Political candidates scramble for African-American vote

A publicity shot used on the website of Tom Corbett (center, blue shirt), Pennsylvania's incumbent governor running for re-election. It has been found that the African-American woman (middle, immediately left of Corbett) was photo edited into the image. (www.TomCorbettForGovernor.com)
A publicity shot used on the website of Tom Corbett (center, blue shirt), Pennsylvania’s incumbent governor running for re-election. It has been found that the African-American woman (middle, immediately left of Corbett) was photo edited into the image. (www.TomCorbettForGovernor.com)

After decades of neglect, the need for the black vote has Republicans scrambling to get their demographics up this election cycle.

“Parties try to organize their campaign strategies around getting as many groups of potential voters as possible. Broadly speaking, I think the Republican Party has been internally battling how to figure out a plan moving forward, in terms of long-term strategy,” Benjamin Epstein, assistant professor in political science, said.

The race to attract the African-American vote can be seen nationwide as politicians extend their efforts by way of controversial advertisements and phony promises of reform. It was reported that southern states — North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia and Arkansas — have the highest African-American voter turnout, with enough power to make significant change this election. Though largely due to President Obama’s running for re-election, two-thirds of eligible African-Americans voted in 2012.

Congressman Paul Ryan, a Republican representing southern Wisconsin, introduced proposals in January to target poverty, crediting a new program implemented in the United Kingdom as an example of how it could be used in the United States. This comes in sharp contrast to his stance on poverty just one year before, when he led a GOP project to balance the budget over the next 10 years, which involved cuts to Medicaid and food stamps.

Thad Cochran, senator of Mississippi, was accused of buying the votes of African-American Democrats. Cochran, a Republican, allegedly hired Pastor Stevie Fielder to offer African-American voters $15 to support him. However, Cochran’s campaign confirmed they did pay Fielder $300, but it was for his organization of volunteers, part of their efforts to get out the vote.

Cliven Bundy, alongside Nevada congressional candidate Kamau Bakari, called out former Attorney General Eric Holder in an advertisement, saying things such as: “Political correctness, that’s bad for America, a man ought to be able to say whatever he wants to say,” and, “I know blacks folks have had (it) hard with slavery … (but) it’s almost like black people think white people owe them something.”

It has been said, long before the Obama campaign, that the Democrats took their loyal African-American voters for granted, which raises the question: What are the Democrats doing to keep the African-American vote?

“The Democratic vote and the black vote have almost become synonymous, with a nearly one-to-one correlation. In the next week, I think we will see more efforts to get out the vote, to maintain (black) voter percentages,” Epstein said.

In Louisiana’s 2002 and 2008 elections, Senator Mary Landrieu’s following comprised about 50 percent African-American voters. However, a new political advertisement from the campaign of Elbert Lee Guillory, a black Louisiana senator, revealed the reality in connection to Democrats and the black voter. In this short video, Guillory outlined all the promises made to the black community, and how every promise was broken — only to be revisited years later at a time of re-election.

“Take a look at the numbers of African-Americans in poverty. Take a look at black unemployment and under-employment … it has been a very difficult time. What Democratic Party leaders fear is that this will discourage black voting,” Bruce Evensen, director of DePaul’s graduate journalism program, said.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White expressed his concern about Bruce Rauner buying the African-American vote. Rauner, while on a campaign stop, donated $1 million of personal income to a Credit Union on Chicago’s South Side. White understood that African-Americans may be subjected to monetary bribes and may not be in financial positions to decline the illegal payments, but suggested they enter polling places and “vote right.”

Recent debates regarding the black community amid the Illinois candidates, Quinn and Rauner, have been centered on education, crime, jobs and taxes. Quinn repeatedly expressed his support of the Affordable Care Act and an increase in the minimum wage. Rauner supports increased school funding; however, it is unclear how he will carry that out with all the proposed tax cuts.

“Rauner isn’t particularly popular, but Quinn is one of the most unpopular governors we’ve had seeking re-election. That disapproval has given Rauner a chance to make his case that it’s time for a change,” Evensen said.