New York

Cleland and Cleveland


One more political reflection, then I hit the road.

It seems a basic point. But it’s worth making. Why do Republicans suppress African American turnout? Because if blacks voted in anything like the numbers whites did, the Republicans would lose several points in every election.

In fact, if people who don’t vote generally–the poor, minorities, youth–voted more often, the Republicans would do even worse.

The point’s been disputed. In his book “The Disappearing American Voter,” poll-watcher Ruy Teixeira asks, “What if they gave an eleciton and everybody came?” and answers: “Not much.” In other words that, contrary to liberal folklore, nonvoters, if they voted, would vote about the same way as voters. If you catch my drift.

Ain’t so, though. Teixeira’s argument is brilliantly debunked by UC-Irvine political scientist Martin P. Wattenberg in chapter five of his excellent little book “Where Have All the Voters Gone?” Using data from off-year elections–which, for complicated methodological reasons, make the point easier to prove–Wattenberg shows that, for example, in the 1994 elections people who voted favored the Democratic position that the government should help people get health coverage only 33 percent of the time. But 41 percent of registered nonvoters favored that position–and 49 percent of people who didn’t bother to register at all.

Keep ’em from the polls, you keep the Dems from power. Simple as that.

Even more so for black voters–who, traditionally, vote at lower rates than white voters. Here’s why Republicans want to keep it that way. Wattenberg kindly provided me with brand new data on the 2002 Senate election in Georgia. 36.5 percent of eligible white males voted, compared to 23.9 percent of white males. Assuming, roughly, that 88 percent of black men go for the Democrat, Max Cleland, and if blacks had voted at the same rate as whites, and Cleland would have added 2.4 points to his 46.5 percent total of the vote.

Reversing the turnout percentages, Cleland would have won, with 52.1 percent.

Tonight the Eagle Eye and Cleveland Bob, his host, report from a Kerry rally. Tomorrow the gang is joined by Mrs. Eagle Eye, thereupon to slay Republican vote-stealers with their laptops.

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