Why Black voters are stuck on the ‘Democratic plantation,’ explained

OPINION: When will Black voters stop being so loyal to the Democratic Party? Where is the Republican plantation with all the white people who vote against their interests? How do we escape?

black voters, theGrio.com
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) supporters celebrate as his win of the presidential election is announced November 4, 2008 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.  

What is the “Democratic plantation?”

The “Democratic plantation” is an anti-Black term used to describe the voting habits of the African-American electorate. 

For years, the phrase was mostly used by people who wear wraparound sunglasses to protect their eyes from the unique spectrum of light that reflects off of negro mermaids and critical race theory. But recently, others have adopted this anti-raysists term to explain why Black people tend to vote for Democratic candidates.

Do Black voters consistently favor Democrats? 

According to Pew Research, 83% of Black registered voters lean identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party.

How can something that is statistically true be considered a racial slur?

First of all, it was white people who created the plantation system that depended on America’s unique race-based, constitutionally approved system of human trafficking and forced labor. It was Black people who finally forced this country into becoming a quasi-democracy. Using the term “plantation” invokes the history of chattel slavery and reframes our participation in the democratic process through the lens of the worst thing that ever happened to us.

Furthermore, every major ethnic, racial and religious demographic in America votes Democrat except white people. While Black voters are often characterized as Democrats, the data shows that the vast majority of Asian Americans (72%), Hispanics (63%), Muslim voters (62%) and Jewish voters (68%) lean Democratic. 

White people are stuck on the “Republican plantation.”

But I’ve also heard Black people use the term.

Along with the secret lair that holds the gay agenda, the race card tournaments and Black-on-Black crime sprees (which, as far as I can tell, is somewhere in Chicago), the mythical Democratic Plantation has always been a favorite of negro conservatives such as Candace Owens, Jason Whitlock and Kanye West. But lately, a new group of self-righteous, smarter-than-thou critics has either co-opted the phrase or adopted the criticisms it embodies.

It’s a constant drumbeat played by a percussion section where Bernie Sanders’s former press secretary Briahna Joy Gray occupies the first chair. It is why right-wing propagandists have fallen in love with Ice Cube and Stephen A. Smith. It’s why innovators in anti-Blackness like the NRA, Brian Kemp and Herschel Walker welcome Killer Mike with open arms

They obviously know more than you dimwitted negroes who give away your vote without asking anything in return.

Why shouldn’t Black people criticize the Democratic Party or Black voters’ allegiance to one party?

Who said they shouldn’t?

In fact, I’ve never met a Black person — even the most loyal Democrat — who wasn’t critical of the Democratic Party’s tendency to chase moderate white voters at the expense of its most loyal demographic. Democrats are afraid to push progressive policies. During campaign season, Democratic politicians waltz into barbershops and Black churches and make promises that they never intend to keep. In many ways, the Democratic Party is trash. 

However, the insinuation that Black people’s voting pattern is a result of naivete, ignorance or a lack of political sophistication actually echoes the principles of white supremacy. The idea that Black voters are blindly throwing their votes at Democratic candidates because of groupthink or tradition is antithetical to history and facts. 

But both parties are not the same. 

So the Democratic Party is not racist?

Who said that? 

Have you met Joe Manchin? Have you ever heard about Kyrsten Sinema? How about Joe Biden? Democrats also court white voters by using anti-Black rhetoric. They invest in pro-police policies and mass incarceration. They perpetuate the myth that a combination of capitalism, Christian values and colorblindness can cure 400 years of inequality. 

And they be lying, too.

They make promises they don’t intend to keep. They pretend to care about racism and shuck and jive for Black votes. They are not willing to risk their political capital on important issues that affect Black people. They vowed to reform the police but pushed for more cops. They railed against voter suppression but it was Democrats who ultimately doomed a voter protection bill. They champion bipartisan solutions for people who want to kill us.

And they are still better than the Republican Party. 

Both things can be true.

The criticism of the Democratic Party is ultimately a common criticism shared by most political voting blocs. There are neo-Nazis who don’t think Donald Trump is as racist as he should be. There are evangelicals who want their party to be more homophobic and antisemitic. There are pro-lifers who think abortion should be illegal, even in cases of rape or incest. But, instead of turning their fellow racists against the party of white supremacy, they work to ensure that their party reflects their values. They primary candidates who aren’t sufficiently conservative. They fund political action committees. They hire lobbyists and coalesce voting blocs that serve their interests.  

