As the nation’s first black president settles into the office, a division is deepening between two groups of African Americans: those who want to continue to praise Obama and his historic ascendancy, and those who want to examine him more critically now that the election is over.
Johnson is one of a growing number of black academics, commentators and authors determined to press Obama on issues such as the elimination of racial profiling and the double-digit unemployment rate among blacks.
But doing so has put them at odds with others in the black community. Love for the Obamas is thick among African Americans — 91 percent of whom view the president favorably, compared with 59 percent of the total population, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted last month — and as a result, the African American punditry finds itself navigating new ground.
With all due respect to the staff writer in question, this is a pretty banal and unremarkable story. Of course there are meaningful political divisions within the African-American community – black people are people, you know – and those divisions are evident to anyone with a passing familiarity with black history (Washington and DuBois anyone?). Now, it is true that these political differences aren’t immediately apparent. After all, African-Americans overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates in state and federal elections, and barring some seismic shift in the political system, that will probably continue for the foreseeable future.
But t is also the case that African-American party identification is a less a product of ideological uniformity and more a product of historical contingency; for a variety of reasons, it just so happened that Democrats opted to capitalize on the growing importance of African-Americans to national elections. If Republicans had made that decision, then there’s a fair chance that we’d be talking about the solid lock of the GOP on black voters. Once you recognize that black support for Democrats isn’t completely ideological (I mean, there are plenty of black liberals), it’s easier to understand why you have the sharp disagreements characterized in the article; like any other, African-Americans have a variety of interests, and often, those come into conflict.
Before I sign off on this, I should add that it’s the case that most groups are directed towards a particular political party for reasons that aren’t entirely ideological. But I do think that when explaining why particular groups become “captured” by political parties (blacks, white evangelicals, etc.), non-ideological factors take an outsized role.