Black History: Special Delivery!!
Dating back just one hundred years ago, the vast majority of African Americans were Republicans and not Democrats. The Republican Party was the “Party of Lincoln” the party that enacted the Emancipation Proclamation and supported Reconstruction. Many blacks voted Republican following the Civil War through the first part of the 20th century. Also at that time, most of the white politicians who supported segregation and governed the south were Democrats. The Democratic Party did not officially open its doors to blacks until 1924 when they were allowed to attend the Democratic convention. The majority of blacks at the time lived in the South, where they often prevented from even voting at all. Starting slowly, but peaking in the 1960’s and going forward, blacks have shifted their loyalty to the Democratic Party. The events of the civil rights movement were a catalyst for blacks to leave the Republican Party in droves.
Prior to the 1960’s, one of the initial shifts of blacks to the Democratic Party occurred during the Great Depression which lasted from 1929-1939. The Roosevelt presidential administration and its policies to bring jobs and assistance to the nations impoverished citizens made the Democratic Party very attractive to black who were experiencing the crushing blow of poverty. Despite these gains, many blacks continued to stay affiliated with the Republican Party. Not until Harry Truman received 77% of the black vote in 1948 did many blacks report they thought of themselves as Democrats. This could be, due in part, to Truman issuing orders to desegregate the military. He also issued an executive order to address racial bias in federal employment. As late as 1960 approximately 2/3 of African Americans were affiliated with the Democratic Party. Today the number is close to 90%. Another major factor which contributed to the mass exodus from the Republic Party by blacks was the political agenda of US Senator and presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Goldwater was a 1964 Republican presidential nominee. He was a 5 term US Senator from Arizona at the time of his nomination for president by the Republican Party against Lyndon Johnson.
Goldwater is often viewed as the catalyst for what we know today as the, “Tea Party”. Goldwater’s platform rested heavily on his conservative beliefs that the federal government should stay out of states business. Goldwater believed that the Civil Rights Act, which at the time had recently been passed by Lyndon Johnson was unconstitutional. Lyndon Johnson garnered 94% of the African American vote after signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law. In 1965, Johnson also signed into law new Voting Rights Act legislation. No Republican candidate has gotten more than 15% of the vote since that time. Goldwater’s views drew to his camp, many white southern voters, and the 1/3 of blacks who were still supporters of the Republican Party quickly left the party. Black voters have largely remained supporters of the Democratic Party ever since.
It’s interesting to note that younger blacks are now, drifting away from the Democratic Party in larger numbers than older blacks.