March 09, 2006, 12:34 p.m.
Black Like GOP
Will the Dems lose a reliable constituency this year?
This year, Democrats may lose their iron grip on the black vote. About 90 percent of black Americans vote Democrat, rain or shine. But a growing sense that Democrats take them for granted "” plus several attractive, high-level black Republican candidates who will fight for these votes "” could make November 2006 and 2008 fascinating.
For starters, President Bush's black support grew from 9 percent in 2000 to 11 percent in 2004. That is no landslide, but Bush's black vote improved 22 percent despite his being vilified by the media and Democrats for four long years.
In Ohio, President Bush's support among blacks grew from 9 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2004. Given his tight race against Senator John Kerry (D., Mass.), blacks essentially handed President Bush Ohio, and thus a second term. These generally socially conservative blacks showed up to vote to ban gay marriage. Enough voters also supported Bush, a same-sex marriage opponent, to secure him the Buckeye State.
Second, 2006 features well-known, impressive black Republican candidates. Maryland's Lt. Governor, Michael Steele, seeks a U.S. Senate seat this fall, as does Michigan's Keith Butler, a former Detroit city councilman. In Ohio, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is running for governor. And in Pennsylvania, Republicans on February 11 nominated former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann as their gubernatorial nominee. Each of these charismatic, well-spoken, black Republicans has a decent shot at victory.
What about their campaign agendas? They all should promote free-market ideas that have helped and will help blacks voters, and remind them how Democrats routinely say, "No!" to such reforms.
On taxes, for instance, President Bush has reduced them every year in office, always over Democratic objections. The result? The economy grew 3.5 percent last year despite the war on terror, sky-high oil prices, and hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. For those with lower incomes, the bottom tax rate is now 10 percent rather than 15 percent. Meanwhile, higher-level tax-rate reductions leave more money in black middle-class pockets.
At this writing, the unemployment rate is 4.7 percent, its lowest level since July 2001. The bad news is that black unemployment is 8.9 percent. The good news is that it is down from a 10-percent average under President Clinton.
Meanwhile, with white unemployment at 4.1 percent, there is a 4.8-percent gap between white and black joblessness. That gap averaged 5.5 percent under President Clinton and 6.9 percent over the last 30 years. So, despite howls of Democratic protests, President Bush's tax cuts have helped create the best black-employment picture in a generation.
On Social Security, President Bush tried to bridge the Dividend Divide, the nearly 11-1 asset-ownership gap between white and black households. Voluntary Personal Retirement Accounts would let black individuals and families build nest eggs and bequeath them to their loved ones. This is excellent for black males who, on average, die at age 67.8 after collecting from Social Security for less than a year, while average white males enjoy seven years of benefits. President Bush's proposed accounts offered an alternative to this mess, but Democrats wailed, and his plan died of rejection.
On education, President Clinton vetoed a voucher program for students in Washington, D.C.'s dismal, predominantly black government school system "” twice. President Bush, in contrast, signed that bill into law.
Imagine what would happen if the 2008 Republican presidential nominee could campaign on these issues in inner-city Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland, and Philadelphia with fellow Republicans who have been elected statewide and also happen to be black.
In Pennsylvania, which Kerry won by just 128,000 votes, if, say, Rudy Giuliani could stump with Lynn Swann and swing 64,000 more votes than did President Bush, all things being equal, the Keystone State and its 21 electoral votes go GOP. If Swann and Ken Blackwell can double the black vote for their nominee from 10 percent to 20 percent, it's nearly impossible to see how Hillary Clinton wins with neither Pennsylvania nor Ohio.
The best way to get blacks to consider voting Republican is for GOP candidates to ask them this basic question: "What have the Democrats done for you lately?"
"” New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News.