Romney’s Diversity Handicap

His problem isn't that he lost the black vote -- it's that his party doesn't understand black voters.


Back in my home state of Pennsylvania, the strict voter-ID law there became a major election-year issue — especially after a Republican state legislator gloated that the law would help Romney win the Keystone State — because it seemed so nakedly about suppressing voters. (The state was forced to concede in court that it had no evidence of any history of in-person voting fraud, which was the law’s ostensible rationale.)

“This infuriated the black clergy and local civic groups such as the Committee of Seventy, which resented all the charges of voter fraud going on in Philadelphia,” one Philadelphia attorney who has worked on voter verification issues told the conservative magazine Human Events. “And even after the judge delayed implementation of the voter ID law, there were commercials being run reminding voters the law would be enforced next year. This just got the opponents more worked up.”

Unsurprisingly, black turnout in Pennsylvania was robust; Obama handily won Pennsylvania, and 56 precincts in Philly didn’t record a single Romney vote.

Republicans had predicted that black folks would make up 11 percent of the electorate this fall; black voters made up 15. That was the difference in Florida, Virginia and Ohio — states that held Romney’s only realistic chances of getting to 270.  “We didn’t think they’d turn out more of their base vote than they did in 2008, but they smoked us,” a Romney operative told Politico. “It’s unbelievable that that they turned out more from the African-American community than in 2008. Somehow they got ’em to vote.”

Yes. Somehow.

The fact that the United States is getting browner — while nine in 10 Romney voters were white — is an existential dilemma for the G.O.P. But the party’s lack of diversity or credibility with voters of color means they make this unnecessarily more difficult than it already is.

Case in point: On Thursday, the head of Maine’s Republican Party said that he thinks something nefarious was afoot; just who the hell were all these Negroes casting ballots? “In some parts of the state, there were dozens of black people who came in to vote,” he told a reporter. “Nobody in town knew them.”

He’s calling for an investigation.

All those icebergs.

Gene Demby is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based writer and the founder of the politics-and-culture blog PostBourgie. Follow him on Twitter