I have found it highly important to stress the importance of historical markers vis-à-vis racial constructs and voting in my United States History courses. Often time, people are perplexed by the significance of Obama being elected. And, folks are even more perplexed over the matter of race. The latter point greatly confuses me. As noted in the post-circa American Civil War picture above, president Grant led Congress to debate the issue of black suffrage, raising the question of the vote for women. The controversy over the Fifteenth Amendment split the women’s movement; it passed, but did not assure black suffrage and left the issue of suffrage in the hands of the states.
Paradoxically speaking, the Fourteenth Amendment should have secured the black vote; however, due to the use of black codes, Congress quickly moved to adding the 15th. Southern states from 1868 to 1964 used various tactics to keep blacks from having any political power; it is here that shaped the constitutional liberal notion against states’ rights; blacks looked to a strong central government to protect their plight. Interestingly enough, this attitude has changed little. Blacks continue to eye states with a great deal of suspicion. As a collective group, they shifted their political loyalty by the 1960s; it was at this point that blacks supported Democrats over Republicans, though an embryonic move was in place during the New Deal. However, there is a caveat to this: many Southerners favored Democrats, too. In an ideological way, Republicans were still viewed as the party of Lincoln; it was the party that emancipated the negro and interrupted a way of life. Southerners would not shift to the Republican party until the election of Ronald Reagan during the 1980 election. Funny, but the two parties had already shifted. The Republicans of Lincoln were really the Dems of the Civil Rights movement. This part here is another post. But, I do want to note that it was a southern Democrat (LBJ) who was most instrumental in helping blacks gain greater rights.
Thus, black folks did not embrace Reagan. Better yet, he was seen as a racist — one who catered to racists looking to recapture the traditional elements before the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The traumas of the 1960s and 1970s created a loss of confidence among Americans; he capitalized on this feeling to easily win the 1980 verdict. Reagan promised to rebuild the nation’s defenses, cut inflation, restore economic growth, and reduce the size of the federal government; in reality, he did much of the opposite. Sure, he made cuts in a number of programs. Many of them aimed at helping lower-income Americans; he also cut taxes, but primarily for wealthier Americans. While reviewing a number of textbooks for my paper on Teaching the 1980s, I noted that:
Reaganomics and its assault on welfare are linked to racial issues of the 1980s. According to one text: Reagan portrayed those on welfare to being those of African-American descent. The text did shape a correct image in noting that whites living in rural areas were the primary beneficiaries of welfare, not a black mother of two living in an urban area — as noted in one of his speeches. He spoke to states rights. He spoke against affirmative action. On one hand he addressed his support for Bob Jones University, but then went on to discuss how race is not an issue. Keep in mind, Bob Jones University openly discriminated. The rational: It is not the job of the federal government to intervene in matters of the state. What?
The poorest Americans fared poorly. The bottom tenth saw their low incomes decline by 10 %. 1986, a full-time minimum wage worker earned $6,700 per year – almost $4,000 short of the poverty level for a family of four. One out of eight children went hungry and 20 percent lived in poverty, including 50 percent of black children.
While many Americans place blame on George W. Bush and Barrack Obama for the current debt crisis, all they have to do is read a history book to find that our current debt is not from New Deal programs, but from an expanding Cold War economy dating back to the 1980s. I say let us give president Obama a chance; Americans have used both race and ideology to work against a much-needed effort at American reform. Hence, blacks will continue to vote in an ideological box; it is not because Obama is bi-racial; it is because many either read their history book, lived in an age that impacted them due to their race, or have experienced the plight of being black in the 20th and 21st century.
I did not footnote any of this information; it does have a particular lean to it; however, I suspect that if you read this blog you already know this. Thus, the greatness of America is that of voice; being permitted to share and engage in a discussion that is constructive. If you would like a works cited page, feel free to email me.