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2014 MidTerm Elections: Democrats lose playing the race card

Written By | Nov 6, 2014

WASHINGTON, November 5, 2014 – Much time is being spent analyzing the results of the mid-term election. What, exactly, were the voters telling us? Clearly, they are unhappy with President Obama. In our system, the way to express dismay with the party in power is to vote for the other party. Republicans won unexpected victories in many Democratic strongholds, such as Maryland and Massachusetts.

For their part, many Democrats ran away from President Obama. The candidate for the Senate in Kentucky would not even tell voters if she voted for the President in the last election.

Exit polls, however, showed voter disapproval of both parties. Were they voting against Obama policies, such as his healthcare program, or were they voting against the government’s apparent inability to conduct its legitimate business properly, such as the poor treatment of veterans at VA hospitals, abuses at the IRS, the less than reliable response to Ebola by the CDC, and the Secret Service’s missteps at the White House and elsewhere?

And since Republicans spent most of their time telling us that the election was a referendum on President Obama’s performance, rather than advancing a program telling us exactly what they would do if elected, it remains less than clear what people were voting “for.”

One thing the Democrats spent a lot of time doing during the campaign was playing the “race card,” in a divisive and destructive manner, attempting to stir fear in black voters and draw them to the polls in larger numbers than the typical mid-term election usually does.

Voters of all races say more politicians play the “race card” in order to win elections rather than address actual race-related issues. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that 78 per cent of likely voters agreed that politicians “bring up race just to get elected,” while just 9 per cent said they do so in order to solve race-based issues. The remaining 13 per cent said they weren’t sure.

In North Carolina, Democrats sent out a mailer with a photo of a lynching and produced a radio ad attempting to link the Republican candidate, who was victorious, to the shooting death of black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

In the flyer, Republican candidate Thom Tillis was tied to the Trayvon Martin case because he backed a bill similar to Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defense legislation, though that law was never invoked at the trial of Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman,

In Maryland, the Democratic Party produced a flyer in support of Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, which boldly stated, “Vote for Anthony Brown as Maryland’s first African-American Governor. History is watching to see if we vote.” The mailer included images of a segregation-era sign for a “colored waiting room,” a “Must Show ID To Vote” sign and a black-and-white photograph of a white protestor in the 1960s holding a sign that reads: “Go Back to Africa Negroes.”

Another photograph in the pamphlet shows Donald Trump in front of a billboard that reads: “Where’s the birth certificate?” recalling Trump’s campaign to get President Obama to show his birth certificate. “They’ve placed roadblocks in our path at every turn,” it says. In the end, the Republicans won the Maryland gubernatorial race.

A mailer sent out by the Democratic Party of Georgia used images of Ferguson, Missouri, such as a photograph of two black children holding cardboard signs that each display two hand prints and the words “Don’t Shoot.” The caption read: “If You Want To Prevent Another Ferguson In Their Future…” On the next page, the word “VOTE” was written in large red letters over a photograph of a man kneeling in the street with his hands raised above his head, as he faced riot police. “It’s up to you to make change happen,” it said. Democratic candidates lost in Georgia.

According to The New York Times, “…Democrats in the closest Senate races across the South are turning to racially charged messages—invoking Trayvon Martin’s death, the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri and Jim Crow-era segregation—to jolt African-Americans into voting and stop a Republican takeover in Washington, The images and words they are using are striking for how overtly they play on fears of intimidation and repression. And their source is surprising. The effort is being led by national Democrats and their state party organizations—not, in most instances, by the shadowy and often untraceable political action committees that typically employ such provocative messages.”

Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican Party, who is black, says of the Democrats: “They have been playing on this nerve in the black community that if you even so much as look at a Republican, churches will start to burn, your civil rights will be taken away and young black men like Trayvon Martin will die. The reality of it is, the Democrats realize that their most loyal constituency is not as loyal as it once was.”

The same tactics were used in Arkansas, where Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor was up for re-election. Voters opened mailboxes to find leaflets with images of the Ferguson protests and the words:

“Enough! Republicans are targeting our kids, silencing our voices and even trying to impeach our president.” Senator Pryor was defeated.

Even the President was busy playing the “race card.” New Yirk Times columnist Charles Blow, who is black, notes that, “The President is now playing to…black folks in a last-ditch effort to help Democrats maintain Senate control…the President has been making direct appeals to this group on black radio stations around the country…It’s not clear whether President Obama can energize enough black voters to save Democratic control of the Senate, but he seems ever more reliant on this group to give him ‘the benefit if the doubt’ and ride to his rescue.”

As we now know, playing the “race card” did not work very well for the Democrats. Exit polls in Georgia suggested that the black share of the vote there (29 per cent) was lower than in the 2010 and 2012 elections, while in North Carolina (21 per cent) it was slightly up from the last midterm elections four years ago, but down from 2012, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Black voters, it seems, could not be scared into going to the polls to endorse the record of the Obama administration. Playing upon racial fears not only did not work but it exposes for all to see the cynical use of race by the Democrats in Washington.

They are eager to tar the Republicans with the sin of racism, but it is they who injected race into this election.

Trayvon Martin and Ferguson, Missouri had nothing whatever to do with Senate races in North Carolina, Georgia and Arkansas or the gubernatorial race in Maryland. Black voters understood this and seem to have hardly been influenced by this race-based campaign effort at all. It would be good for all of us if the “race card” finally disappeared from American politics. One would have thought that our first black President would understand this, but apparently he does not.

Allan C. Brownfeld

Received B.A. from the College of William and Mary, J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary, and M.A. from the University of Maryland. Served as a member of the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia and the University College of the University of Maryland. The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, he has written for such newspapers as The Houston Press, The Washington Evening Star, The Richmond Times Dispatch, and The Cincinnati Enquirer. His column appeared for many years in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in The Yale Review, The Texas Quarterly, Orbis, Modern Age, The Michigan Quarterly, The Commonweal and The Christian Century. His essays have been reprinted in a number of text books for university courses in Government and Politics. For many years, his column appeared several times a week in papers such as The Washington Times, The Phoenix Gazette and the Orange County Register. He served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, as Assistant to the research director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to members of the U.S. Congress and to the Vice President. He is the author of five books and currently serves as Contributing Editor of The St. Croix Review, Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and editor of Issues.