Kenneth Cooper Columnist Think 504.com
Black people don’t be about voting. Yeah, I know, that’s a statement covered in blankets. But the numbers don’t lie, at least here in Louisiana. Pick a parish and peep at the last big race like the governor’s election. Time after time you’ll see White people outperforming Black people at the polls, even in those parishes where Black people have an overwhelming advantage when it comes to qualified voters.
In Orleans, Black people hold a 54% to 37% advantage when it comes to qualified voters. And yet, for a major race like the governor’s race, with a Black man on the ballot no less, only 25% of those voters showed up compared to 33% for Whites. That is a waste of political power. And it’s the type of apathy that could be one of the reasons why soon-to-be-governor Landry feels emboldened enough to set up a crime committee in Orleans Parish with minimal engagement of Black people.
Ride upriver to St. John Parish, where Black people hold a whopping 61% to 34% advantage, and the numbers get worse. Only 36% of qualified voters bothered to show up for the governor’s election, compared to 41% of Whites.
In East Baton Rouge where the numbers are almost even – 49% for Whites, 44% for Blacks – the gap was even wider. Only 30% of qualified Black voters actually voted, while 42% of Whites did.
The same scenario played out in Caddo. Despite a 48% – 47% split in qualified voters, only 25% of Blacks showed up. Whites showed up at 37%.
One of the first things that jumps out from those stats is that voter apathy is a problem in this state for both races, but more pronounced among Blacks. And that leads to the forever asked question of why. Why are so many Black people, who should have all the motivation necessary to vote, not voting?
Like most questions that involve getting into the heads of a mass amount of people, there can be no definite answer. But there are factors that traditionally coincide with low voter turnout. And in Louisiana, those factors are still prevalent among Black people.
Poverty is the first one that jumps off the list. Poor people and voting don’t mix. And Louisiana has perpetually been one of the poorest states in the country. Poverty has been spread out among Black people disproportionately. Black people make up 33% of the overall population compared to 62% for Whites. But Whites
This has been a generational issue. While some people inherit wealth, there have been generations of Black people inheriting poverty. Louisiana constantly ranks in the bottom among states when it comes to income and income inequality. Mainly because citizens, especially Black ones, are trapped in low paying jobs with not much room for advancement. Could this systematic exploitation be one the reasons for systematic disenchantment when it comes to voting for Black people? Historical trends say so.
Another factor has been the candidates themselves. Outside of presidential elections, there’s one thing that has been shown to get people to the polls. And that is stars. Candidates with star power. Jeff Landry rode Trump’s star power to a big lead in the governor’s race and never looked back. For Black voters, there wasn’t a star on the horizon.
The old school focus on policies as the driving force to get people to the polls is giving way to the politics of personality. Not to say that policies don’t matter. It’s to say that personality is factoring in more and more. In Louisiana it doesn’t help that the State Democratic Party has been non-existent, and that the Republican Party has devolved into Trump clones. Could it be that Black voters look out at the electorate and see more value in just staying home with their phones?
Most likely, we’ll get no definite answers soon. The next major election will be the presidential election, which as mentioned earlier tends to bring the voters out. Last election, Black people voted at 63% and Whites at 74%.
But going forward, Black people are setting themselves up to be an untapped majority. With the Black population rising to 33%, the State Democratic Party should be making a push to attract their attention. Maybe they can start with the three P’s that have been traditional hindrances – poverty, personality, and policies.