Voter Suppression Through Black & Brown Voter Mythology
Diabolical voter suppression strategists will do anything to dissuade folks from believing that Black and Brown voters are the base of the Democratic Party
Joint Composition | Charles Ellison & Dr. G.S. Potter
There are three forms of voter suppression strategy currently underway at the moment:
1) There is the well-organized, structured and robustly funded form of legislated voter restrictions which is making it harder for marginalized population groups to access the ballot box
2) There is a contingent of “influencers,” especially in the Black community and heavily on social media, who are attacking frustrated Black populations in the United States with psychological warfare by discouraging them from voting at all or participating at maximum levels in upcoming elections. In many cases they will look legitimate. People should watch them warily and ask “who do you work for?”
3) There are multiple narratives, analysis and commentary attempting to persuade communities targeted by voter restrictions that they should not vote for the Democratic Party - or, the only major political party that is currently struggling to pass legislation and policy to revive voting rights and has it as a core part of their platform. What’s most diabolical about that strategy is that it’s designed to remove as many policymakers as possible who are committed to protecting and enhancing access to the ballot box.
In a new twist to that last strategy, sinister voter suppression proponents will do anything to dissuade folks from believing that Black and Brown voters are the base of the Democratic Party. They will twist themselves knees over neck to try and eliminate race and, especially, racism from the political conversation. They will even attempt to summon God as an excuse to ignore the very real assault that white nationalist communities are waging on Black, Brown and Indigenous bodies and replace it with a fantastical world where “racism doesn’t exist.”
The purpose is to 1) convince the left that there is no point in using their energy and resources to mobilize BIPOC voters and to 2) even convince BIPOC voters themselves that there are not enough of them to win these political battes. So: If we pretend that Black and Brown voters are fleeing the party, and that there is no battle for Democracy against organized white fascists, then we can also redirect the efforts of the Democratic party into issues that are more white palatable and less race-inclusive.
For example, a recent article in The Dispatch entitled, “The God Gap Helps Explain a 'Seismic Shift' in American Politics,” David French claims …
The Democratic Party has a huge “God gap,” and that God gap is driving a wedge between its white and nonwhite voters.
French further asserts that there is an exodus of Black and Brown voters from the left to the right. He argues that this Black and Brown flight was fueled by the lack of space for Christians within the party. And he blames God for the rise of the Confederacy and it’s polarized position with respect to the Union.
Make no mistake, we are in a battle for the nation and Democracy itself with Confederate flag flying fascist white nationalists. The primary targets of the Republican Party are people of color and the laws, institutions and Union descendants protecting them. It isn’t religion that is dividing the nation. It’s race. More specifically, it’s violent and organized racists.
Pretending Voter Suppression Doesn’t Exist
If there is anything “driving a wedge,” it’s the all-out assault on voting rights. The narrative of Black, Brown and Indigenous voters leaving the Democratic party in droves is a storyline created in a bid to force the American public to forget that the Voting Rights Act was virtually overturned in 2013 by the Supreme Court. It’s to also remove the guilt from racist Republican policymakers for creating intricate systems of voter suppression against non-White voters, a habit that’s been accelerating since the 2008 presidential election. As the Brennan Center points out …
There is ample evidence that the sorts of barriers being introduced [in 2021] disproportionately reduce turnout for voters of color. The gaps between white and nonwhite voters are bound to get worse. That’s why it’s necessary to reverse these new voting restrictions.
In 2013, the Supreme Court used the narrowing of the turnout gap between white and Black voters in 2008 and 2012, as seen in the following graph, to justify gutting key protections against racial discrimination in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That ruling in Shelby County v. Holder made it easier for states to enact restrictive policies.
Hence, the solution isn’t to gaslight these populations and redirect efforts towards more race-neutral topics. The solution is to aggressively mobilize to protect marginalized “minority” populations, our democratic institutions, and each other. The solution is not to call for thoughts and prayers.
In 2020, nearly 1 in 3 voters identified as something other than white. That number is consistently increasing. Voters of color also predominantly, and understandably, occupy the party that is not affiliated with open white nationalists: the Democratic Party. Pew Research, in June 2021, verified and validated those numbers after every last vote was counted: what we see is that Black voter share for Democrats actually grew from 91 percent to 92 percent between the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 so-called “midterm” elections - and stayed at a steady 92 percent in 2020. Despite the rhetoric arguing Black voters are leaving the party en masse, the number of Black voters has remained consistent across the last three election cycles. We do, however, see Latino/Hispanic voter share for Democrats decline dramatically from 2016 to 2020 …
Do keep in mind that the Latino population is a language bloc, not so much a racial bloc - polls aren’t taking into account that there are a variety of Black or African-descended, Indigenous and also Caucasian/White racial groups (or those who identify as such) within the Latino or Spanish-speaking diaspora. It’s plausible that much of the polling is oversampling that last group. As we see in Pew’s validated numbers, 59 percent of Latino voters supported Biden in 2020. And while this number is 7 points lower than it was in the 2016 election for Democrats, a closer examination will show that this slight change was less the result of Brown flight to the Republican Party, and more the result of geographically applied organizing tactics.
