Blexit: 50 Years of GOP Frustration Voiced By An Opportunist
Blexit is a symptom of the the GOP narrative about black voters; namely, that we’re stuck on the “Democratic plantation“. This is evidenced by the Candace Owens led, and formerly Kanye approved, #blexit.
However, black voters, like the vast majority of all voters, are actually rational actors who vote in their best interests. William Sturkey, assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill elucidates this in a series of tweets.
It is mostly accurate that the Republican Party formed to oppose the extension of slavery, although up until the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Abraham Lincoln and other Republicans pledged not to interfere with slavery in states where it existed. And the first 23 African Americans in Congress did belong to the Republican Party, due to the GOP’s support of voting rights and the Democratic Party’s embrace of white supremacy.
Until the 1930s, the majority of Blacks were Republican, proud to be in the Party of Lincoln. The song that would become the national anthem of the NAACP, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” was written by a Black Republican in 1900 to celebrate President Lincoln’s birthday. Nine years later, on Lincoln’s 100-year birthday, the NAACP was formed, with a number of founders being white Republicans.
In 1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat, got 71 percent of black votes. That was a major migration for voters who saw the party as the stronghold of segregationists who oppressed them. Between 1948-1964 the black vote mattered a lot to both parties, as Henry Lee Moon predicted in 1948 with Balance of Power.
In 1960, Nixon aggressively courted the black vote, but lost it in the North based on JFK’s promise on civil rights and appeal to young black people. Still, in 1960, Nixon received major black endorsements from many including Jackie Robinson & MLK’s dad.
Kennedy won the black vote in the North which tipped the scales in 1960. Nonetheless, Nixon did better among black voters than any GOP candidate ever since. No GOP candidate has ever come close to 30% of the black vote that Nixon won.
When asked to explain what happened, Nixon told Ebony magazine: “I could have become President. I needed only five percent more votes in the Negro areas.” He wrote an article in Ebony in 1962 about how to get back the black vote for the GOP.
The GOP went a different way in 1964 by nominating Barry Goldwater, who essentially voted against ending Jim Crow by voting “no” against the CRA of 1964. Black Republicans lamented this at the time as longtime GOP supporter Jackie Robinson warned in 1964 of the GOP becoming a party “for white men only.” While Goldwater lost the election, his support for states’ rights became a rallying cry for segregationists opposed to federal intervention – and anti-communism helped the party break the Democratic stranglehold on the South.
Black support for the GOP sunk to new lows in 1964. GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater received essentially the same level of support among black voters as John McCain did when he faced Barack Obama in 2008. The GOP initially discussed how to fix this, but then ultimately kept moving away from black voters.
Medicare opponent Ronald Reagan, a Goldwater supporter, was fond of saying: “I didn’t leave the Democratic party, the Democratic Party left me.” Well, the same could be said of black voters and the GOP.
Afi Scruggs describes this in his profile of black Republicans for USA Today. In the modern political era, Republican presidential candidates garner single-digit support from the Black community. Tim Scott is the lone black Republican Senator. With the backdrop of racial strife and an upcoming election, there has not been much from the GOP standard bearer as far as outreach to the black community is concerned. Still, there is hope.
When it comes to social and economic conservatism, a 2019 survey from the Pew Research Centers found that 49 percent of Blacks oppose same-sex marriage compared to 32 percent of Whites. Last November, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies think tank polled 1,200 African Americans on their concerns going into the 2020 elections. It found a majority of respondents believe most people can get ahead if they work hard — a statement often repeated by Republicans opposed to social programs. In a similar survey of Democratic primary voters, a majority of respondents said hard work is no guarantee of success.
Republicans have been able to capitalize on shared positions. During the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush got 16 percent of the African American vote in Ohio. Much of that support came from African American pastors, who urged parishioners to vote for a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that was also on the ballot.
Still, Republicans routinely win 8% to 15% of African American votes. That’s a far cry from 1956, when 39% of black voters backed Eisenhower because of Southern Democrats opposition to desegregation resulting from the Brown decision.
Black voters currently favor Democrat Joe Biden over Republican Donald Trump 89-7. In the 2018 midterms, blacks voted overwhelmingly (90%) for the Democratic candidate, including comparable shares of black men (88%) and black women (92%). Blexit doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon.