Brilliant Minds Collective

Are African Americans a “Captured Voter”?

As the 2022 midterm elections approach, African Americans find themselves in a familiar quandary. Despite one of the largest political protests in United States history taking place in the summer of 2020, many African Americans feel that neither major party represents their interest. Over the past 60 years, the Republican Party has been openly hostile to the interests of black people, but there is also a growing resentment towards a Democratic Party, which many African Americans feel has taken their support for granted. 

Paul Frymer, a Professor of Political Science at Princeton University, argued that it is not a coincidence that the Democratic Party has increasingly ignored the plights of African Americans. In his book, Uneasy Alliances: Race and Party Competition in America, Frymer categorized communities of color as “captured” voters, meaning that there is no viable alternative for black voters in the United States outside of the Democratic National Committee. African Americans are not the only “captive” voting group in the United States, other scholars have argued that the LGBTQ community is another example of “captive” voters within the Democratic Party and the religious right has been categorized as “captive” within the Republican Party umbrella. Understanding that the Republican Party has little-to-nothing to offer black voters from a policy perspective, the Democratic Party has scaled back their own support for measures designed to help communities of color as a way to garner support from other voting blocs who are more likely to switch Republican. Through their loyal support of the Democratic Party in past elections, African Americans have contributed to the idea that they no longer need to be enticed to join the Democratic coalition. Instead, the Democratic Party routinely chooses to woo perceived “swing groups.”  

As race continues to be central to national politics in the United States, the Democratic Party is increasingly joining their conservative colleagues in disfavoring policies designed to help communities of color. But this is an issue that cannot be solved easily. Without another viable mainstream party to turn to, ignoring the Democratic Party amounts to additional voter disenfranchisement for African Americans. In the long term, black voters must decide between supporting a non-mainstream party which better aligns with their beliefs and needs, or continuing to support and (hopefully) transform the priorities of the Democratic platform.  

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