Republicans have a race problem. It’s nothing new; during the past four years, their often racially tinged anti-Obama rhetoric has diminished their popularity among communities of color. But nothing could have predicted the results of the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal pollwhich has President Obama receiving 94% of the black vote and Mitt Romney receiving – wait for it – zero.
That might not be shocking to some, but let’s compare Romney’s 0% support among African-Americans to past Republicans running for the White House. First, let’s go back 10 years to the 1992 race: George H.W. Bush received 10% of the black vote, while Bill Clinton received a surprisingly low share at 83%.
In 1996, even Bob Dole received 12% of the black vote to Clinton’s 82%. In 2000, George W. Bush received 9% of the black vote to Al Gore’s 90%. In 2004, Bush 43 was able to increase his share of the black vote a few percentage points in critical states up to 11%. And in 2008, John McCain with Sarah Palin on the ticket received4% of the black vote to the President’s 95% with historically high turnout of black voters.
When you are less popular than Bob Dole you have a serious problem.
And why are Republicans and Romney so unpopular among African-Americans? It is in part because the Republican Party pals around with folks who, whether they are willing to admit it or not, harbor racial resentment towards communities of color and the nation's first black President.
Many conservatives believe that the so called “race card” is played too often and that liberals constantly hear racial "dog whistles," but that’s off the mark. The fact of the matter is that racially insensitive rhetoric isn’t as coded as it used to be.
When Newt Gingrich calls the first black President “the food stamp President,” black people hear that. When Donald Trump proclaims that Obama isn’t an American citizen or that he only got into Harvard Law School because his skin is brown, black people hear that. When Romney runs blatantly false attacks on welfare reminiscent of the “welfare queen” rhetoric of the 1990s, black people hear that. When Romney tells a fundraiser of majority white supporters in Montana that an NAACP audience booed him because they want “more stuff from the government,” black people can hear that.
And it’s not just about racially insensitive feelings or rhetoric. It’s also about which policies Republicans promote and those policies that would bring about greater racial and structural equity and harmony that they oppose.
Black people don’t support Obama over Mitt Romney just because Obama is black. By and large, black voters don’t support Romney because he and the Republican Party have consistently shown time and again that they are willing to pander to a specific segment of the Republican electorate that looks back on the 1950s with nostalgia.