Tuesday, November 16, 2010

George Curry: Understanding The 2010 Midterm Election

Understanding The 2010 Midterm Election
By George E. Curry
Nov 9, 2010

Of the tsunami of mistakes made by the media in interpreting the midterm election results, the one that rises to the top is the assertion that Democrats lost more than 60 House seats in part because the African-American portion of the electorate declined from 13 percent in 2008 to 10 percent on November 2.
The problem isn’t that those reports are not technically correct – they are – but journalists and commentators were using the wrong yardstick. Midterm election turnout is always lighter than voting in presidential years, especially a presidential election of historic proportion.
For example, the 63-percent turnout of eligible voters at the polls in 2008 was the highest percentage for a presidential contest since 1960. African Americans voted at an even higher rate than whites – 68 percent. Therefore, comparing the 2010 off-year election to a presidential election in which the first African American won the right to occupy the White House is even more preposterous.
A more apt comparison would be 2006, the last off-year election. Using that measurement, there was no drop-off in black people going to the polls. The 10 percent share for African Americans this year is the same proportion as 2006, the last midterm election.
Even the black share of the vote was frequently misrepresented. For example, CBCNews.com reported, “Black voter turnout also appears to be lower during the midterm election. An estimated 10 percent of blacks are voting, compared to 13 percent in 2008.” Both figures represent the black share of the overall electorate, not the percentage of African Americans going to the polls.
“The problem was not black turnout,” said David A. Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that the black vote was down.” In fact, he said the African-American share of the electorate increased dramatically in some states over 2006, allowing Democrats to win some highly contested elections.
The percentage of eligible voters going to the polls will not be known for certain until next year. If 10 percent of the electorate is black – and that pattern holds up under further study – the number of ballots cast by African Americans this year may be 3 percent higher than four years ago.
The black share of the midterm electorate increased over the last four years from 5 percent to 9 percent in California, from 8 percent to 13 percent in Texas and from 10 percent to 20 percent in Illinois. No exit poll figures were available for Delaware in 2006, but the share of black voters in that state rose from 17 percent in 2008, a presidential year, to a remarkable 22 percent in 2010, an off-year election. Delaware is 20 percent black.
In some states, Democratic candidates lost because of a failure to attract white votes, Bositis observed. In Ohio, for example, the Democratic candidate for governor attracted only 38 percent of the white vote. African Americans comprise only 10.6 of the Ohio electorate, not nearly enough to overcome such a poor showing among white voters.
Illinois provides an interesting example of the power of the black and Latino vote – when there is an attractive Democratic candidate.
The party’s lackluster nominee for senate, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, was unable to prevent Rep. Mark Kirk, his Republican challenger, from claiming Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. Giannoulis received just 31 percent of the white vote. If he had gotten 33 percent, he would have won the election.
Meanwhile, Democrat Pat Quinn was able to get elected to a full term as governor of Illinois while receiving only 33 percent of the white vote. An analysis of election data by The Chicago Reporter showed that Quinn, who took over for impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich, won 90 percent of the vote in the city’s 20 majority-black wards, allowing him to narrowly defeat Republican challenger Bill Bradley.
Backed by a strong African-American and Latino turnout, Democrats were able to sweep all statewide offices in California and New York. “Some of these news reports don’t make any sense,” Bositis said. “They are acting like African Americans can determine elections all by themselves.” He said Democrats lost so many seats because a smaller share of them went to the polls this year while there was increased turnout among voters.
According to the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University, Democrats’ share of the electorate declined from 20.7 in 2006 to 16.0 this year. Meanwhile, Republicans upped their share over that same period from 17.4 percent to 19.5 percent.
People of color made impressive gains across the nation even as the GOP regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Less than a year after Republican Scott Brown won a special election to fill the unexpired senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy, Deval Patrick, the Democratic governor of Massachusetts, was re-elected over Republican challenger Charlie Baker. On the Republican side, in New Mexico, Susan Martinez became the nation’s first female Latino governor. Brian Sandoval was elected Nevada’s first Latino governor and in South Carolina, Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian parents, became the first female elected governor of South Carolina. Marco Rubio, a Cuban American, won the Senate seat in Florida.
In an extremely close race in California, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, the daughter of an African-American man and an Indian woman, edged Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley to become that state’s attorney general, a post held by incoming Gov. Jerry Brown.
Two black Republicans will serve in the House, which has been without an African-American Republican since J.C. Watts retired in 2003. After defeating the son of former U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, Tim Scott will become the first black Republican to represent South Carolina in Congress since Reconstruction. Joining him will be Allen West, the first black Republican elected to Congress from Florida in more than 100 years. Unlike J.C. Watts, West plans to join the Congressional Black Caucus. Scott has not announced his intention. Alabama sent its first black female, Terri Sewell, to Congress, replacing Artur Davis, who left office to make an unsuccessful bid to become governor of Alabama.
With the retirement of Roland Burris of Illinois, there will be no African Americans serving in the U.S. Senate. All three African-American candidates – Kendrick Meek in Florida, Michael Thurmond in Georgia and Alvin Greene, South Carolina’s mystery candidate – were defeated in the general election.
Because Democrats have lost their majority status in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] has decided to run for House minority leader. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House’s current majority leader, has decided to campaign for minority whip, a position now held by Rep. Jim Clyburn [D-S.C.], the only African American in the party’s top leadership.
In addition to the possibility of losing the whip position, several African Americans will also lose key committee chairmanships: Charles Rangel [D-N.Y.] (Ways & Means), John Conyers [D-Mich.] (Judiciary) and Bennie Thompson [D-Miss.] (Homeland Security).
As is often the case when one party wins, there is little evidence of Republicans receiving a mandate from voters. In fact, most of the House seats the GOP won on November 2 were previously held by Blue Dog Democrats, who are ideologically close to Republicans on numerous issues. They saw their ranks cut in half. So, if President Obama moves farther to the right, as some are urging, he may be moving toward extinction.
Furthermore, House exit polls show the public is about evenly divided between wanting Congress to reduce the deficit (39 percent) and wanting to create more jobs (37 percent), followed by those who want cutting taxes (19 percent) to be a priority.
Exit polls show that voters are equally disgusted with both parties, with 53 percent holding unfavorable views of Democrats and 52 percent having a negative perception of Republicans.
According to the polls, 48 percent of respondents want recently passed health care legislation repealed. But an equal percentage want it expanded (31 percent) or left as is (16 percent). When asked, “Who do you blame for economic problems,” 35 percent said Wall Street, 29 percent blamed George W. Bush and 23 percent faulted President Obama.
With voters casting ballots for different parties over the past three election cycles, what looks like one year’s mandate can easily turn into the next election’s eviction notice.

(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, http://www.georgecurry.com/. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.)

Hear Bro. George Curry On W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio:

Concerning Our Father, Brother & Friend, Mr. Ernest Withers:Reactions From The Press...Part 3

2010 State Of The Black Union
“It Ain’t About Tavis, It’s About Us, & It's About Time!”

No comments: