October 26, 2011


Decades ago, as a fuzzy-cheeked political science student, I read a riveting novel by Eugene Burdick titled the "Ninth Wave." The premise was that politics is guided, and voters are motivated, by two simple emotions: hate and fear.

The "Hate Principle," which has spurred revolutions throughout modern history, posits that people hate authority -- kings, presidents, dictators, generals, bosses, mayors, landlords, anybody and any entity that holds power. The French, American and Russian revolutions were driven by hate -- of the monarchy, colonialism and the czar. That's the thrust of Occupy Wall Street: Hate the banks, the corporations and all capitalists.

The "Fear Principle," which has quelled revolutionary ardor throughout history, posits that hate-inspired impulses abruptly cease when self-interest finally erupts. Behead the kings, seize the banks, socialize the country, but don't dare threaten my home, my job, my investments or my future. When a situation reels out of control, then the vox populi suddenly craves an authoritarian figure: Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Robespierre, Napoleon. Fear trumps hate.

That's the current political landscape in America. "Fear" is more prevalent that "hate," and after ousting the hated Bush Administration for the "change we need," a sizable number of non-revolutionary Americans have now concluded that Barack Obama is not an authoritarian figure, and perhaps not even a competent figure. If the 2012 election is guided by fear, not hate, then Obama loses.

Which leads to the subject of this column: Why do African Americans so adamantly refuse to vote Republican? Explanations focus on history, culture, habit and self-interest. Yet consider this:

Why, when crime against persons and property is highest in poor black neighborhoods, and gang activity is unabated, are blacks not more militantly for law and order? And for the right to carry a gun for self-defense? Instead, they generally "hate" the police, and they vote for black politicians more concerned with criminals' rights than victims' rights and who tout failed gun control laws as a panacea.

Why, when most black evangelical and charismatic churches celebrate the Bible, the Ten Commandments and the sanctity of marriage, and oppose abortion and gay rights, do culturally conservative blacks vote to elect Democratic politicians who believe the opposite?

 Why, when public schools in black communities are a failure, when children are ill educated, and an option of choice for charter schools is available, do parents vote for black Democrats who are subservient to the teachers' unions?

Why, when large segments of African Americans become upwardly mobile, get a well paying job, move to middle class suburbs, and pay considerable income and property taxes, do they persist in supporting black politicians who pander to the black underclass and advocate higher taxes to enable more spending for those who are the least ambitious and least productive and who, when spending is increased, remain in the underclass?

Why do black voters tolerate a political system where the stupid, the venal and the meek rise to prominence? For every Barack Obama and Toni Preckwinkle, there is a dolt like Todd Stroger. Democratic primaries, at least in Chicago and Cook County, choose the ultimate winner in black wards and townships, and the black Democratic bosses dictate that choice. Likewise in aldermanic elections. And all the winners are status quo, spend-more liberals.

In the black community, "diversity" has been perverted. It means more black faces in more public and private places, all of whom supposedly have a commitment to black empowerment and more black faces. But empowerment does not necessarily ensure betterment. Empowerment is cosmetic, presuming that the black experience is not unique, that every black American thinks alike, and that their universal goal is income redistribution from "rich whites" to "poor blacks." That means more government programs, set-asides, subsidies, handouts and benefits -- and more black dependency upon the continuation of that dole.

However, there is extensive cultural and economic diversity among black Americans. Fervent churchgoers, business entrepreneurs, ambitious home owners -- they all have more in common with the traditional Republican philosophy of thrift, self-help and cultural conservatism than with Democratic paternalism.

The preponderate black mindset, however, is on the redistribution of other peoples' wealth, not on the production of their own wealth. The goal is to exploit government opportunities -- public aid, food stamps, minority hiring -- rather than exploit personal financial opportunities. An entrepreneur like black Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, a millionaire business executive, is disdained as a traitor to race and class, while Jesse Jackson, who has curiously become wealthy while berating the white corporate establishment, is deemed a hero and a role model.

But it is fear that drives the black vote: Fear of a cutback in benefits or preferences. Fear of a loss of leverage if the coinage of "racism" becomes stale and irrelevant. Fear of a loss of government jobs, as so many black Chicagoans are working for the CTA, the Board of Education and government bureaucracies. When cuts in funding for social services are pondered, a phalanx of black providers get paranoid and fear a Republican resurgence.

Dissonance is neither appreciated nor tolerated. Racial political solidarity is obligatory. Blacks vote Democratic because they correctly perceive themselves a critical part of the Democratic coalition. As such, white Democratic politicians need their vote, will not upset the status quo, and will do their utmost to insure that the bulk of black residents remain dependent on the government.

 According to the latest census figures, African Americans are 12.2 percent of the population, and growth is static. However, in northern states like Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, blacks provide 30 to 40 percent of the Democratic primary vote, and in virtually every state south of the Mason-Dixon Line, black voters provide more than half of the Democratic primary vote.

Racial political solidarity has historical antecedents. Prior to the Civil War, and through the 1920s, more than 90 percent of America's black population was concentrated in the Deep South, primarily in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Southside Virginia, the descendants of slaves. In those states, the white population barely topped 30 percent. The white residents were suffused with fear. Absent poll taxes, one-party Democratic rule and black disenfranchisement and intimidation, every southern state would have been black-dominated -- if blacks could have voted.

A huge black exodus to northern industrialized urban areas began following World War I, and it accelerated in the Depression years of the 1930s. Initially, blacks were loyal to the party of "Father Abraham," which meant the Republican Party of Lincoln. The "Hate Principle" -- hatred of a segregated southern society controlled by racist white Democrats -- made blacks loyal Republicans, but they couldn't vote.

Even today, despite the exodus, blacks account for 33 percent of the population in Louisiana, 36 percent in Mississippi, 26 percent in Alabama, 29 percent in Georgia, 30 percent in South Carolina and 20 percent in Virginia. Given that voting strength, blacks dominate Democratic primaries, about 70 to 80 percent of whites vote Republican, and in the Deep South a new one-party system has emerged, based on fear. As in the past, white voters are fearful that a government run by blacks and liberals would be adverse to their interests.

By the 1940s, Franklin Roosevelt redirected the fealty of African Americans, with his "New Deal" creating a maze of benefits and buying their loyalty. Blacks became part of Democratic machines in Chicago, New York, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Boston, and a half-century later, all but Boston had, briefly, a black mayor.

As black loyalty to the Democrats surged beyond 95 percent, so, too, did the insistence of black politicians that the way to solve urban problems was to spend more money. Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" and "Model Cities" programs poured millions into the inner cities, and billions have been spent since.

One of the great ironies is that, if blacks had remained in the South, they would still be Republicans, and they would have population majorities in every state and dozens of senators and governors, and the Republicans would be the liberal, civil rights party.

In sum, fear compels black adhesion to the Democratic Party, as that affiliation affords them the power to protect their agenda from the hated Republicans.