By A. Bruce Crawley
The long, drawn-out 2012 Presidential Election has, mercifully, come to an end, President Barack Obama has been re-elected and Black voters appear to be ecstatic, vindicated — and still just a little too content.
In the wake of a hard-fought political battle, which saw the President clobber the challenger, 332 to 206, in electoral votes, he also won the popular vote, 50.5 percent to 48 percent. The fact that the President’s popular vote margin dropped from 7.3 percentage points, in 2008, to 2.5 percentage points, in 2012, is not, however, the most surprising piece of data coming out of the election, so far.
No, perhaps the bigger surprise, with nearly $2 billion having been raised among the candidates – to “define” one another and to “get out the vote,” is that the actual number of Americans that actually voted, in 2012, declined from 131,032,799, in 2008, to 120,531,631, in 2012, or about 9 percent.
According to the Washington Post, that made the 2012 Presidential Election the first since 1996 to show a decrease in the overall number of voters over a previous, four-year comparison date.
Who were these 10.5 million voters who simply didn’t show up, this time? What did they look like? What were they thinking? Does it have anything, at all, to do with the threat of Photo ID, at the polling place?
It’s still a little early, and although media have informed us that President Obama received 93 percent of the black vote, 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, and 73 percent of the Asian vote, that’s all just based on “exit surveys.” Those, of course, were taken as people left the polling place and may not match what those voters actually did behind their curtains. We’ll find that out soon enough.
The “exit polls” also told us that Mitt Romney pulled down 60 percent of the white vote, the majority of voters over the age of 40, and 55 percent of the “male vote.”
What we don’t know yet, however, is exactly how many registered Black, white, Hispanic or Asian voters, specifically, actually showed up on Election Day (the turnout numbers.)
For example, the previous Presidential Election was held in 2008, but it wasn’t until April 2009, five full months later, that the Pew Research Center had gathered enough data to tell us precisely what happened in “Obama vs. McCain.”
Pew was eventually able to tell us, for example, that nearly one-in-four votes cast in 2008 were delivered by non-whites, based on its analysis of Census Bureau data. The researchers were also able to tell us that whites comprised 76.3 percent of every 2008 vote, while blacks represented 12.1 percent, Hispanics 7.4 percent and Asians 2.5 percent. Pew made it clear, also, that the white share was the lowest percentage in U.S. presidential voting history, yet, it was still higher than the 65.8 percent “white share” of the U.S. population.
We learned, in that April 2009 report, also, that Black “turnout” increased from 60.3 percent in 2004 to 65.2 percent, in 2008. With that performance, Black participation was virtually the same, for the first time in U.S. Presidential Election history, as the white turnout level, at 66.1 percent, and that white turnout actually declined from 67.2 percent in 2004.
Before leaving the Black turnout data we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that, for the first time in history, the 68.8 percent turnout for Black females exceeded all other racial, gender or ethnic categories. The same report advised us that Hispanic turnout rose just 2.7 percentage points, from 2004 to 2008, from 47.2 percent to 49.9 percent. Asian turnout, it was reported, increased 2.4 percentage points, to 47 percent.
For this year, however, it’s still way too early to know, definitively, what actually took place on Nov. 6. We know who won, but we still don’t know precisely how it happened. And, in circumstances this important, we don’t want to be satisfied with knowing that pollsters have “estimated” that the Blacks who went to the polls gave Barack Obama 93 percent of their votes. We also want to know how many votes that represented and what percentage of all votes cast that constituted.
Why is that important? Well, Blacks who watched CNN on election night should have been disappointed to see and hear the under-emphasis of the effect of Black votes on all that was going on that evening.
Even more unsettling has been the strong emphasis on how important the role white females, Hispanic and Asian voters have played in the 2012 outcome.
As you can readily surmise, however, even if 73 percent of Asian voters supported the president, their total votes cast were probably very much in the range of the 2.5 percent of the electorate they represented, in 2008. And, even if Hispanic voters increased their support of the President from 67 percent, in 2008, to 71 percent in 2012, we need to remember that they only represented 7.4 percent of all presidential votes cast, in 2008, as compared to 12.1 percent for black voters.
Somehow, I’m not feeling, yet, the recognition in media circles that the black votes carried significantly greater impact than other voting blocs, as the 2008 report clearly indicated.
That’s especially disturbing because this is the time when people begin to make up their minds about how elections are actually won or lost. Indeed, we’re hearing that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Hurricane Sandy sunk Mitt Romney’s campaign and were the reason that Barack Obama won the election. Then we hear that it was the “binders full of women” comment that did the job, or even Romney’s unwillingness, during the campaign, to visit the David Letterman Show, as Barack Obama certainly did.
While some of these claims are clearly not as serious as others, we do need to hear, as the president shapes his agenda, as he decides on the makeup of his cabinet, and as he establishes his job-creation priorities, just how important the Black vote actually was, and how that support should be reflected in White House policies and statements, moving forward.
You know, I wish I had a nickel for every Black person who insisted — and hoped — leading up to the Election, that President Obama would finally get around to black-specific issues, in his second term.
I’d be rich.
These were the people who believed that the president actually had a long-range plan for moving the country to Black-white economic parity. They said it was “smart politics” that he avoided such issues, in his first term, to ensure his re-election. They also cautioned that people like me shouldn’t even bring up such topics “in polite company.” It could only hurt the president.
Well, even without having all of the data, we need to begin to make our case for full inclusion, now. I have a hunch that once the numbers are made available, we’ll find that, even though their issues went largely unaddressed, even though their media outlets had to settle for the “crumbs off the campaign budget table,” ever-loyal Black folks actually got up early, went out to the polls and voted, and they did so at a rate greater than any other voting bloc in this country – for Barack Obama.
It seems that it’s now time for the president, the national media and all Americans to get comfortable with that, and to understand, completely, if the U.S, government begins to work to eliminate race-based net worth, unemployment, education, health and housing disparities in this county.
Blacks have certainly been more patient than any other group of voters has ever been.
They voted. Their candidate won. To the victors, belongs, at least, a fair percentage of “the spoils.”
Now, let’s get that done.
It is, after all, “the American way.”
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management, Inc.