How Bad is Bush for Blacks?

Only one in 10 African Americans voted for the new president. Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice notwithstanding, this administration could be a disaster for blacks.

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


In every election since 1964 blacks have been the die-hard foot soldiers for the Democrats, and virtually never more so than in the one that finally finished this week. Gore took 90 percent of the African-American vote, even more than Clinton got in 1996. That’s not because blacks were thrilled about Gore, but because they were terrified of what a Bush presidency might mean for the issues important to African Americans.

They remembered the Reagan years. Blacks uniformly assailed him, and Reagan in turn gave the green light for a full-scale assault on civil rights and social and education programs.

Bush, of course, claims to be a more pragmatic kind of Republican who believes in and promotes diversity and inclusion. Still, the fear is that the near-monolithic support of black voters for the Democrats will cause Bush to ignore their interests on some big-ticket social and political issues.

Supreme Court. There may be three or four vacancies on the court during Bush’s term(s). Blacks are scared stiff that Bush will appoint more judges like Clarence Thomas who could wreak monumental damage on civil rights, and civil liberties protections. (Thomas, for instance, voted that the beating of a black inmate in Louisiana by prison guards was not cruel and unusual punishment, and has supported police roadblocks under the pretense of stopping drug trafficking in Indiana.)

Affirmative Action. Bush opposes it. He could actively support conservative efforts to get a permanent Congressional ban on affirmative action. Or he could follow the example of his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who wiped out all affirmative-action provisions in state contracting by executive order. Bush could try to do the same thing on the federal level. This would, however, spark a ferocious fight by civil-rights groups, something Bush might prefer to avoid — at least at the start of his administration.

Racial profiling and abusive police. In a campaign speech to police chiefs, Bush assured them that he doesnÕt believe the Justice Department should saddle local police departments with consent decrees mandating reforms to eliminate police abuse and racial profiling. He will likely stack the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division with appointees who reflect that position.

Crime and punishment. The overwhelming majority of prisoners currently awaiting federal execution are black. Bush, as Texas governor, did nothing to put the brakes on the Texas execution machine, overseeing dozens of state killings.

Unlike Clinton, he would probably not have granted the recent six-month stay to a federal inmate scheduled for execution pending review of the gaping racial disparities in federal death sentences. But like Clinton, he may propose new federal anti-crime provisions that would accelerate the massive law enforcement build-up that has spawned the wave of race profiling and police abuse cases, grotesque racial disparities in drug sentencing laws, and landed more than 1 million black men in America’s jails for mostly non-violent drug offenses and petty crimes.

True, Bush also is likely to boost aid to small business, push teacher accountability and school vouchers, expand urban enterprise zones, provide bigger tax incentives for businesses to train and hire the unemployed, increase funding for historically black colleges, and tout faith- based organizations as the best way to deal with the chronic poor. These are pet Republican notions that many blacks — particularly young, upwardly mobile blacks — also favor. And if Bush appoints Colin Powell as secretary of state and Condeleeza Rice as national security advisor, those appointments would be historic firsts for blacks and could pay PR dividends for the GOP among some African American voters.

But these measures are a poor trade-off for the colossal danger that Bush poses to civil rights and civil-liberties protections and to education and social programs. The saving grace is that if — or maybe when — he begins a full attack in these policy areas, it will shake black organizations and leaders from their Clinton/Gore-induced lethargy and again force them to wage their own battles to protect civil rights and social programs.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate