There is a lot of inertia in politics. The "solid South" voted for Democrats in every Presidential election for more than a century. Blacks have voted for every Democratic candidate for President from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Al Gore. The Jewish vote has been just about as solidly Democratic as that of blacks.
Recent polls suggest that President Bush will get a higher percentage of the black vote in this election than he did in the 2000 election -- and higher than Republican Presidential candidates have been getting in recent times. More blacks are apparently stopping to think.
There is probably no group that has been hurt so much when they voted by inertia. The reason is that the Democrats' most influential constituencies have interests and agendas with major negative impacts on blacks.
No special interest group within the Democratic party has as much influence -- domination might be a better word -- as the teachers' unions. The top priority of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers is their members' jobs.
Even black Democrats in Congress seldom dare to cross these unions by supporting anything that would threaten unionized teachers' jobs, such as vouchers or any other form of choice that would allow black parents to take their children out of failing and dangerous schools.
Parents may think that public schools exist to educate their children but, to the teachers' unions, these schools exist to provide their members with jobs, with iron-class tenure, and with pay increases based on seniority, not performance. If maintaining that status quo means sacrificing the education of a whole generation of young blacks, the teachers' unions will do it.
Blacks have millions of votes but, so long as those votes go automatically to the Democrats, there is no need for Democrats to do anything for blacks that would rile up the teachers' unions. Not when Democrats can get black voter turnout just by coming up with some scare rhetoric.
Another major constituency of the Democratic party are the environmentalists. Where you find a concentration of liberal, Democratic environmentalists in political control for decades, as on the San Francisco peninsula, you find housing costs driven up so high by all their restrictions against building that ordinary working people are increasingly forced out of the area.
Tens of thousands of blacks left San Francisco during a decade when the total population of the city was rising by tens of thousands. The same was true in adjoining San Mateo County.
When environmentalists ban housing under the pretty name of "open space" laws, they say that it is to prevent "over-crowding." But such laws don't reduce the amount of crowding in the slightest. The crowding just takes place somewhere else. Black communities are among the somewhere elses.
Other restriction promoted by environmental extremists cost jobs and drive up the cost of producing goods and services -- which is to say, they drive up the cost of living and make it harder to find jobs to pay for it.
Green zealots go through life leaving havoc in their wake and feeling good about themselves as lofty idealists. Blacks are among the many people on whom the cost of their idealism falls -- and blacks are among those least able to afford it.
What blacks can also least afford are liberal judges who turn criminals loose. Those criminals don't hang out where the judges live but many of them commit their crimes in black neighborhoods. Their presence also means higher costs of living, as local stores pass on the costs of theft, vandalism, and violence.
Who appoints liberal judges? Conservatives? Not very likely. Look for lots more liberal judges if you elect a liberal President.
That means judges who will turn more criminals loose and impose their own pet notions as "law," including gay marriage in all likelihood, with the net effect being more AIDS when the gay lifestyle is legitimized to the young.
Political inertia is powerful, but the time is overdue for more black voters to look beyond the rhetoric and images to the realities that affect themselves and their children.