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Can Democrats lose the African-American vote?

ASU expert warns of the danger of taking black voters for granted

Professor Matthew Delmont
April 14, 2016

African-American voters are the most consistent and steady voting bloc in the Democratic Party. However, Dr. Matthew Delmont, associate professor of history at Arizona State University and author of the book Why Busing Failed, believes this unwavering support prevents politicians from addressing the most pressing concerns of the black community. Dr. Delmont discusses how African-Americans can make their voice heard in the political process.

Q: How has the Democratic Party been able to so effectively cement African-American support over the last fifty years?

A: Since 1964 African-Americans have essentially been in a one-party system nationally. They’ve given over 85 percent of their votes each election season to the Democratic candidate for the presidency. So essentially, African-American voters only have the Democrats to turn to — Republicans have not been that interested in competing seriously for African-American voters.

Q: Has either party fully represented the interests of the African-American community?

A: Neither party has done a great job representing those interests. Republicans have neglected African-American voters, thinking that they’re only going to vote for Democrats. On the Democratic side, they’ve given great lip service to African-American issues on the campaign trail, but when it comes to delivering on issues like police brutality, unemployment and education, they haven’t come through for African-American voters consistently.

Q: Have we seen any recent examples of the African-American community holding those Democratic elected leaders accountable for not representing their interests?

A: Absolutely. In campaigns for mayor, attorney general, and these local-level positions, black activists are demanding that these politicians come through on their promises. They’re making them actually deliver on issues that are going to impact their lives on a day to day basis, and if they don’t, they’re voting them out of office.

Q: Do you see those efforts on the local level being replicated at the national level, for national elections?

A: Yes, I think there’s a good chance that those local-level issues are going to trickle up to the national level. I think Black Lives Matter has done a good job foregrounding the issues of African-American voters nationally and forcing, on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton to make those issues part of their campaign speeches.