Blacks mostly voted Republican from after the Civil War and through the early part of the 20th century. That’s not surprising when one considers that Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president, and the white, segregationist politicians who governed Southern states in those days were Democrats....
The election of Roosevelt in 1932 marked the beginning of a change. He got 71 percent of the black vote for president in 1936 and did nearly that well in the next two elections, according to historical figures kept by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies....
It wasn’t until Harry Truman garnered 77 percent of the black vote in 1948 that a majority of blacks reported that they thought of themselves as Democrats. Earlier that year Truman had issued an order desegregating the armed services and an executive order setting up regulations against racial bias in federal employment.
Even after that, Republican nominees continued to get a large slice of the black vote for several elections. Dwight D. Eisenhower got 39 percent in 1956, and Richard Nixon got 32 percent in his narrow loss to John F. Kennedy in 1960.
But then President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed through the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 (outlawing segregation in public places) and his eventual Republican opponent, Sen. Barry Goldwater, opposed it. Johnson got 94 percent of the black vote that year, still a record for any presidential election.
The black vote has been with the Dems from that point on. But we often see the black vote as entirely tied to their economic interests. A high number blacks are poor, and so it makes perfect sense for them as a group to vote for leaders who promise social support and economic opportunities. But I think this view is much too simple. I think something deeper is at work here. Humans are more than economic animals. And besides, most of the promises made by these leaders are broken without fail. So, why this near-universal support for Democratic candidates?
I think we need to turn to Monica Lewinsky. You know the story: Yes, Bill Clinton, a married man, had a sexual encounter with a much younger woman. Yes, it was a big scandal and all. Yes, he did lie under oath about the nature of his relationship with Lewinsky. So, why did black support for Clinton remain so strong (and in some cases even increase) during this incredibly low moment of his presidency? Is it because blacks expected something in return? More economic opportunities? Less police oppression? Not a chance. This was, after all, the man who gutted welfare as they knew it. The support had nothing to do with economics and every thing to do with the American love for throwing stones.
White Americans, particularly those on the right of the political spectrum, love to throw stones (in the Biblical sense). They throw them at women, at illegal immigrants, at the young, at gays, at any one who is seen as morally inferior. And it is here we get to the heart of the matter: moral inferiority/moral superiority. Black Americans have long been exposed to white American double standards: one side, there has been all of this talk about American greatness, American freedoms, American probity; and the other side, there are the stark facts of whole populations being confined in slums, millions living with little, and the institutionalization of oppression. White American sense of moral superiority is simply empty to black Americans. And so, to attack Bill Clinton on the basis of standing on a much higher moral ground, which is what the GOP did during the Lewinsky scandal (throw so many stones), is something that's not going to go well with black Americans. What makes you think you are a better person? Because you have a bigger house? A bigger church? You think God is good to you only?
When Romney accuses Obama of not loving America enough, of apologizing for America, of being a stranger to its core values, meaning not feeling a true sense of American moral superiority, we can deeper understand why blacks will universally support Obama. What blacks see daily is the very sham that is called the moral majority.