Sunday, August 31, 2014

Control of the U.S. Senate: Is black turnout the key?

Posted By on Sun, Aug 31, 2014 at 6:55 AM

MOBILIZING BLACK VOTERS: Rep. John Lewis, shown at a recent appearance in Arkansas, is urging blacks to vote to continue Democratic Senate control. He praised Sen. Mark Pryor effusively at this appearance at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.
  • MOBILIZING BLACK VOTERS: Rep. John Lewis, shown at a recent appearance in Arkansas, is urging blacks to vote to continue Democratic Senate control. He praised Sen. Mark Pryor effusively at this appearance at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times
writes on a theme already so well-worn in Arkansas it's almost cliched — continuing Democratic control of the U.S. Senate depends on black voter turnout in states like Arkansas.

The nearly palpable contempt for the black president, Barack Obama, is one motivating factor. Another is anger over police treatment of black people, newly stimulated by the shooting in Ferguson, Mo.

“Ferguson has made it crystal clear to the African-American community and others that we’ve got to go to the polls,” said Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia and a civil-rights leader. “You participate and vote, and you can have some control over what happens to your child and your country.”

...Mr. Lewis is headlining efforts to mobilize black voters in several states with competitive Senate races, including Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina. The drive is being organized by the Congressional Black Caucus, in coordination with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Other steps, such as recruiting N.B.A. players to help register more African-Americans, are also underway.

GOTV efforts in the past have had mixed success, particularly in non-presidential years. Arkansas is problematic for Democrats because it has a smaller percentage of black voters to start with than other Southern states. It would be remarkable — and probably mean a strong Democratic showing — if 13 percent of the electorate was made up of black voters in November.

Martin notes that it's a tricky thing for senators like Mark Pryor — to encourage black voters while distancing himself from the deeply unpopular president. The low state of the Republican Party — seen as extreme and obstructionist — is seen as a plus for Democrats. This may not be true in behind-the-curve Arkansas.

PS — It's probably worth mentioning that an active push for black voters could well stir white resentment. White weariness over Ferguson, Mo., mentioned here today by Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, is welll evident  Evient, too, he writes is white cluelessness about the raw facts of blacks' condition in the U.S.

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