On 7 November 2006, US voters will be asked to take part in federal, state and local elections

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Not red and blue but black and white
are the true colours of US elections

By Tony Favro, USA Editor

17 August 2006: Election Day in the United States this year is 7 November. The big question at the national level is whether the Republican Party will retain its ruling majority in the US Congress. As the candidates begin campaigning in earnest, the media have begun analyzing the mood of the electorate. The nation’s electorate is divided, pundits claim, based on values.

Further reading:
Race and weather may influence US elections

On television screens and in magazines, maps of the US show the 50 states painted either red or blue. Red, the traditional colour of the Republican Party, denotes states in which a majority of the electorate voted for George Bush in the 2004 presidential election. Blue, the colour of the Democratic Party, marks states in which a majority of the electorate voted for Senator John Kerry. Voters in red states are labelled by the media as conservatives on social and economic issues; those in blue states as progressives. Issues are then analyzed based on their appeal to voters in red or blue states.

The media fixation on red and blue states unfortunately masks the reality that racism is largely the reason for differences in values. President Bush won the popular vote in the 2004 presidential elections by 3.5 million votes. However, his margin among white voters nationwide was 14 million votes. Conversely, Senator John Kerry’s margin among non-white voters was 11 million votes. Could anything but racism explain this contrast?

Moreover, Bush’s entire margin of victory was compiled in 10 southern states that comprised the old Confederacy of slave-holding states. In many of these states, Bush’s margin among white voters was comparable to Kerry’s 9 to 1 margin among African-American voters.

Over the past 40 years, Republicans in the US have used racial fears to build an almost insurmountable white majority, especially in the South. In his 1968 presidential campaign, Richard Nixon used promises to be tough on crime as code words to inflame white stereotypes of blacks as dangerous and immoral.

In the 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan preached “states’ rights”, another phrase deeply-rooted in American history that recalls the time when states had more freedom from national control, including the freedom to discriminate racially.

In 1988, George Bush Sr. generalized a heinous crime by a black man into an indictment of all blacks, stoking racial fears and delivering the South solidly to Republicans.

And today’s Republican tough-on-immigration policy plays blatantly to racial fears. Because of their success over the past 40 years, Republicans can now change the words to fit each election without changing the basic tune. Democrats, for their part, have been inept at crafting a message of social justice and shared interests, that elicits a positive response from the majority of white voters.

Voters’ concerns over events in Iraq may trump racial fears and allow Democrats to gain control of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. But any gains Democrats make are likely to be short-lived.

Until Americans are willing to forthrightly address issues of race, the racial divide will only widen. And Republican politicians will continue to benefit, undermining not only their Democratic counterparts, but also the nation’s economic strength at home and credibility abroad.

The media may paint the US electorate in red or blue, but the colours that really matter are black and white.

World Mayor 2023