today's cliche: the black community is not monolithic. and indeed, were i predicting, i'd predict that bernie could get a majority of the under-25 black vote in sc. but here is something that has really been a practical problem: in actual fact, the black community is the most monolithic voting bloc in the history of democracy: totally, 100% reliable for the democratic candidate anytime anywhere for decades on end. here is just one reason that's a practical problem. hillary has to talk race issues, mass incarceration and so on in the primaries. she doesn't have to mention it at all in the general, or do anything about it as pres, because no matter what she does (say, appearing with a klan hood or something) every black person in america will vote for her. she will swing white, because now she has to eat into trump's working-class white vote to win. that's exactly how warondrugs/race internment got started in the first place. martin etc fought for voting rights, but essentially the use of that power has become useless, precisely because it is far too unanimous.
on the other side, the unanimity of black folks makes it useless for republican candidates to even try, or to find a political connection, or do anything in office about racial issues. no matter what they do, no votes are forthcoming (they could be, i swear; rand would have been a start). so: the republicans have to fight in primaries for the white vote; they have to turn out the white vote in the general (more and more as we head toward majority-minority). they have absolutely no black constituency, don't have to listen to black voices at all, and neither do democrats. in fact, rand could not have been a start. it doesn't matter if he goes to ferguson and baltimore. it doesn't matter that he has an extremely coherent and consistent take on the war on drugs and mass incarceration and police violence. it doesn't even matter that he was centralizing race and racism among america's problems, moreso than the dems. even he finally just gave up; what he was saying polled him at 3% among republicans, and won him nobody's support at all. there was no way he could expand the republican base; it's impossible from both directions at once. there is just no chance that, for example, a single legit black leader or organization would endorse him under any circumstances. reflect on that a second, because it is making this voting thing useless.
this history is central to the persistence or even intensification of systemic racism: by their own decisions, black leaders and voters have given themselves no political leverage whatsoever. were i a black leader i'd be thinking about how badly we have misused the franchise we fought so hard for, and i'd be thinking about how that can be transformed.
the situation in south carolina, i think, should bother everybody. there are two primaries, the white primary and the black primary, reps and dems; it's very like an apartheid regime - you might as well put 'whites only' and 'blacks only' on the polling stations. except this time everybody seems to be enthusiastically participating in the partition. next comes the wall i guess. the divide between parties is ideological, ok, but in sc these are racial parties, tribal, like the national party and the inkatha freedom party in apartheid south africa. all of this would even be sort of okay if it led to black empowerment; then that could be turned around and change everything. but it leads very clearly for very definite reasons to black disempowerment.
sometimes it's said that demographics make democratic victories inevitable eventually. well, not if the whole country goes like south carolina, where almost 70% of the democratic electorate is black, and i'm assuming 90-some% of the republican electorate is white. not if the dems lose the white vote at the same rate they gain the latino vote. and they could lose the white vote, because the republicans are only too happy to use the racial dogwhistles etc, and they have no other practical way through: they have to corner and turn out the white vote in ever-increasing numbers. they are doing this! then you'll have the spectre of national race parties. martin had nightmares too.
the usual account of how this happened starts with nixon's 'southern strategy" or maybe the goldwater campaign (actually nixon lost most of the south to wallace that year). that is itself a far too partisan account. it is a dialectic: both sides are using racial politics for strategic purposes, it's as though both parties consisted merely of race hustlers. and both have a stake in increasing the salience of race as a demographic. watch the nytimes op-ed page obsessivle sort the electorate into races for decades. you could have other categories. but as long as black folks vote monolithically, and to the extent they do, race is indeed the best lever on both sides: you might fight for a 10 point gender gap, but you take for granted a 90% racial gap.
and i'm sorry, but i want to ask black folks: really. i mean really. i mean sincerely. how well have you been represented by white liberals?
that we find ourselves even more intensely in that exact same situation 50 years later is really a very sad thing. and the way things are going, i actually predict that racial inequality and systemic racism in all american institutions will grow in intensity for the foreseeable future. i don't think we're making progress!