The Black Vote: African Americans as an Interest Group
The African-American community is comprised of 34 million people, and makes up approximately 12.8 percent of the American population (Barker, Jones, Tate 1999: 3). As such, it is the largest minority group in the United States. Yet, politically, the black community has never been able to sufficiently capitalize on that status in order to receive the full benefits of life in America. Today, African-Americans, hold less than 2 percent of the total number of elected positions in this country (Tate, 1994: 3) and the number of members within the community that actually partake in voting continues to drop. In spite of these statistics, as of 1984, a telephone survey found that 70 percent of Black Americans polled "strongly felt that the Black vote could make a difference in who gets elected at both the local and national levels, including… president" (Tate, 1994: 6). The black population still believes that voter participation can effect change in the government, and 75 percent believe that whatever happens to the group affects them personally, and so it is necessary to have a government that is sympathetic to the state of African-Americans in the United States.
As a result of this perceived common interest, one could say that the American black community constitutes an interest group of sorts, -- a group of people that share the same interests and are working toward common goals -- at least to a certain extent. At the very least, they have the potential to be an interest group, because although the majority of blacks feel that their future is tied to that of the entire race, there is a growing divide between blacks of different social classes, as well as a lack of organization, which is a key factor to initiating change. The black community relies on the strength of their vote, but in order to capitalize on voting strength, and turn it into political power:
A group must be able to maximize voter registration and voter turnout, develop institutional structures for recruiting supportive candidates for public office and mobilize support for such candidates. Once… elected, the group must develop a system to hold the candidates responsible to the group. (Barker, Jones, Tate 1999: 73)
In effect, they must capitalize on their ability to come together as an interest group and to create some form of accountability for whoever they support politically. Until recently, the black community has not been able to do so often or consistently, because of their minority status (due to lack of size they must rely on strategic voting and the black community hasn't always been ideally located to capitalize on that), and intense party loyalties.
The Black Vote Historically
Ever since Lincoln's emancipation proclamation, African-Americans had been Republican. The GOP was the party of Lincoln, the party that had given them the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. The Republican Party supported...