Perhaps the topic of this post is obvious to some people, but it is something I only realized rather recently. Here is the background.
Some months ago I read an article about why southern black voters tended to prefer Clinton over Bernie. Granted, this does not apply to the young generation of black voters, but it is true overall that southern black voters formed one of the more Clinton-centric voting demographics. This article suggested that a big part of the reason for this was that many southern blacks are religious and socially conservative, and went so far as to say that many of them would probably be Republicans, except that they feel the GOP is racist.
I don’t know how accurate this assessment is. I think it probably carries some truth, but it may not be the whole story. I think another reason for Sanders’ lack of popularity among certain minority groups was that unlike many liberals, he refused to pander or to single them out, preferring to focus on the fact that in many cases, the problems faced by minorities are the result of economic problems. (Yes, I realize that economic issues don’t cover things like unequal treatment by police, but that is only ONE issue).
However, regardless of whether this is an explanation for the lack of support for Sanders among southern blacks, it occurs to me that it is one of the factors which has led to the Democratic Party moving to the right.
Consider the following: for the past several decades, the Democrats have been viewed as by far the more pro-minority party. While many Republicans are not racist against minorities, people who are racist against minorities do tend to go to the Republican party, and in any case the public perception is that the Democrats do more for minorities. (I specify ‘racist against minorities’ here because Democrats do sometimes support racism against whites – for example, affirmative action; see my blogs on the University of Texas SCOTUS case for further discussion).
Now consider an ordinary voter picking a party. There are several cases where this single fact could make someone who otherwise fits the Republican party better decide to choose the Democrats. Perhaps they are a minority, and think the Republicans are too racist, so while they support GOP social and economic policy, they go Democrat anyway. Or perhaps they are not a minority, but due to being decent human beings, they dislike the perceived racism in the Republicans, and choose to go Democrat.
In fact, this is not just restricted to racism. The GOP opposition to abortion and gay marriage are other issues that could make an otherwise conservative person decide to go with the Democrats.
The unfortunate side effect of all this is that the Democrats end up with a contingent which does not share liberal positions on the economy, the environment, or almost any other issue. Their presence in the party is solely the result of a ‘I’m not racist/anti-choice/anti gay marriage.’ Predictably, this means they will vote for candidates who are essentially Republicans except for a few social issues. And that is precisely what we have seen recently.
I do not think this is the sole cause of the Democrats moving to the right. There are other complicated factors going on here. However, this is one factor which should be taken into consideration when thinking about the direction of the Democratic party.