Every major political party adopts a set of government programs. These programs contain details about how their candidates intend to run the affairs of the government once elected. Nowadays political parties say very little about their ideologies and principles on a particular issue but they give more emphasis on their proposed solutions to problems that concern the voters.
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It is these programs of government that the voters use as the basis for choosing a candidate or political party. Voters tend to identify themselves with these programs and the political parties not only attract their attention but also their loyalty. Political parties often rely on these platforms to win elections and to appeal to a number of voters including the minorities.
These platforms of government may involve passage of laws that will help generate more jobs, or ensure equality between the blacks and whites or protect civil rights. It is these programs of government that the Democratic Party used to attract its voters, particularly African Americans. Though historically speaking, the African Americans favored the Republican Party over the Democratic Party certain events in our history have caused the African American voters to shift their allegiance from Republicans to the Democrats. The African Americans who once identified themselves as the Republicans decided that the Democrats can serve them better and can give them better protection for their rights and can promote their ideals and aspirations as a race. Indeed they thought that though the Democratic Party may not be perfect, considering its track record it is still the best vehicle for Black political participation, representation, and empowerment. (Donna Brazile, 2006)
This Research Paper aims to search and explain the possible reasons why the African Americans developed a habit of voting in favor of the Republicans during the early part of 19th Century. This research paper will also find out and explain why there was a change in the habit and shift of loyalty on the part of African-American voters from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. This research paper also aims to find out whether in the near future the Democrats will continue to maintain the allegiance and win the support of the African American voters.
History will show that as a race, the African Americans were discriminated against by the whites. The whites were infatuated with the idea of their racial superiority over the African Americans. Because of these ideas of superiority, there was nothing unusual about the white employees being preferred over the blacks. They were denied the right to vote. Slavery was tolerated as a social practice. In fact, in those times the social status of a person was measured in terms of the number of African American slaves he had. The more slaves he had the higher his social status was.
There was nothing extraordinary about the passage of laws providing for the separation of the blacks and whites in the use of public facilities. In the landmark ruling in Plessy v. Fergusson, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the constitutionality of a law that required segregation of blacks and whites in the use of public utilities. It declared that so long as each race was given its own facilities then there is no discrimination pursuant to the Separate but Equal doctrine. The society’s toleration for discrimination was affirmed by Anthony J. Badger in “Different Perspective on the Civil Rights Movement, to wit:
In 1984 Jimmy Carter reflected on growing up in the segregated South. He recalled that as a young child, he, like many white children, had had an African American child as his closest friend. The two children spent all their play time together. One day they traveled on the train from Plains to Americus. Carter went into one compartment; his young friend went into another. What struck Carter in retrospect was not that the facilities had been segregated, but that, at the time, he had not thought anything about it.
Anthony J. Badger
It was because of this situation that the African Americans felt that they needed assistance from the government. They needed someone that will represent their interest in the government. They wanted candidates who are willing to make the necessary changes in the government and who are willing to fight and protect their rights. The Republican Party filled this important shoe for them. It was considered as the champion of the African Americans. Since the later part of the 19th Century until the early part of the 20th Century, the Republican Party earned their solid vote. It was because of their solid support that they won in the elections. It is stated that between 1860 and 1912, Republicans won every presidential election except for two. Northerners overwhelmingly supported the Republican Party. In the South, a majority of African Americans supported the Republican Party, while only a small percentage of whites did so.” (“Republican Party”)
The Republican Party earned the loyalty of the African Americans not only because of the significant efforts they made in giving the African Americans equal rights but because of the perception of a large number of African Americans that the Democrats were anti-African Americans. Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, was considered as the Great Emancipator. He passed several laws that aimed to fight for the rights of the African American. The Republicans were also responsible for the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. During the term of Ulysses Grant, another Republican, the Fifteenth Amendment was also ratified which granted the right to vote to every male citizen regardless of his age, race, color or previous condition of servitude. It is because of these laws passed by the Republicans that they earned the loyalty of African Americans. It is because of these reasons that the African Americans developed a habit of voting in favor of the Republican Party.
On the other hand, the perception of the African Americans toward the Democrats during those times was that they were anti-African Americans. They tolerated slavery and wanted to retain it. They were also perceived to be responsible for the passage of several Jim Crow Laws. One example of Jim Crow Law is the law passed in Texas which required the separation in the use of public facilities between the white and the black.
In the middle part of the 20th Century, the relationship between the Republican Party and the African Americans, however, turned sour. The Great Depression which struck the nation had more serious effects for the African Americans. They lost their jobs and had nothing to feed their family. They blamed the past Republican Presidents who did nothing to provide a solution to their economic problems. They felt that the government failed to address their needs quickly and efficiently. The habit in favor of the Republican Party was lost and the African Americans wanted to look for better alternatives.
