A consistent Beltway media assumption following the President’s comments of personal support for marriage equality is that he risks black votes.
Washington Post columnist Chris Cillizza, for example, wrote that the reason he thought why the President was hesitant was because of a fear that black voters would shun him.
However, there is no evidence for this anticipated electoral impact among black voters. In fact, there’s strong evidence for zero impact.
The media has cited a supposed 2-1 against vote by African Americans in North Carolina for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. However, there appears to be no evidence for this figure, even though it has been widely quoted.
Following the vote on Proposition 8 in California in 2008, which also banned gay marriage, much was made of the supposed gulf in voting between blacks and other ethnic groups. Black support was widely reported as 70%, however, this has subsequently been revised down to 58% — only 9% greater than white support. Black opponents of Prop 8, infuriated by comments from people like Dan Savage blaming African Americans for the passage of Prop 8, pointed to an absence of efforts by Prop 8 opponents within the black community — a lesson which has evidently been learned by those working for marriage equality in Maryland.
Nationally, opposition to marriage equality is now only 55% among African Americans, and like with every other group, it is dropping.
No matter how African Americans vote in such referanda though, speaking to Lawrence O’Donell on MSNBC, Keith Boykin, BET TV host and a former White House aide to President Clinton, pointed out that no African American official has ever lost African American support because of their views on marriage equality.
Said Boykin, just like with other black elected officials, there is “no way the African American community is going to abandon the President” in November.
The standard Beltway assumption also seems to forget the the Obama administration has already taken actions in support of lesbian and gay couples such as refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the courts. The religious right, which includes many African Americans, did not somehow miss the news, yet Obama’s polling numbers among African Americans has not gone down.
There was actually polling done after the change of policy on DOMA — it showed absolutely no erosion of support among African Americans, and no one planning to stay home in November, another part of Beltway-received wisdom.
Writing for Politic365, Jason Johnson, professor of Political Science at Hiram College, points out that:
“Any minority voter who is that driven by a social issue like gay marriage wouldn’t vote for any Democrat, let alone Obama.”
Aisha Moodie-Mills, an advisor for CAP’s LGBT Progress team, tells The Grio:
“It’s really quite ridiculous to believe that black folks would stay home and not vote for the first black president over gay marriage. It’s just ludicrous! No megachurch pastor, as bigoted as he may be, has the power to persuade a whole congregation of black folks to turn against this president.”
Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post spoke with Rev. Al Sharpton, who pointed out that he publicly supported same-sex marriage during his 2004 campaign for the Democratic Party nomination for president.
“I was preaching in black churches and didn’t have one cancellation because of it,” Sharpton said, even though there were ministers and parishioners who disagreed with him.
What the Beltway is buying into, says Sam Fulwood III, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Director of the CAP Leadership Institute, is a conservative divide-and-conquer strategy — one which was revealed in part by the disclosure of internal strategy documents earlier this year from the National Organisation for Marriage (NOM). He writes:
The conservative strategy is to drive a wedge between African-American voters and gay and lesbian voters, making it appear that the president must choose between favoring one group and offending the other.
But it won’t work. Black voters will be enthusiastic and fully supportive of the president. Gay and lesbian voters, too. Why am I so sure? Well, it’s the nature of politics. At some points along the way, even the most favored politician will make decisions or behave in ways that even ardent supporters dislike.
When it becomes clear that Obama’s change in position doesn’t erode black support, it’s possible the myth of black homophobia being higher than other groups diminishes. When it all shakes out, it’s possible we all end up on the side of equality and justice standing with our president.
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