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Morning Jay: Why Herman Cain Could Be a Game Changer

6:00 AM, Sep 30, 2011 • By JAY COST
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I'd also say that in many respects this state of affairs is bad for African Americans, because it limits the power of the black vote itself. As political scientist E. E. Schattschneider wrote: “the political parties created democracy and…modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of the parties. As a matter of fact, the condition of the parties is the best possible evidence of the nature of any regime.” Unfortunately, African Americans do not enjoy robust two party competition for their votes, and accordingly their interests are often poorly served, as the only way they can leverage their numbers is through the Democratic party, and more particularly the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Because the CBC made the decision some time ago to unite with the liberal-labor alliance, a lot of black interests are just plain overlooked.

For instance, school choice would essentially be a transfer of resources and power directly to poor black families, who would be major beneficiaries of such a program. However, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers would be losers in the deal, so it is a non-starter on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Additionally, liberal immigration policies do not hurt educated whites, whose skills basically price them out of competition with most immigrants. If anything, upper income whites are helped because a glut of workers enables companies to keep costs, and therefore prices, down. Instead, African American workers – who often find themselves in competition with immigrants – would be harmed. But the Democratic party as a whole would be helped thanks to a flood of new immigrant voters, so it unabashedly advocates loose policies.

And then of course there are the cultural issues, above all abortion. Consider this revealing comment from former representative Louis Stokes, who represented a majority black district in Cleveland for thirty years (taken from Going Home by Richard F. Fenno):

On abortion, I can take the most extreme position and my (black) constituents won’t say a thing. I know that there are black people in the churches who disagree with me on late-term abortion. But they don’t criticize me, because they know that I’m helping them on everything else.

White pro-lifers do not have to make such compromises, because the two parties actively compete for their support. If a Republican in South Dakota earned a 5/100 score from the National Right to Life Committee (which is what Stokes earned in the 105th Congress), you can bet your bottom dollar that he’d get a stiff challenge from a pro-life Democrat. And this just goes to show that white people take for granted the idea that their representatives will reflect the majority opinion of their community, but abortion is one very good example of how African Americans do not enjoy that luxury in all cases.

And the reason? There is no Republican competition. All black political battles are fought exclusively in the Democratic party, which means they are regularly not resolved at the ballot box – but in closed door sessions of the local party committee or informal alliances in Congress. That's where black interests often have to take a back-seat to the interests of labor, environmentalists, immigration advocates, and so on -- even among those elected to represent African Americans! If, on the other hand, black members of Congress were at least a little concerned about a Republican challenge, there is no way they would ever think about stepping out of line with their constituents on abortion. And I’d bet dollars to donuts that you’d see plenty more supporters for school choice in Congress.

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