On November 2, California voters will go to the polls to determine, if the nation has shifted from the “yes, we can” rhetoric of the Obama campaign to the “no you cannot” bombast of the Tea Party, according to political analysts.
This election is particularly poignant for African Americans, because it will determine the nation’s direction on job creation and significant health care reform, these analysts say. Blacks have higher unemployment rates and less access to health care than many other groups.
According to a report released this month by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, much is at stake in the upcoming election. The author of the report is senior analyst David Bositis.
“There is widespread agreement that the Democrats–after major gains in 2006 and 2008–are poised to lose a significant number of U.S. House and Senate seats in the 2010 election, largely because of high unemployment and a generally poor economy,” the report stated. “It is also widely felt that the extent of those losses will have a major impact on the Obama administration’s ability to pursue its goals through 2012 … The extent of the Democrats’ losses will depend on their ability to turn out their most loyal voters, and no voting bloc will be more important to them than African Americans.”
The report continues: “In 1998, Black voters turned out in strong numbers and had a major impact on the outcome of the midterm elections. That year, Black voters were strategically placed relative to the competitive races, and they turned out in a strong showing of support for President Bill Clinton–then tremendously popular with African Americans.”
Bositis believes President Obama is more popular with African Americans than President Clinton was in 1998.
“African Americans are well-positioned to vote. The 2008 presidential election was the first in which Black turnout exceeded White turnout. Further, there are so many competitive elections this year in places where Black voters could significantly affect the outcomes, there will certainly be a major effort in mobilizing them to vote,” Bositis said.
In fact, the Democratic National Committee has announced that it will spend more than $2 million mobilizing Black voters this year.
Today, it is the desire of the so-called Tea Party to derail Obama’s agenda, said Bositis, who prior to joining the center taught political science and sociology at George Washington University and at SUNY-Potsdam.
“I certainly would say the Tea Party agenda doesn’t take African Americans into consideration. (African Americans) definitely should be concerned about them, “Bositis said. “African Americans are invested in the success of the Obama administration. The tea party represents a direct challenge to what President Obama is trying to accomplish.”
The president is trying to get the economy back on track after almost a decade of Republican mismanagement, Bositis said.
“Right now, the Tea Party and those people involved in that movement–what they are mainly talking about–they want to get rid of health care reform,” he said. “Blacks are three times more unlikely to be uninsured as whites. Health insurance reform represents a good step forward for African Americans,” he said.
Political analyst Carol Swain disagrees that the Tea Party is the private purview of Whites only.
“There are Blacks who share the values, principles, and goals of the Tea Party. This is good news for Black America. It has never been a monolith and today’s Democratic Party and Civil Rights leadership has moved further and further way from the needs and concerns of ordinary people,” said Swain, who is the author of “Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress.”
In California, incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer is battling Republican businesswoman Carly Fiorina. Meanwhile, Meg Whitman has challenged Democrat Jerry Brown for the governor’s spot.
Fiorina could pull off an upset against Boxer, said Swain.
“Barbara Boxer is in serious trouble,” Swain said. “The Democrats have not (given) Blacks a reason to support their agenda with any enthusiasm. (Sharing) race with the president is not enough to spur a repeat of 2008’s high voter turnout,” said Swain.
So, does it matter if you vote for a Democrat, a Republican or some other party?
You bet it makes a difference, said Lorenzo Morris, a political science professor at Howard University.
“(The Tea Party) may have weaker credentials and are much less credible, but they have money. And with short-term appeal and a lot of money, they can win,” Morris said.
In fact, California’s campaign season is shaping up to be one of the most expensive in the state’s history. According to media reports, Whitman has already spent more than $140 million on her campaign, including $121.5 million of her own money.
Yet, money is not the only factor that wins elections, Morris said. A minority turnout of Hispanics and Blacks can turn the tide, just as it did for Obama in 2008, he said.
“They have the potential to make a huge difference,” he said. “There is potential for surprise.
In fact, turnout rates of racial and ethnic minorities are notoriously underestimated, Morris said.
About 40 percent of young minorities use cell phones and not land lines, and these populations are under sampled in election surveys, which are conducted on land-line telephones.
“Turnout is a critical factor. People should know the president’s agenda is in jeopardy,” Morris said. “The president’s agenda would be compromised even more with a Republican majority. And every day there is something outrageous from Tea Party types.”
Nevertheless, Swain predicts that turnout will be low in many states. And she encourages African Americans not to vote strictly along racial lines, when they do vote.
“Some people have come to the realization that the president does not share their values and concerns,” she said. “I think people want solutions beyond race. Race can get in the way of sound judgment. Blacks need to hold their Black elected officials accountable, and in many cases, this will mean voting against an incumbent.”
On Nov. 2, polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Find your polling place on the web at www.lavote.net or by calling (800) 815-2666.