President Bush seems to have his finger on the pulse for what needs to be done to empower the impoverished communities in our country. During his short tenure, he has promoted key reforms such as school choice, medical savings accounts and personal retirement accounts to replace the Social Security tax. He has engaged the black clergy with his faith-based initiative.
In spite of receiving only 8 percent of the black vote in 2000, Bush has continuously sought quality black leaders and positioned them in key parts of his administration, including leadership at the Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. At a time when one of the nation's primary concerns is foreign affairs and terrorism, we have a black secretary of state and a black national security adviser. Never have blacks held such top jobs in an administration.
Why then does The Washington Post/ABC poll done in May show only 6 percent support among blacks for Bush? This is 2 percent less than he got in 2000. Is his message not resonating with the black community? Are there problems in the Republican Party's outreach strategy to blacks? Or is it that blacks just don't care?
There is increasing evidence that blacks are becoming disillusioned with traditional big-government politics of the Democratic Party. The widely reported 2002 survey by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies showed erosion in black identification as Democrats and increased identification of young blacks as independents. The black clergy is united and outspoken in support of the current initiative, supported by the president, to amend the Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
What is going on?
On the surface, one would expect that Republicans would be picking up ground among black voters. But they don't seem to have gained an inch.
One area worth examining is the glaring difference in voting behavior among whites and blacks who attend church regularly. Nationwide, church attendance correlates perfectly with voting behavior. According to analysis done at the University of Akron, of those who say they attend church more than once per week, 65 percent voted for George W. Bush in 2000. For those who say they never attend church, the results were exactly inverse, 65 percent voted for Al Gore.
Blacks stand out as an exception. There is little difference in voting behavior between black churchgoers and non-goers. Both vote overwhelmingly Democratic.