On his 100th day in office, Barack Obama enjoys high job approval ratings, no matter what poll you consult. But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are.
So you African-Americans? According to Byron York, you don't actually count. My buddy and former C&L contributer Steve Benen:
For crying out loud, what the hell does that mean, exactly? I read the rest of the piece, hoping to see York explain why the president's seemingly popular positions are exaggerated or inflated. Why, in other words, these positions "appear" more popular "than they actually are."
But all the piece tells me is that African Americans tend to support Obama in greater numbers than white Americans.
The problem, of course, is that damn phrase "than they actually are." York argues that we can see polls gauging public opinion, but if we want to really understand the popularity of the president's positions, and not be fooled by "appearances," then we have to exclude black people.
There's really no other credible way to read this. York effectively argues that black people shouldn't count. We can look at polls measuring the attitudes of Americans, but if we want to see the truth -- appreciate the numbers as "they actually are" -- then it's best if we focus our attention on white people, and only white people.
I swear the next thing York will suggest is calling for polling companies to consider African-Americans as only 3/5th a person to more accurately reflect reality. I'm sure you can find the historical precedence for it if you try really hard.
You stay classy, Byron.
Dave N: This is actually a not-uncommon species of eliminationist rhetoric, since these kinds of discussions are essentially exercises in imagining the world with a whole class of people effectively excised.
As Adam Serwer observes: "This is another example of a really bizarre genre of conservative writing, which I call 'If Only Those People Weren't Here.'"
It reminds me somewhat of the absence of black people in most non-dystopian science fiction, except the subtextual desire in York's column is far more deliberate: If black people weren't able to vote, Republicans would win more elections. And Ann Coulter, at the very least, has had the chutzpah to say directly what she's really thinking: "If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democrat president."
And it's not just right-wing ideologues who indulge this sort of brain-dead analysis -- the mainstream media do it too.
One of the real classics of this genre was Bill Schneider's report for CNN's "Inside Politics" on April 25, 2002:
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, how dependent are Democrats on the African-American vote?
Without black voters, the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections would have been virtually tied, just like the 2000 election. Oh no, more Florida recounts!
(voice-over): What would have happened if no blacks had voted in 2000? Six states would have shifted from Al Gore to George W. Bush: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Oregon. Bush would have won by 187 electoral votes, instead of five. A Florida recount? Not necessary.
Right now, there are 50 Democrats in the Senate. How many would be there without African-American voters? We checked the state exit polls for the 1996, 1998, and 2000 elections. If no blacks had voted, many Southern Democrats would not have made it to the Senate. Both Max Cleland and Zell Miller needed black votes to win in Georgia. So did Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Bill Nelson in Florida, John Edwards in North Carolina, and Ernest Hollings in South Carolina.
Black votes were also crucial for Jon Corzine in New Jersey, Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, and Jean Carnahan in Missouri. Washington state and Nevada don't have many black voters, but they were still crucial to the victories of Harry Reid in Nevada and Maria Cantwell in Washington.
Nebraska and Wisconsin don't have many black voters either, but Ben Nelson would have lost Nebraska without them and Russ Feingold would have lost Wisconsin, too, in both cases by less than half-a- percent. Bottom line? Without the African-American vote, the number of Democrats in the Senate would be reduced from 50 to 37.
SCHNEIDER: A hopeless minority. And Jim Jeffords' defection from the GOP would not have meant a thing -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: We know the Democrats are aware of this. Bill Schneider, thanks very much.