Two Theories on the Black Vote

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom

Two Theories on the Black Vote

by Ari Armstrong, December 15, 2000

Black Americans voted overwhelmingly for Al Gore -- on the order of 90 percent. Why is that? Two distinct theories have been proposed.

The first theory is that blacks are disproportionately "net tax takers," so they voted for the guy who would give them more confiscated wealth. That theory is bunk. The vast majority of blacks are independent, hard-working, proud members of our communities.

Of course it's true that net tax takers are more likely to vote for the expansion of government programs, but that phenomonon is unrelated to race or ethnicity. And the greatest problem is not those on welfare, but the vast minions who work for the State. In Colorado, most who feed at the government trough are white, simply due to the ethnic make-up of the region, and I suspect they voted for Gore in droves. The fact that most bureaucrats live in the cities contributed slightly to Gore's success there.

Yet Reggie Rivers, the black talk show host on KHOW 630 AM, proposed the best theory I've heard: urban dwellers tend to have fewer prejudices simply by the fact that they are exposed daily to a diverse population (December 14). And let's face it: some Republicans harbor a variety of prejudices. Some Republicans bury their heads in the sand concerning such problems as racial profiling by the police. Some Republicans incite xenophobia toward our Southern neighbors. Some Republicans are openly hostile toward homosexuals. Even though I would argue statist Democratic policies harm minorities most of all, at least the Democrats are openly accepting of people different from themselves.

Rivers said he votes Democrat even though he agrees more with Republicans on economic issues. That sounds libertarian to me -- and Rivers even expressed sympathy with Harry Browne's platform when the Libertarian candidate spoke on the show. Rivers, a former professional athlete and successful radio personality, votes Democrat because he wants freedom. He's more afraid of the Republicans than of the Democrats.

I also caught Mike Rosen's show for a few minutes when a black caller said he voted Democrat because of civil rights issues. The caller said he made over $200,000 per year, putting him solidly in the "net tax giver" category.

But the good intentions of the Democrats don't stop their policies from harming the black community. High tax and regulatory burdens hurt blacks most of all. Government schools and the unionized teachers who vote Democratic are a primary cause for the continuing problems in some black communities. In short, Democrats prevent some black children from achieving a good education, prevent some black adults from gaining employment, and then graciously agree to write out welfare checks with other people's money. In Harry Browne's words, politicians break your legs, then tell you how great they are for providing you with a crutch.

It's unfortunate, then, that some black activists like Jesse Jackson spend so much of their time preaching for the Democratic Party.

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Though Jesse Jackson makes me furious sometimes, once in a while he does the right thing. For instance, when I worked in Washington, D.C. for a summer, both Jackson and I called for changes in federal sentencing policies. Federal drug sentences are much harsher for blacks, and that's unfair and deeply destructive. Now, I think Jackson is well-intentioned about wanting to check out voter irregularities in Florida. (I also think he's trying to use that issue in part to increase his influence within the Democratic party.) I agree that Bush should demand a complete investigation into the matter.

Michael Lynch argues in Reason Magazine, however, that the claim black voters were oppressed in Florida has yet to be substantiated (

The charge that police road blocks were set up to intimidate blacks is perhaps the most the most troubling one advanced, as it calls to mind a tradition of brutal, physical marginalization. However, Jackson's roadblocks in black precincts was actually a single roadblock two miles away from a polling place in the Woodville Baptist Church, where one-third of registered voters are black. While the press wasn't notified that it was going to be set up (as it should have been under police policy), it was part of a regular routine practiced by the Florida Highway Patrol. It is a very disturbing routine, but it had nothing to do with the election. According to APB News, due to lack of money for gas, the cops have quit driving around looking for motorists to tickets; instead they now just stay put and pick on unlucky drivers who happen to pass by, citing them for seatbelt, registration, insurance, and other violations. One hundred and fifty motorists were stopped on Election Day, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Twelve white drivers and six black drivers were cited. As for charges that blacks were interrogated by cops around polling places, this appears to be the result of a routine robbery investigation in Tampa.

Of course, it's possible that the sources behind Lynch's claims may be covering up some wrong-doing, but it's important not to jump to conclusions. Following an investigation, either Jackson should issue a retraction or criminal charges should be filed, depending on the evidence.

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It is my sincere hope that many more black people join the libertarian movement. We're fortunate to have numerous libertarian black leaders; however, libertarianism still attracts mostly white men. That's too bad. Black Americans are natural libertarians. Their ancestors suffered the opposite of libertarianism -- human bondage. I'm inspired by the passionate words of Frederick Douglass after his escape from slavery:

The flight was a bold and perilous one; but here I am... safe and sound... The dreams of my childhood and the purposes of my manhood were now fulfilled. A free state around me, and a free earth under my feet! What a moment this was to me! A whole year pressed into a single day. A new world burst upon my agitated vision... The thoughts -- "I can work! I can work for a living; I am not afraid of work; I have no Master... to rob me of my earnings" -- placed me in a state of independence, beyond seeking friendship or support of any man.

Today, blacks and whites alike are oppressed by power-hungry politicians. It is time to square shoulders side by side and push forward a new civil rights movement.

The Colorado Freedom