But wouldn’t both parties work harder for our vote if Black voters weren’t so predictable?

Theoretically, yes. 

Many Black voters are more socially and fiscally conservative than mainstream, moderate Republicans. The Republican Party could easily use its evangelical rhetoric to appeal to churchgoing Black folks. Black voters want law and order and less crime. Black people like capitalism and hard work and Jesus and strong immigration policies. There are parts of both parties that could easily appeal to Black voters.

But what if one party’s platform is built on a foundation of anti-Blackness?

There is a reason why a majority of white voters have cast their ballots for the GOP for the last 50 years. There is a reason why the GOP weaponizes white nationalism and criminalizes Black history. Republican politicians don’t actually care about critical race theory or “wokeness.” It’s no coincidence that all of the neo-Nazis, pro-confederates, Karens, Proud Boys, vote suppressors and all lives matter activists are so loyal to one side.

But they never, ever leave the Republican plantation. 

What if Black voters abandoned the Democratic Party?

Sure. But first, let’s think about this critically.

Let’s say Black voters left the Democratic Party and put our vote up for grabs. 

First, they’d have to field candidates and get the party on the ballot in every city, state and national election. It would also require the support of other racial or political constituencies. And until it became a viable political force, supporting third-party candidates would essentially mean conceding Black voters’ political power over to the white majority.

It would also make the GOP unstoppable.

Over the past 50 years, the Republican Party has cemented its lock on white voters, so they wouldn’t lose their voting base. But a weakened Democratic Party would give the GOP even more power than it currently has. They wouldn’t have to court Black voters because they wouldn’t need us. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party would have to find a new constituency. 

Imagine what would happen to that party that we criticize for chasing white votes if Black people abandoned it and left it to white liberals.

So Black voters should just keep voting for Democrats the same as always?

Of all the strawman arguments presented by Black “free thinkers” critical naysayer theorists, perhaps this narrative is the most infuriating.

No one says Black people should just vote. 

Black voters have always demanded results in exchange for their support. The Great Migration was, in part, the result of Black people voters forcing Franklin Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802, which ended racial discrimination in the defense industry. In 1972, Black voters passed a Black political agenda. Black organizations have created policy institutes, written annual reports, lobbied legislators, created grassroots campaigns and funded community groups that enumerate their specific needs. And then they advocate for voting.

The only reason anyone would parrot the idiotic idea that Black people push voting without specificity is that they are only listening to white people. 

But if Black people are doing everything right, why hasn’t anything changed?

The narrative that Black people haven’t gotten anything in exchange for our votes or that “nothing has changed” negates all of the advancements that Black people have fought for. Because of 2008’s record Black voter turnout, 90% of Black people have health insurance. There might not be a national police reform bill, but since the murder of George Floyd, state legislatures have passed early 300 police reform bills, including chokehold bans, police accountability, civilian oversight and ending qualified immunity. The last three Democratic presidents are ranked first, second and third among non-white federal judge appointments. The Democratic-controlled Justice Department sued the five largest financial institutions in America (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Bancorp) for discrimination against Black borrowers. 

That’s not “nothing.”

It’s possible to acknowledge that the Democratic Party should be doing more for its most dependable voting bloc while also recognizing the advancements that Black voters have achieved because of their voting power.

But here is why the ideas of Black political impotence and the “Democratic plantation” are an affront to Black people.

Imagine if there was a country that used violence and the threat of violence to extract free labor from a group of people. When those people freed themselves, imagine if there was a national campaign of racial terrorism specifically designed to keep them from participating in democracy. Imagine if state constitutions and voting laws were designed to suppress their vote. Imagine if the majority of white people in America didn’t fight to make this country a true democracy. 

Now, imagine, after four centuries of lynching and massacres and poll taxes and grandfather clauses and gerrymandering and voter ID laws and armed poll watchers and stopping the steal, you had the opportunity to address the elusiveness of Black voting power. But, instead of pointing your finger at the terrorists, the vote suppressors, the gerrymanderers, the insurrectionists and the white people who can simply maintain their political power by remaining silent, you say:

“Nah, Black people are doing it wrong.”

Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in September.

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