Commentary: Blacks Lose Political Power in the South

With Republicans in the saddle, it’s easier to marginalize African-American politicians. Is this a case for more Blacks to join the GOP?

Posted: 11/21/2011 04:40 PM EST

It’s well known that African-Americans are generally not members of the Republican Party. For starters, the GOP has, for decades now, intentionally driven Blacks away from Republicanism in an effort to court racist whites. Beyond that, the Republican Party has time and again made it its business to enact policies that negatively and disproportionately impact the Black community. The result has been that Blacks who are politically active are overwhelmingly Democrats, which has worked just fine for a while. But then came the most recent shakeups in legislative power dynamics.

Following America’s shift rightward in the 2010 elections, a lot of Democratic lawmakers were left lacking the power they’d enjoyed in previous years. We can see evidence of that in the stubborn resistance President Obama has experienced when he tries to coax Congressional Republicans to join him in forging bipartisan solutions. But it’s hurting Democrats in state legislatures as well.

According to a new report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Blacks in the South now have less power than they have had at any time since the civil rights movement, largely because there are virtually no Black Republicans in Southern politics.

 

Reports the Associated Press:

"That's one of the costs of putting all your political capital in a single party," said Emory University professor Merle Black, who is currently researching the rise of the Republican Party in the South. "When the Democrats were in power, there was a period there when Black lawmakers were very influential."

That era is over, at least for now, Black said.

It’s something to keep in mind as more African-Americans look to follow the career footsteps of Obama. Lots of Black Democrats is great for the Democratic Party, which loves having a solid ethnic voting bloc. But it’s not necessarily good for the Black community, which becomes beholden to the policy whims of white Republicans when the GOP is in power. This isn’t to say that all Blacks should be following the lead of Herman Cain, the world’s most famous Black Republican at the moment. But it is to say that Cain might have been something special had he not been so foolish: A Black Republican who could have fought for Black rights from within the GOP machine. Now it looks like that won’t happen anytime soon, and not just in the South.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

(Photo: Creative Commons via Flickr.com/KenLund)

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