Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Imus, Harold Ford, Jr. and racism

I'm about sick of hearing Don Imus whine about "the only reason Harold Ford, Jr. lost the election in Tennessee." In case you haven't heard it, Imus believes the only reason Ford lost was due to racism. That is simply ridiculous. I'll give Ford great credit for being a gracious loser, but I seriously doubt that racism was the reason he lost and to suggest that it was the reason is absurd. Tennessee is a red state with a conservative Democrat governer. It has been a long time since this state elected a Democrat as a senator. I think the exit polls give a good indication of the lack of racism (at least among whites). Unfortunately, I cannot find an exit poll from the last senate race in Tennessee, so the last presidential race will have to do:


----------------------------------Corker -----------Ford, Jr.
White (85%) ----------------------59%-------------40%
African-American (13%)-----------4%-------------95%

VOTE BY RACE -----------------BUSH-----------KERRY
White (84%)-----------------------65%------------34%
African-American (13%)-----------9%------------91%

To ease the comparison, I left out the rather trivial numbers for Nader in 2004. So, what does this tell us? It's certainly not a perfect indicator of racism (or lack thereof), but it seems highly unlikely that racism is a factor when a substantial greater percentage of whites voted for Ford than voted for Kerry (40% vs 34%, a 17.6% increase). In other words 17.6% of whites shifted from a white Republican to a black Democrat. But take a look at the percentage of blacks that switched from a white Republican to a black Democrat. The number of blacks supporting a Republican dropped from 9% to 4% - a drop of more than 55%. Of course, nearly all blacks supported a Democrat in both elections, but the black support of Republicans dropped by a marked percentage. Using whites as a baseline, one would expect a slight shift by blacks to the Democrat Ford; instead, over half of blacks left the Republican candidate. Does that indicate racism or is it something else?

It could be that it indicates nothing. There could be other reasons why the portion of blacks voting for a Republican dropped so dramatically. It could have nothing to do with race. But to say that Ford lost because of racism is simply idiotic and has no basis in fact. I'm no Pollyanna and I am sure that some whites voted against Ford because of his race. Did it cost him the election? It's doubtful, but it is we will ever know for sure. The statistic that looms large is the huge shift in the black vote away from the Republican candidate. Does this indicate that the Republican party has lost what few black votes that it had? Does it demonstrate that the black voters were acting in a racist fashion by voting for someone solely because of his race?

One might get a better idea by looking at the shift in black voters in other states. I have only had time to check one of them - Virginia. In Virginia, the same analysis reveals a 20% drop in Republican support by blacks (using the Webb/Allen race). Why 20% there and 55% here? Of course, we are talking about different candidates so there is somewhat of an apples to oranges comparison. Still, there may be a trend here. Maybe Tennessee blacks are trendsetters. Or maybe something else is going in Tennessee.


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