I don’t know why it’s surprising to some people that Blacks overwhelmingly vote democratic, regardless of their religious convictions. An October 31, 2011 gallup poll found that more than 6 in 10 “very religious” Whites identify with the GOP. The pollster concluded that “a white American’s degree of religiousness....is a strong predictor of that person’s political orientation.”
The poll showed the situation with blacks to be very different, concluding that the “historical ties” between blacks and the Democratic Party are so strong that they “overwhelm” the impact of religiousness that is evident among other racial groups, in spite of the fact that highly religious blacks have more in common with traditional Republicans on “social and values issues.” I think the pollster is referring to personal morals here.
I’m not sure what the pollster meant by “historical ties,” but I think there is more to the connection between blacks and democrats than whatever that might mean. Are blacks so tied to the Democrats by history that we wouldn’t change even if it were better for us? I don’t think so. If history is the tie that binds, we’d still be voting Republican. This is really all about black faith.
It’s not the Democrats that the black vote is loyal to, it’s their politics. The democratic party platform lines up more neatly with black theology--an understanding of God that lifts up the importance of the freedom that God wants for all people: freedom from oppression, freedom from racism and the freedom that comes from a fair and just system of government. That’s the understanding that African slaves saw in Christianity even when the slave holders tried to teach them differently. That’s why the Black Church can be comfortable being conservative in its personal morals while progressive in it’s social teachings.
Black people are not stupid. We place our bets on the party that at least professes the kind of social justice that will benefit us. We know we are better off in a country that is not geared to conserve the wealth for those who already have it. We know that trickle down economics has never worked for our benefit. We hear the coded messages of “Willie Horton,” “Real Americans” and “Take Back America,” etc. and we understand. That is, at least most of us do.
The Democrats have not always followed through, but at least they play the right political cards to keep us believing that they want what’s best for us. And that lines up with a basic tenet of black theology: we know that God wants what’s best for us, too. Religion has to do with more than one’s personal morals. It also has to do with what’s moral for the nation, and that is shown by how well we care for each other.