In addition, as we explain in this recent BEnote, White voters are shrinking as an electorate (even as they are wildly over-represented in elections: under 60 percent of the overall population, yet representing over 70 percent of the electorate) …
As we see the number of non-White voters increases, the number of voters that identify as Christians has been decreasing significantly. In fact, in 2020, only 64 percent of all registered voters identified as Christian. This figure is down 15 points from 79 percent in 2008. And while Republican voters more frequently identify as Christian, the data does not indicate that religious voters are leaving the Democratic Party for the Republican Party. It shows that the Democrats are doing a better job of creating space for 1) voters who aren’t religious and for 2) voters who are affiliated with religions other than Christianity.
If anything, it is the Republican focus on retaining and weaponizing the (White) evangelical vote that has left them unable to mobilize non-affiliated and non-Christian religious voters. In addition, any focus on “God” as an outreach tool would be particularly problematic for Republicans as younger Black Millennial and Gen-Z populations are increasingly disconnected from religion compared to their adult peers and parents, as Pew shows …
Pew also stresses that more than half of all Black Christians “… say that opposing racism and racial discrimination, as well as opposing sexism or discrimination against women, are essential to what being a Christian means to them.” These are values that are, clearly, neither shared or projected publicly by the Republican Party and white nationalist groups they affiliate themselves with.
In addition, as Christianity Today notes …
Over more than a decade, the share of Black Americans who say that they have no religious affiliation has risen more dramatically than whites, Hispanics, or Asians.
Democrats Aren’t Driving Religious Voters to the Other Side
If we look closer at voters by race, we see that Democrats as a whole are not pushing Black and Brown voters away from the party because of religious insolvency. The Republicans have focused organizing and disinformation campaigns in very specific geographic locations and according to very specific Latino nationalities. Democrats gained ground amongst Latinos in California, Arizona and Pennsylvania, for example. Republicans, however, made gains with Latino voters in states like Florida, Colorado and Nevada. Puerto Rican voters are still overwhelmingly supportive of the Democrats while Cubans are still relatively loyal to the Republicans. Latino voters aren’t falling away from the Democrats. Both parties are facing gains and losses according to geography, target population, and organizing tactics. None of these intricacies suggests that infusing more Christianity into their efforts would translate into increased Democratic recruitment numbers.
Recent arguments insist that the Democrats’ embrace of the LGBTQ community has also pushed Latino and Christian voters towards the more religiously orthodox - and intolerant - Republican party. Data readily counters this claim as support for LGBTQ issues has actually increased across the Christian board - we even see high support for anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people among Hispanic Catholics and Protestants. As PRRI notes …
Vast majorities of most major religious groups support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people and have increased their support since 2015, including nearly all Unitarian Universalists (97 percent) and about nine in ten other Catholics of color (87 percent), Buddhists (87 percent), and religiously unaffiliated Americans (87 percent). In addition, eight in ten or more Jewish Americans (85 percent), Hindus (85 percent), Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (84 percent), Hispanic Catholics (83 percent), white mainline Protestants (82 percent), white Catholics (80 percent), and members of other religions (80 percent) support nondiscrimination laws to protect LGBTQ people. About three in four Black Protestants (78 percent), other Protestants of color (75 percent), and Muslims (75 percent), as well as seven in ten Hispanic Protestants (71 percent) and two-thirds of Orthodox Christians (67 percent), support such protections. About six in ten white evangelical Protestants (61 percent) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (59 percent) support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people
Supporting the LGBTQ community isn’t driving voters away from the Democrats. Creating space for Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and Indigenous voters isn’t driving voters away from the Democrats. Ensuring the growing number of non-affiliated voters find voice in the Democratic party isn’t driving voters away from the Democratic party. There isn’t a battle for the soul of the Democrats. There is a battle for the soul of the nation. This battle is against white nationalists and extremists attempting to resurrect the Confederacy. The solution isn’t to abandon non-white people when they need protection most. The solution is to fully mobilize every single voter of color. The solution is to validate their concerns and help them fight back. The solution is to help them find a polling place, not a church. It we want to defeat the people that are destroying Democracy, we need to help people of color find a ballot box. The solution is not to suggest the Democrats need to find God. But, especially in this election, we do need to enter the fight for our nation to find and achieve full racial justice.