Jonathan Chait is a very white man, and he recently wrote an article about African Americans and our voting traditions especially as it relates to the democratic party.
It was an interesting take on why the majority of African Americans vote the way we do, and why, when it comes to the two leading political parties, we tend to choose the donkey over the elephant.
I actually found a lot of what t he wrote to be true, but, like others, I found it a little unsettling that this very white writer thought that he could go into the minds of African Americans and like some member of the Jedi Order play mind tricks on every African American voter in America.
I think the gist of what he wrote is that black voters are pragmatic almost to a fault, and that the reason Hillary has been able to beat Bernie four to one among black voters is because black voters are afraid of change. (Or something like that. ) I am still not sure where this leaves the 25% of black folks who are voting for Sanders.
"And pragmatism inflects the African-American view of how politicians perform in office. Purists see compromise as a sign of moral failure or weakness, an inability to smash a corrupted system. Pragmatists expect political opposition as normal and enduring. A politician who has their best interests in mind and pushes policy in the proper direction is better than the all-too-common alternative. Sanders’s campaign draws much of its strength from the left-wing critique of Barack Obama’s presidency, which it dismisses as largely feeble half-measures. Sanders has attracted Democrats most discontented with Obama’s progress, while Clinton wins those most satisfied, among whom African-Americans are disproportionately represented. Obviously, Obama’s status as the first black president creates a unique bond with black supporters, but much more than racial affinity is at work here.
As Brett Gadsden, a historian and professor of African-American studies at Emory, told me a few months ago over email, “Black voters have always [been] faced with the difficult choice between candidates who have only offered incremental support for their concerns and have been perfectly willing to turn their backs, albeit to slightly different degrees, on black communities when it was politically expedient.” The decision about how to exert leverage (which is necessarily limited within a racially polarized electorate) is difficult, even agonizing. Any political constituency must navigate the twin imperatives of supporting the better (or less bad) party without letting that party take its support completely for granted."
"Racial affinity". The first African American president in the history of this country --- one who in retrospect has done a pretty decent job--- and the writer makes an issue of "racial affinity" between black voters and the candidate.
This is what drives black folks like yours truly crazy. This tendency some whites -particularly liberals- have of viewing us as some exotic other to be studied and understood like experimental lab rats.
This was the case of a very liberal recently hired Temple University professor, who had the following to say:
"Goldrick-Rab, who spent five years in Philadelphia when she attended the University of Pennsylvania, said she welcomes the chance to return to an urban setting, where she will be "closer to the students whose lives I study."
"I fell in love with that city when I was a grad student," she said, "and I've been trying to get back ever since."
She plans to spend time in neighborhoods, visit the Housing Authority, and hang out at Community College of Philadelphia, where she previously served as an evaluator of a program that provides legal, counseling, and other services for students in one place.
"They have the population that I've been working on and studying for a long time," she said."
Did you read that? She has been studying us for "a long time." That sound you hear is my head exploding.
No doubt Mr. Chait has been studying us a long time as well, and his intense studying has inspired him to write this puzzling essay about African American pragmatism when it comes to voting.
Memo to Mr. Chait: We are not the only group that votes for what we think is in our best interest. The American electorate is now more polarized than ever because more groups are doing just that.
That has been the American way long before we even had the right to vote.
Maybe the next time Mr. Chait will focus his effort on writing about another one of the polarized groups in America, and as the old timers like to say: "Stay out of black folks business."
*Pic from npr.org