Diversity in the Electorate

How The Percentages Stand Today

by: Connor Herring

The makeup of the United States electorate has always been a key responder to any type of social change that may also be taking place, such as African American and women’s suffrage.  However, while minority groups like African Americans have had the right to vote since the 15th Amendment was passed in 1870, it has taken until the past two elections for them to notably exercise their right to vote for the next president: “The levels of participation by black, Hispanic and Asian eligible voters all increased from 2004 to 2008, reducing the voter participation gap between themselves and white eligible voters. This was particularly true for black eligible voters.” (PewResearch).  According to the 2010 census, black voter turnout was up to 55% – 8% higher than in 2004. In addition, 2% more young people voted in 2008 than in earlier elections.  Electorate diversity played no small part in 2012, either.  William Pfaff of Truthdig.com notes that the president won 93% of the African-American votes and 71% of Hispanic votes. He actually lost, however, 10% of the white vote since 2008.

According to Neil Young Jr., a writer at the Wall Street Journal, Obama’s election victory this year “exposed tectonic demographic shifts in American society that are reordering the U.S. political landscape.” This new landscape, he claims, will particularly challenge the Republican Party.  For example, increasing numbers of wealthy whites voted for Obama this November, in addition to the usual Democrat-voting minorities, whose numbers also increased in the suburban areas.  Demographer Robert Lang says that “the Democrats now own a coalition of emerging metro areas where the whites and minorities live together, and where they vote Democratic.” Furthermore, areas like Fairfax County in Virginia, usually a red state, went blue this year; a fact possibly caused by 30% of the population being immigrants from foreign nations. This coalition of young people, women, and minorities also brought Obama into the White House in 2008. The question, however, that the Democrats now face is whether this coalition can become a foundation of their party (Young), whereas Republicans can still rely on their base of White support, but need to work on their minority support.

Republicans have also come to rely on older voters, a majority of which voted for McCain and Romney, in contrast to their Democratic leanings in the 1990s due to issues like Social Security and Medicare.  Thus, the GOP worries that its support base is becoming “too old, too rural, and too white” (Young), which is especially troubling during a time when minorities are projected to be in the majority in the near future.

While it is clear that most of Obama’s supporters in 2008 continued to support him in 2012, were there any voters who may have changed their minds about him after he had been in office?  In the wake of the ACORN controversy during the 2008 election, it may be useful to look at the story of Anita MonCrief, an ex-liberal and ACORN whistleblower.  In looking at diversity in the electorate and voting patterns and trends, ACORN’s involvement in Obama’s 2008 campaign deserves some attention.  It is still uncertain the degree to which the organization was involved in Obama’s election, whether it completely “stole” it for him or just had problems with phony registrations.  In 2008, Anita MonCrief came forward to the New York Times to expose the damage that ACORN has done to impoverished communities, as well as its voter fraud (The Leadership Institute).

During the 2008 election, MonCrief supported Clinton and then Obama.  However, she now speaks to tea party groups, calling Obama’s policies “socialist” and referring to herself as a “non-liberal.”  She attributes her ideological shift to what she saw during her time as an ACORN employee.  Today, MonCrief urges Black voters to make decisions based on a candidate’s policies and qualities, rather than their skin color.  In an interview by the Daily Caller, she says that “one of the things I like to tell Black people is that we are not victims. We are not numbers, we are not statistics. We are not pawns.”

People like Anita MonCrief should remind us that color and ethnicity should not be deciding factors in the election of the President of the United States. Minorities are only allowing themselves to be used as pawns by a candidate if they vote for him/her based solely on appearance, and not what they stand for.


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