With the increasing desperation of the Democrats to hold onto the U.S. Senate less than a week before the elections, much of the national political conversation has turned to race — specifically whether the African-American community will come out to the polls and why the Republicans haven’t done more to court Black voters.
Stories have abounded across the Web about the many efforts by state officials to discourage African-American voters with new policies such as the strict voter ID laws in Texas and a more shocking stealth campaign to eliminate many Black, Hispanic and Asian voters from the rolls by claiming they are trying to vote in more than one state.
It’s a ritual that by now African-Americans have grown accustomed to every campaign cycle — being ignored, disregarded and disrespected until another election rolls around, when the community’s state of mind and level of enthusiasm suddenly becomes a topic of interest to the national parties. This year is even stranger with a second-term African-American president who is unpopular among whites: Democratic candidates who desperately need rigorous African-American support are contorting themselves to show white people they have no allegiances to the president while simultaneously trying to whisper to Blacks that the president and first lady are strongly supporting their candidacy.
In Georgia, Democrat Michelle Nunn is vying for the state’s open Senate seat against Republican businessman David Perdue by running actual campaign commercials explaining that the picture of her with President Barack Obama being shown ad nauseam in Perdue commercials was actually taken at an event honoring former President George H.W. Bush. Yes, this is the Democratic candidate, telling the public that even though you see her standing with Obama, it was really at an event honoring a Republican.
And while she’s performing this Obama diss in her television commercials, Nunn is running ads on Black radio featuring Michelle Obama singing her praises and President Obama exhorting listeners to go out and vote.
The curious thing is that the candidates seem to think the Black community doesn’t mind or notice this hypocritical dance — as if the community will excitedly run to the polls to help Nunn after watching her commercials for months not-so-subtly insulting Obama. Nunn has no shot in this closely watched, crucial race without overwhelming African-American support.
The election season also brings the specter of Republicans offering their newest explanation for why their party seems to have no interest in seeking African-American votes. The latest exposition came from conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly, during a discussion with Tavis Smiley on O’Reilly’s Fox show.
O’Reilly said the reason Republicans don’t do more to engage with the Black community is because “they’re afraid of Black people.”
“The White Republican power structure is afraid of Black Americans,” he said. “They don’t know how to treat them, they don’t know how to speak to them, they don’t know anything about the culture, and they don’t want to be called a racist bigot, so they stay away.”
Two weeks ago, after meeting with African-American leaders in Ferguson, Missouri, likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul, a senator from Kentucky, said the biggest mistake the Republican Party has made in the last several decades is not going into the African-American community.
“If Republicans don’t go out and compete for African-American votes, Hispanic votes, Asian votes, we won’t ever win again,” he said in an interview on CNN with Wolf Blitzer. “We are a very diverse country, but we can’t have one party monopolize the various ethnic groups’ votes.”
Though she never used the word “racism,” Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana came very close when she conceded why Obama is so unpopular in the South.
“To be very, very honest with you, the South has not always been the friendliest place to African-Americans,” she said during an appearance on NBC. “It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a positive light as a leader. It’s not always been a good place for women to be able to present ourselves; it’s more of a conservative place.”