may not be enough to satisfy African-American restlessness with Obama's party.
What have Democrats done for blacks lately?
With black unemployment at 15.6 percent, African-Americans are questioning what Democrats have done for them. What's more, this year's black Republican candidates were far from being upper-middle-class racial mascots. Scott grew up in a poor Charleston neighborhood with a divorced mother who worked double shifts as a nurse's assistant. Vernon Parker (who lost his August primary) was born to a single mother in Houston, and grew up in California with his grandmother, a housekeeper.
Still, black Republicans will have to face four decades of skepticism about GOP bona fides on race, not to mention the opposition of a Democratic party with the first African-American president as its head. But the most important question they'll face from black voters will be the one they've posed themselves to Barack Obama and his party: "What have you done for us lately?" Only if the new black Republicans can answer that question will the pendulum of black political loyalties fully swing.