On the other hand, a Democratic candidate, Franklin D. Roosevelt was very active in trying to find a solution to the Great Depression. Because of his efforts, he won a landslide victory in the 1932 presidential elections. He was also the only person to be elected four times to the presidency. Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted major reforms in the treatment of African Americans. He came up with massive programs, such as the New Deal, which helped the African Americans cope with the economic crisis they experienced. He focused on relief of unemployment and rural distress, recovery of the economy and the long-term structural reforms to prevent a repetition of the Depression. (“Democratic Party”)
Between 1932 and 1980, the Republicans won only four presidential elections and enjoyed a majority in the United States Congress for only four years. (“Republican Party”). During his first few days as American President, Roosevelt passed the following laws, the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) that included the Public Works Administration (PWA), and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA). Although these laws had nothing to do with the civil rights of African Americans and had no connection with furthering their interests, these legislations earned the support of the African Americans because the president sought to ensure that the every American including the African Americans received the aid from the government. (Sue Pennington) Efforts were made to ensure that there was no discrimination in the distribution of assistance and that everyone had their fair share regardless of their color. This intention to ensure that the programs are implemented fairly represented a drastic change for the African Americans. For the first time, there was a Democrat who treated them equally and fairly. This signaled the beginning of the shift of allegiance of the African Americans from Republican to the Democratic Party.
In addition, despite the perceptions against the Democrats, Franklin Roosevelt endeared himself to the African Americans not only because of his programs but also because of his treatment and attitude toward the African Americans. He, together with his wife, were often publicly seen and photographed with African-Americans. (Sue Pennington) This was rather unusual considering that the no president before him had done the same. He also appointed more African American to high federal positions. He also created the first Black Cabinet which served as the advisor of Roosevelt in the implementation of his programs and policies.
The Black Cabinet had two major tasks:
Aside from the programs and policies of Democrats, there were controversies involving Republicans which contributed to the strained relationship between the Republicans and the African Americans.The Republican Richard Nixon hurt the image of his political party by becoming involved in the Watergate Scandal. Nixon denied his involvement in the scandal but when faced with impeachment, he was forced to resign.
In politics, there are no permanent friends or no permanent enemies but only permanent interest. This may be a cliche but this captures the reality of American politics and any other politics in the world. The loyalty of the voters will remain in one candidate or political party so long as these candidates and political parties continue to listen to them and protect their interest. If the candidate or political party gets tired of taking care of his voters and stops protecting their interest by prioritizing his own interest, the voters will start looking for other alternatives. The voters will continue to check the programs of the government of every political party or candidate. The same thing happened with the Republican Party when they lost the support and loyalty of the African Americans. The same thing might happen to the Democrats if they get tired of protecting the interest of the African Americans.
The statistics prove that political support and allegiance is like a pendulum which could swing in another direction in such a short time. In a study conducted by the National Opinion Poll, they found out that 63% of African American adults identified themselves as Democrats compared to 74% in 2000. Also, in 2000, only 4% of African-Americans identified themselves as Republicans, but 10% did in 2002. (Cliff Hocker, 2003)
However, I believe that the Democrats will in the near future continue to get the support of the African Americans. Firstly, it continues to fight for the interest of African Americans and to promote equality for all races. Secondly, the African Americans themselves have witnessed that under the leadership of the Democratic Party, it has helped in the emergence of a black middle class and in the significant reduction in the economic and health gaps between the white and the black.
Both the Democrats and the Republicans may talk about equality but it is only the Democrats who in practice have truly valued equality. Consider the forty-threeAfrican Americans who are members of Congress. (Donna Brazile) They are also Democrats. The only African Woman in Senate is also a Democrat. (Matt Lardie) Further, the Democrats have shown that they are willing to place African Americans in leadership positions not only within the party but within the government itself. It is predicted that once the Democrats regained the majority in the House of Representatives, an African American will chair the Judiciary Committee which will oversee the judicial branch of government and will handle the criminal and civil proceedings, constitutions, enforcement of laws, and warrantless arrests and searches. This could help end the violations of the civil rights and liberties of their fellow African American which continues to happen until now. If Democrats will get the majority in the House of Representative, it is also possible that an African American will lead the House Ways and Means Committee which has control over medicare, unemployment, benefits, welfare, foster care, and adoption. These important political positions will help change the lives of most African Americans.
Indeed, it is only the Democratic Party who truly espoused the ideals of democracy, equality, and respect for human rights. They helped gave the African Americans a voice in shaping the course of our nation. With these, then there is no reason to change allegiance in the near future.
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