The 2012 election is over and Barack Obama has been re-elected as President of the USA. Not only is that historic (the first Black person to be elected twice as President) but it is arguable that, having a track record from the first term that could be scrutinised and given the racist history (and present) of the USA, a Black person being elected for the second time in the USA is even more significant.
But not only is President Obama’s re-election historic and significant, it is a truly amazing achievement in the context of blatantly bigoted voter suppression by some states, biased voting machines, Romney family links to voting machines, symbolic chair lynchings and constant racist attacks.
In the 2008 US presidential election, 2 million more Black people voted than did in 2004. Perhaps it was this exercise of democratic rights and effective participation in society that made some in the white establishment look for ways to undermine democracy through voter suppression. Those efforts to undermine democracy went so far that eight separate civil rights organisations formally requested that the United Nations enter the USA to oversee the balloting and electoral process for the 2012 election.
However, it certainly appears that the widespread attempts at suppressing the Black vote somewhat backfired and actually spurred people on to go out and vote in even larger numbers. This resulted in Black voters overwhelmingly (93%) supporting Barack Obama – with one pre-election poll even indicating that Romney would get zero per cent! – and queuing for hours to do so.
The success at the ballot box was due to the two-stage “ground game” – the creation of the coalition and simply getting people out to vote in numbers. Both stages were crucial because, as expected (and was the case in 2008), the majority of white voters (59%) voted for Romney and, given that whites are around three quarters of the population of the USA, that presented a significant challenge. So, with at least 45% of the available vote against him from the start, Obama had to build the coalition to win.
It was that coalition of those who rejected Republican policies – Black, Hispanic/Latino, women* and lesbian/gay – that ultimately swung the popular vote? in favour of Obama’s Democrats (50.6% to 47.8%).
* Notably, however, the majority of white women (56%) still voted Republican despite the gross Republican statements about rape and abortion – 62% of white men voted for Romney.
? excluding provisional ballots affected by voter suppression/ID rules.
However, the big issue of the ballot on election day was the impact of Hispanic/Latino voters. Whilst there are around 40 million Black (African-Americans) people in the USA, the Latino population is 50 million. And whilst a record 40% of Latinos voted for Republican Bush in 2004, that proportion sunk to an all time low of 27% for Romney in 2012. The 71% of Latinos that voted for Obama this time around sealed the deal for the presidency and underlined the importance of politicians addressing the needs of all communities.
The Republican fear of the possibility of being out of presidential office for decades to come is now focusing their minds on how best to interact with the Latino community into the future. In response the Democrats are moving to consolidate their increased Latino appeal.
In this context, the question for the Black community of the USA then becomes, if Latino concerns dominate the agenda for minorities, will Black Americans be able to ensure that their own issues do not get further side-lined out of existence?
To be continued on Saturday 8th December 2012.