President Obama and the Democratic Party have failed African-Americans, and it no longer serves their interest to reliably support either Hillary Clinton or the party.
From Reconstruction to the Great Depression, African-Americans were strongly aligned with the GOP, recognizing Abraham Lincoln’s role in ending slavery and the virulent segregationist policies championed by southern Democrats.
Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Harry Truman’s executive orders to desegregate the military and end discrimination in federal employment broke those ties but as recently as 1956 and 1960, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon managed to win 39 and 32 percent of the African-American vote.
Lyndon Johnson’s support for The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the GOP’s subsequent “southern strategy” to win white voters hostile to such progressive policies put about 85 percent of African-Americans reliably in the Democratic column.
Democrats rewarded their loyalty with a host of economic and social measures intended to alleviate poverty and compensate for past discrimination—including income support programs, federally enforced preferences in private sector hiring and college admissions, and minority set-aside programs that benefit only a few, but often influential, entrepreneurs and civic leaders.
Conservatives have long argued that programs to aid those adversely affected by the prejudices of history or simply poor business conditions—for example, the decline of the textile and furniture industries which employed many blacks in the South—can become self-defeating. Assistance can cross the line from providing help to overcome disadvantages to discouraging individual initiative, accountability and self-improvement.
In the process, those cultivate a client relationship between protected classes of voters and politicians who promise ever greater handouts and state-coerced preferential treatment, and a decadent cycle that keeps African-Americans pinned down in poverty.
Mr. Obama has been the most aggressive president since Lyndon Johnson in championing welfare programs—for example, expanding Medicaid, the earned income tax credits and food stamps and aggressively pressing universities to grant greater preferences to minorities in admissions. And Hillary Clinton promises even more of the same.
Government benefits are now so generous that low-income wage earners face increased taxes of 50 to 80 percent on additional income—from extra taxes and lost government benefits—if they work more hours or send a second adult into the workforce. Often, it can pay an African-American working mother to have absent fathers paying child support rather than a strong role model, earning a second salary, under her roof.
Democrats have effectively isolated conservative leaning Republicans and broadened their minority base by adding Latinos through lax immigration enforcement and initiatives like the Dream Act in several states, and assigning to Asian-Americans protected status under affirmative action laws that are simply unwarranted by social and economic indicators.
Asian-Americans outperform whites in education, and their average annual family incomes are about $74,000, as compared to $35,000 for African-Americans and $60,000 for whites.
In these times of slow economic growth, African-Americans, not whites, have been the biggest losers. They are pushed out of jobs and educational opportunities by illegal immigrants and other groups Democrats are cultivating to win a permanent lock on the White House.
On Mr. Obama’s watch, African-American family incomes are down by about $2,200, while those for Hispanics and Asian-Americans are up $800 and $2,100, respectively. The wealth gap with whites has widened tremendously, and African-Americans have regained far fewer of the jobs lost in the Great Recession than other Americans.
African-Americans are disproportionately saddled with student loans after dropping out of college after a few years or earning a degree that hardly imparts the skills necessary to earn a living.
President Obama was elected on the promise to create greater economic justice but for African-Americans conditions have become decidedly worse. African-American elites have grown prosperous through minority set-aside programs and protected jobs in business and academia but their advice to support Hillary Clinton is ill-informed at best, and simply cynically self-interested at worst.
Republicans abandoned an anti-civil rights posture long ago and their pro-growth platform simply offers more hope for a better future for all Americans—including African-Americans. Neither Donald Trump nor Paul Ryan advocate shredding the social safety net, for example.
The GOP advocates for benefits that offer a hand up not huge indiscriminate largess that imposes a lifetime of poverty and injustice in exchange for votes.
Peter Morici served as Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission from 1993 to 1995. He is an economist and professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland.