Note to Democrats: If You Lose in November, Don’t Blame Black Voters

The problem for Democrats is that they are losing a large percentage of the white electorate.

Voters prepare to cast their ballots on Nov. 1, 2012, in North Miami, Fla. JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES

Obviously, though, Democrats don’t want another “clings to guns and religion” moment in which they’re caught bashing white voters for harboring bigoted resentments after two convincing national elections. Doing so could potentially alienate a voting bloc struggling to accept new demographic realities. Registered white voters will ultimately be a major factor in increasingly caustic Senate races in places like Arkansas, Georgia and Louisiana, where vulnerable Democrats are holding on by the skin of their teeth. 

But there are clearly signs of resentment. It wasn’t too long ago—back in February—when YouGov released a poll (pdf) showing that 44 percent of whites consider the statement “Barack Obama was born in the United States” to be false. And it’s hard to dismiss this as merely run-of-the-mill ignorance of American geography. (Although it’s possible—Americans barely know the century during which we gained independence, so presumably some could be less aware that Obama’s birthplace, Hawaii, is actually part of the United States.) 

Clearly, however, white voters will have more influence in the 2014 midterms, by the numbers, than voters of color. Why can’t Democrats find out what’s going on with them? That’s not diminishing the importance of the minority electorate—it’s just recognizing the pure math in this situation. But berating voters of color for their midterm voting habits as if they’re knuckleheaded teens wearing baggy jeans completely defeats the purpose of achieving turnout. Craft a message and strategy that actually inspires them instead of channeling Uncle Ruckus.

Charles D. Ellison is a veteran political strategist and regular contributor to The Root. He is also Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune and chief political correspondent for Uptown magazine. Follow him on Twitter.