Voters of Color: Unsung Heroes of the 2008 Election

According to the CNN and ABC exit polls, white Americans overwhelmingly wanted John McCain to be the next US president. The white vote was lopsided for McCain at 55-43 percent. If the 2008 electorate had the same demographic character as any before about 1980 (that is being nearly 90 percent white), Senator John McCain would currently be the president-elect.

But as we know that did not happen, because the electorate this time was only 74 percent white, and those voters who were not white voted very heavily for Senator Obama. ABC News’ exit polls are reported this way, in terms of percentages for Obama/McCain:

White Americans: 43/55
Black Americans: 95/4
Latino Americans: 67/31
Asian Americans: 62/35
Other Americans: 66/31

Some high-density Asian American counties on the West Coast voted at even higher rates of 70 percent, and Shari’s (H/T) check of local sources on Native Americans reveals that their vote was lopsided too:

The Native American numbers I got from looking at the election returns in counties that have reservations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado [show] the range of the Obama spread was from 62 to 87 percent.

The role of voters of color in electing Senator Obama the next president is in my view one of the most important stories of this historic election, yet I have not seen serious mainstream media analysis of this and of what it means about the rise of a multiracial democracy and the decline of white political dominance in the United States. Why is this story not getting major attention? Perhaps it is because the white-controlled, intensively white-framed mass media are all caught up in declaring this to be a “post-racial” or “post-racist America.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Another obvious fact about this election, which has also gotten little play in the media, is the continuing reality of the Republican Party being mainly the “white party” of the United States. This party gets very few African American voters and does not get even 40 percent of any other group of color.

I have seen a little media commentary on whether the Republican “southern strategy” is still viable, but no discussion of the fact that such a term is only another racism-denying euphemism for what is in fact the “white southern strategy” or “white racist strategy” of the Republican Party. (It is correctly called these latter terms because some 20-40 percent of “southerners” are not white, depending on the area of the South.) Since the 1960s this Republican strategy has been a “white southern” strategy but almost no analysts in or outside the mainstream media are willing to call it by its correct name–just as they are unwilling to call the so-called “Bradley effect” by its correct name (either the “white racism effect” or the “whites-lying effect”). The Republican Party currently has no Black members in Congress or in other high elected offices, and none in high party leadership. It has only a very few (token) appointed officials in high office and has indeed shown no significant leadership on or commitment to civil rights enforcement issues since the 1960s. (For more, see here. ) It is indeed still the “white party,” as this election dramatically reveals and as even Howard Dean let slip in August this year.


  1. JDF

    When going over exit polling in Florida, I noticed that whites were essentially inconsequential in 2008 (56-42 in 2008 versus 57-42 for Bush in 2004), while Latinos made the difference (+11 for Bush in 2004 versus +15 for Obama this cycle). And the results in Nevada was overwhelming: Obama won white women 49-48 and 76% for both Latina/os.

  2. Stacie Penland

    Most elections do not split along the 50-50 mark for dems vs rep among whites. But if they did, then this vote was only off that mark by 6%. In 2004, Bush received 58% of the white vote and Kerry 41% – which is a WIDER gap than the one listed on this site. Neither do they split that way for blacks. In 2004, Bush received 11% of the black vote and Kerry got 88%. In order to fairly interpret these statistics, they have to be compared to normal demographic voting trends.

  3. Joe

    Actually, Stacie, I disagree because of the data. Even in this near-depression, with the health care system in collapse and with a Black candidate who has gone out of his way to please whites and the white racial frame, whites still voted overwhelmingly for what is the “white nationalist” party. In the Kerry and Gore elections, none of these extreme economic and health conditions was present and recognized widely in the white population. If whites voted their socioeconomic interests, at least 70 percent should have gone for Obama in this very extreme situation. There is no comparison here with the relatively quiet economic etc times of 2004 or 2000….

  4. Shari

    Looking at the updates after complete counts, Native American voters are up to a range of 65 – 89%. Shannon County, South Dakota home of the Pineridge reservation gave John Kerry his highest margin in the country 85%. They voted 89% for Barack Obama. More telling however was the increase in Native American voters across the country, almost 27% in my spot check of reservation county results.
    Anecdotally, I spoke today with one of my relatives on the reservation who said, “It’s about honesty. I know White people always want to make out that Black people are dishonest and thieves, but Native peoples have not been lied to by Black people as a whole. It is a question of heart not head. You can trust the heart of a Black person. Because through that heart runs blood poisoned in the same ways that White people have poisoned our people. Every day, every breath, they know as we know that White people as a whole are not and never have been our friends. This Black man may not be my friend yet, but he has never been my enemy. I can and do hope he will be my friend and relative.”
    This particular relative was at Wounded Knee and does not use the term relative lightly. This is his endorsement of the “change we can believe in” promise of hope. He goes on to talk about how many Indian people voted early so they could hold ceremonies on election day to pray for Obama’s success and for protection from his enemies. It makes me just hold my breath hoping that Barack Obama is the man Michelle believes he is. To say that hope in government comes very hard to Indian people is a woeful understatement. Government has never served Indian people well. That they can hope it will in such large numbers is exhilarating and terrifying.


  1. Presidential Race On Best Political Blogs » Blog Archive » Voters of Color: Unsung Heroes of the 2008 Election
  2. Americans of Color elected Obama. White Americans elected McCain. « Restructure!
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