Democrats are using the tragic shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month to mobilize black voters ahead of the midterm elections. It could impact the races in Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Arkansas, where black voters represent a significant part of the electorate. African-Americans represent thirty percent of eligible voters in Louisiana and Georgia alone. The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin indicated that African-Americans “played a pivotal role” in 1998 elections. Yet, trying to drive up voter turnout will be tricky since the states that will determine if Democrats keep the Senate are in the south, where Obama is deeply unpopular (via NYT):
With their Senate majority imperiled, Democrats are trying to mobilize African-Americans outraged by the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., to help them retain control of at least one chamber of Congress for President Obama’s final two years in office.
In black churches and on black talk radio, African-American civic leaders have begun invoking the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, along with conservative calls to impeach Mr. Obama, as they urge black voters to channel their anger by voting Democratic in the midterm elections, in which minority turnout is typically lower.
“Ferguson has made it crystal clear to the African-American community and others that we’ve got to go to the polls,” said Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia and a civil-rights leader. “You participate and vote, and you can have some control over what happens to your child and your country.”
The push is an attempt to counter Republicans’ many advantages in this year’s races, including polls that show Republican voters are much more engaged in the elections at this point — an important predictor of turnout.
[T]he terrain is tricky [for Democrats]: Many of the states where the black vote could be most crucial are also those where Mr. Obama is deeply unpopular among many white voters. So Democratic senators in places like Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina must distance themselves from the nation’s first African-American president while trying to motivate the black voters who are his most loyal constituents.
While minority turnout traditionally declines in nonpresidential election years, there have been midterm elections in which Southern blacks played a pivotal role. An example occurred in 1998, when President Bill Clinton was, like Mr. Obama, under fire from Republicans and nearing the end of his White House years.
The last point Martin makes is kind of odd. I would agree that it would’ve been pivotal if Democrats took back the Senate in 1998, but they didn't. There was no swing in the Senate composition at the end of the night; Republicans held 55 seats and the Democrats occupied 45. Each party lost and gained three seats.
Democrats took out Republican incumbents in New York, North Carolina, and Indiana, while Republicans booted Democrats in Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky. These elections would usher in Chuck Schumer and John Edwards into the U.S. Senate.
In Arkansas, Democrats were able to keep the seat Democratic with Blanche Lincoln and incumbent Sen. Paul Coverdell was able to hold the line for the Republicans in Georgia.
So, what’s so “pivotal” about a draw? Not only that, but a draw that ended with Republicans keeping their ten seat majority.
Also, are Democrats really so desperate that they need to politicize someone’s death? Then again, we’re talking about the political left; seldom do they exude any form of shame. Nevertheless, I think we can all agree that exploiting death to drive up voter turnout is, well, abhorrent.