Bloc Like Me

Gay marriage and abortion tug African Americans toward the Republican Party

In this era of partisanship, African Americans are a weird amalgam—a group that is fundamentally socially conservative, yet hates the Republican Party.

For years, this paradox has endured to the Democrats' favor—but don't count on its being eternal. The coalitions that make up political parties shift constantly. The South, with its trove of white working-class votes, was once a fortress for the Democrats, but now it's solidly Republican. The Democrats' black base is no different. Post-Abraham Lincoln, African Americans voted Republican. Post-Franklin Delano Roosevelt, they voted Democrat. Just like that.

In the 1980s and '90s, many of the issues Republicans rallied around—affirmative action, crime, welfare reform—seemed like code words for racist positions. But this time, as the cultural divide widens again, the issue is gay marriage. Much of black America is either Southern or has Southern roots. As Republicans make their traditionalist pitch, why wouldn't a significant portion of intrigued black voters—call them McCain Republicans—eventually be swept into the fray?

Illustration by Sam Weber

"These issues aren't going away," said Paul. "The church movement is only going to grow in the black community. They have a simple message: 'Come back to the Bible. Come back home.' "

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