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The swaying of the black vote


1996 might see a change in how African-Americans vote

October 16, 1995
Web posted at 10:55 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Bruce Morton

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- One of the things all the African- American men represent, of course, are votes. "If we have a million men here, we can turn out a million votes," said marcher Robert Williams.

But where would those votes go? In the 1930s Franklin Roosevelt was a hero to blacks, but later, liberal Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller would get a sizable share, 30 or 35 percent of the black vote. That changed beginning in 1964 when conservatives nominated Barry Goldwater and the GOP sought white votes in the West and South.

"Since 1964, the black vote for Democratic presidential candidates has only very, very infrequently slipped below 90 percent," said political analyst Milton Morris. Lewis

"I think there is a deliberate attempt on the part of the Grand Old Party, the Republican party, to court the white vote," said Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia.

Blacks were Democrats, but many came to feel trapped without real options. Morris

"There is this quadrennial hand-wringing exercise that blacks go through, being taken for granted by the Democratic party and being, for all practical purposes, excluded from the Republican party," said Morris.

Taken for granted by the Democrats? Well, maybe said Michael Barone, of U.S. News & World Report. "One problem for blacks to establish political leverage is that, when any group is sort of totally for one party and against the other in a two party system, it reduces their leverage,"

"A growing sense of, I'm going to call it despair, in large parts of the population, a sense if futility, a sense of hopelessness," said Morris.

Where will these voters go now? Some think the radical Republican agenda will make blacks eager Democrats again. "People are being energized," said Lewis, "people are afraid of what the Republican party is doing in Washington."

But others see a widening gap between the races, regardless of parties. "Black voters have a lot of the same concerns that white voters have, but I think at the moment, we see different solutions," said Barone.

On crime, for instance, blacks are more likely to support efforts at prevention, while whites want more prisons. Barone sees a trend toward separatism. "I don't think that's the long-term trend in American life, hasn't been for other groups, won't be over the long run. But I think in the short run, black Americans and non-black Americans are looking at the same country and seeing quite different countries."

One man who might shake that trend is Colin Powell, who isn't, so far, running for anything.

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