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It is no accident that rhetoric about race has been ramping up at a time when racial politics can be the key determinant for control of the U.S. Senate this year.
At least three states – North Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas – are red states with vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election and large black populations.
Can racism really be as rampant in America as all the current rhetoric implies?
A Google search for “racism” will produce a long list of articles from the most recent week’s news claiming racism on issue after issue of national concern.
We need to dig deeper and give more careful thought about whether racism is as pervasive as all the rhetoric seems to imply or whether other factors are driving the problems that continue to plague non-white communities. And if so, perhaps all the rhetoric about race we’re hearing reflects more Democratic political operations than realities of America.
In important ways, American attitudes on race have changed dramatically.
According to Gallup, in 1958 only 4 percent of Americans believed marriage between individuals of different races was acceptable. Today 87 percent say interracial marriage is OK.
A society, in which almost 90 percent of people believe it is just fine for individuals of different races to marry and have children together can hardly be called a racist society.
And, of course, a black man today sits in the White House serving his second term as president.
Granted, in 2012 the Republican candidate, Romney won 61 percent of the white vote. But 39 percent of whites voted for the black Democratic candidate.
It turns out, as the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote last year, that in every presidential election since 1972, the average percentage white vote for the Democratic candidate was just about the same as what Obama got in in 2012 – around 39 percent.
So a real headline about the election of our first black president was that race had hardly had any impact at all on voting patterns. The percentage of whites voting Republican was around the norm as was the percentage of whites voting for the Democrat. A black Democrat did not drive away white Democrats.
The Post’s Cillizza shows that the driving political reality of recent presidential elections has been the growing non-white percentage of the electorate and that most of these non-white Americans support Democrats.
In 1980 88 percent of the electorate was white compared to 72 percent in 2012.
In 1980, 23 percent of Democratic voters were non-white compared to 44 percent in 2012. In 1980, 4 percent of Republican voters were non-white compared to 11 percent in 2012.
The growing percentage of our voters is not white, and they largely vote for Democrats.
If the key difference between the two parties is about big government versus limited government, much of what America’s future will look like will ride on whether Republicans can make any headway with non-white voters with a limited-government message.
I believe there is much potential for doing so if Republicans would get down to the work that needs to be done.
Since the Civil Rights Act in 1964, black economic progress on average compared to the white population has been dismal. The gap in black household income compared to white household income has grown; average black household wealth as a percentage of average white household wealth has shrunk; and the percentage of black poverty has remained almost constant at three times greater than white poverty.
These realities reflect destructive big-government policies that grip these communities. But Democrats who want to continue to sell these policies will continue on the racism message and claim that this is what limited government ideas are about.
Republicans need to get truth to black populations in these key vulnerable states. They need to hear about limited-government reforms that will help them. This can determine who controls the Senate next year.