The Soft Racism Of Celebrating Black Turnout

NAACP vote drive Getty Images/Mario Tama

David Benkof Contributor
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Liberals, still baffled by Donald Trump’s victory, don’t seem to understand Republican Roy Moore’s defeat yesterday, either. They’re completely missing the principle-over-politics bravery of Republicans who voted for Senator-elect Doug Jones, or at least stayed home. And their alternative explanation – that the Democrat won because African-Americans turned out in droves – betrays once again their patronizing attitude toward black voters.

Voting is a citizen’s patriotic responsibility. Celebrating blacks just for voting exhibits a kind of soft racism – that blacks should be patted on the head for doing what citizens are supposed to do.

First, the extent of African-American voting in this race has been vastly overstated. Exit polls show blacks were 29 percent of voters, whereas they are 26 percent of the state’s population. The black share of the vote in 2012 was 28 percent. Yesterday’s black turnout showed an uptick, not an upsurge.

Even more, the people saying the whites who didn’t vote were apathetic about the race must not have been paying attention over the last month. Interest in the race was high among all demographic groups; but many white conservatives stayed home because they could neither bring themselves to vote for a candidate facing credible accusations of sex abuse nor stomach helping Democrats retake the Senate.

As such, they were casting “passive votes” for Jones, much as black Obama voters who stayed home in 2016 were casting passive votes for Trump.

And sorry, but allegations of “voter suppression” creating obstacles that blacks bravely overcame are not convincing. True, voter ID laws are sometimes born of racism and Alabama’s are too strict, but election experts tend to think they’re rarely a deciding factor. And all the stories of blacks put on inactive status and handed provisional ballots are anecdotal and useless unless they compare the frequency of blacks with experience to that of whites. Further, Republicans recently made it easier for felons to vote in the state, so charges that blacks are kept from voting because more of them are ex-cons fall flat.

Claims that blacks were held back from voting yesterday are particularly absurd given Alabama’s history of some of the worst true voter suppression in the nation’s history. Sixty years ago, it was extremely difficult for a black person to vote in the Heart of Dixie, between poll taxes, literacy tests, and other legal and quasi-legal obstacles to the franchise.

Blacks in Alabama voted in large numbers for Jones yesterday because they believed it was in their political self-interest. Period. Anyone who wants to give them a medal for doing so is suggesting they’re too dumb or lazy to do so on their own. We call that racism.

David Benkof is a columnist for The Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) or Facebook E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.