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Inside Politics

Women, minorities faithful to Democrats

Loyal voters don't go for one-night-stands or strange bedfellows

By Christy Oglesby

Day One features a spirited call to action.

Former President Clinton lauds Sen. John Kerry's bravery.

Jimmy Carter decries damage to U.S. credibility.

• Bill Clinton: Kerry 'true patriot'
• Jimmy Carter:  'Unilateral acts'
• Al Gore:  Lessons of 2000
CNN exit polls show what percentage of women, youth and minorities voted for Democratic and Republican candidates.
Day Two: Tuesday

• Theme: "A Lifetime of Service and Strength"

• 4 p.m. ET: Session opens

• 7 p.m. ET: Vote on party platform

• 7:25 p.m. ET: The Rev. Al Sharpton

• 8:15 p.m. ET: Sen. Ted Kennedy

• 9:30 p.m. ET: Barack Obama

• 10 p.m. ET: Ron Reagan

• 10:20 p.m. ET: Teresa Heinz Kerry
Will Bill Clinton's appearance at the Democratic Convention help or hurt John Kerry?
John F. Kerry
Minority Groups
Democratic Party
America Votes 2004

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Democrats vow to replace bad with better; make the poorer richer and provide medical coverage to help those in sickness move to health.

In return, do women, people of color and young Americans forsake all other parties, committing their votes to the Democrats above all others? They do. (Special Report: America Votes 2004, the Democratic convention)

Exit polls from the last three presidential elections show African-Americans, Latinos, women and under-30s consistently support Democratic presidential candidates.

Pre-election polls indicate they will do it again on November 2.

A survey from late last week by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation showed 59 percent of Latino respondents backing Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry and 31 percent supporting President Bush.

Those numbers are similar to exit poll numbers from 2000 when 62 percent of Latino voters cast ballots for Democratic candidate Al Gore.

That same data showed Gore getting 90 percent of the black vote and 54 percent of female voters. The numbers were similar for the 1996 and 1992 presidential elections.

Courting the vote

Leaders of women and minority advocacy groups say that's not because Democratic candidates whisper sweet-nothings from the stump.

A history of policy and programs created that Democratic devotion, they said.(Special Report: America Votes 2004, the issues)

"People see America through particular lenses, either their profession, their race or their gender," said Julian Bond, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation's oldest civil rights organization. "So the party that speaks to our racial perceptions and offers solutions to the racial difficulties which we face is the party that's going to be rewarded with our votes."

The Democratic Party's stance of supporting child-care, equal pay for equal work and raising the minimum wage rallies women and Latinos behind the party, said Olga Vives, a Cuban-American who is vice-president of the National Organization for Women.

Kerry "is the only one who has said the minimum wage should be raised," Vives said. "A woman makes approximately 76 cents out of every dollar a man makes in the same job. But for Latinos it's 55 cents on a dollar....Just because some Republican candidates go out there and speak a couple of words in Spanish is not enough."

NOW, a nonpartisan group, endorses candidates from any party, depending on the person's stance on issues relevant to women, Vives said. But "overwhelmingly we endorse more Democrats....The Republican Party has been hijacked by the extreme right-wing conservatives. We used to have a lot of friends who were moderate Republicans, but those are few and far between. I think they have muzzled them."

Republican roots

Similarly, Bond said the Democratic ticket wasn't always the choice for black people.

"I'm old enough to remember when the political parties competed for the votes of African-Americans, and I'm old enough to remember when most black people were Republicans," said Bond, 64. "The Republican Party was the party of Abraham Lincoln and could do no wrong."

The first two African-American U.S. Senators -- Hiram Revels in 1870 and Edward Brooke in 1967 -- were Republicans. The first black member of the U.S. House Joseph Rainey was a Republican, too.

But then African-Americans lost that loving feeling, and it was for the same reason enchantment dies in relationships. Someone changed.

In this case, it was the Republican Party, Bond said. And so, "the kind of affection that blacks had for the Republicans, they now have for the Democrats," he said.

There are no black U.S. senators, and the last one -- Carol Moseley Braun -- was a Democrat. All of the 38 African-American members of the U.S. House are Democrats.

However, in recent years, a number of aspiring black politicians have run as Republicans. But that isn't too unusual, Bond said.

"Traditionally in the modern period, about 10 percent of African-Americans are Republican, and they will vote for a Republican candidate every time," Bond said. "With this group of younger black people, if you are just starting, there's a long, long line in the Democratic Party to get to the front.

"If you join the Republican Party," Bond said, "you're going to be running for office very, very quickly."

Young blood

Whether black or white, it's the younger voter who has a wandering eye and whom both parties must attract and keep loyal.

An October 2003 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed 66 percent of 18 to 29-year-old respondents had a favorable opinion of Bush. But by the spring, a Harvard University Institute of Politics poll found Kerry leading Bush 48 percent to 38 percent, with independent Ralph Nader drawing 5 percent among the same groups.

Turnout among young voters in 2000 was 36 percent. But issues such as terrorism, rising tuition costs and a sluggish job market are likely to compel young voters to head to the polls, young political leaders said.

The group has wavered in its faithfulness, conceded Dan Geldon, executive director of College Democrats of America. But he believes young voters are now committed to Kerry.

"...The Bush administration is taking huge risks with their future," said Geldon, 25. "And that applies to a whole number of issues from social justice, to the environment to the deficit. Bush is racking up debts, and that's something the younger generation is going to have to pay for."

And like the votes of young people, Vives said, nothing is a guarantee. Minorities and women aren't governed by a stand-by-your-man -- or woman --mentality in political relationships, she said.

If Democrats "stopped articulating domestic issues that are important to women and minorities," Vives said, "people will go to the other side."

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