How Republicans Lost the Black Vote to the Democrats

How Republicans Lost the Black Vote to Democrats

A hundred years ago, if you asked a group black people about their political party affiliation, you would have heard they were overwhelmingly Republican.

In the years after the Civil War, the party of Lincoln was home to the black vote and it stayed that way until 1936.

What changed in 1936 that led to blacks voting for President Franklin Roosevelt (D) in his second term?

Franklin Roosevelt Helps Move the Black Vote Away From Republicans

In 1932, America was experiencing the Great Depression. Nearly a quarter of the people were out of work, inflation was high, hundreds of thousands of homes and farms had been foreclosed on. It was a difficult time in America for everyone, but even harder for most blacks.

Roosevelt lost the overwhelming majority of black voters in 1932.

The Election of 1936 Changed Everything

In 1936, Roosevelt earned 78% of the black vote.

Why did black voters shift so convincingly so quickly from Republicans?

There are three dominate reasons:

  1. Black voters grew tired of being taken advantage of by Republicans. They expressed that Republicans only seemed interested in their votes, but not their dreams, goals or aspirations.
  2. FDR’s New Deal created specific policies and programs that had a profound impact on their lives.
  3. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was actively speaking out about civil rights issues.

The year 1936 was a pivotal moment in party politics. But it wasn’t the end of the shift.

The 1960s Is the Final Break

In the early 1960s, Democrats enjoyed a wide margin of the black vote. Two-thirds of African Americans were registered with the Democratic party. And while this sounds sizeable, today Democrats enjoy 90% or more of the Democratic vote.

The final break that drove blacks away from the Republican party was Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater and the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by President Lyndon Johnson.

Goldwater is the modern standard-bearer for conservatism. He believed strongly in the limited size and scope of government. His programs and policies would undercut the social programs given under the New Deal in the 1930s. They believed that Goldwater’s view of small government would impact their finances negatively. More profoundly, he believed the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional.

Almost universally, black voters moved to the Democratic party in the 1960s and have stayed ever since.

Is Today Looking Like 1936 All Over?

Today, there’s a vocal group of black leaders who are asking if the Democratic Party is taking advantage of them for votes, much like Republicans did in 1936.

In a new study by Gen Forward, one-third of young blacks between 18-36 say Democrats don’t care about them.

In 2020, President Trump is again courting the black vote. Two recent polls, Rasmussen and Emerson, show that Trump has 34% support in the African-American Community. This is a very large number for a Republican president. If Trump can garner 18% of the black vote, he will win re-election and leave the Democrats to wonder what went wrong, again. If 25% to 34% of blacks vote for Trump, it will be devastating for the Democratic party.

Is it possible that Republicans will reverse the trend of 1936 and that black voters will come back home to the party of Lincoln?

By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor

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