Black and minority voters cheered rapturously yesterday at Barack Obama’s appearance in Boston, but many are worried about whether the excitement that came with the president’s historic election still exists — and what that means for Democratic turnout.
“There’s more enthusiasm when you have the opportunity to elect a trailblazer, the first black governor, the first black president. The second time around it’s always going to be more difficult,” said James Jennings, professor of urban policy and planning at Tufts University. “The issue this time is how many black voters actually show up.”
Obama spoke to a huge crowd at the Hynes Convention Center yesterday at a rally for Gov. Deval Patrick, who in 2006 was the country’s second elected black governor.
The Massachusetts governor’s race is one of 14 competitive governor’s races in the country where the black vote will play a significant role, according to a report released Thursday by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, an African-American think tank in Washington, D.C.
David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, which released a poll last week showing Patrick has a 7 point lead over Republican Charlie Baker,expects minority voter turnout to be lower here and across the country.
“The general consensus is that African-American participation will be lower in intensity, which is why you are seeing Barack Obama and a concerted effort to motivate minority voter participation in November,’’ he said. During the last mid-term elections in 2006, when Patrick was elected, national black voter turnout was 47 percent, up from 44 percent in the previous midterms in 2002, according to the Joint Center. Black voter turnout was 64 percent in 2008, when Obama was elected. Voter turnouts are typically higher for presidential elections than the mid-terms.
“There’s kind of a question mark as to what will the degree of mobilization will be’’ in the black community this year, agreed Avi Green, executive director of MassVOTE. “To what degree will there be sermons coming down at churches about the importance of voting and community leaders really getting out there?’’
Mobilization will depend on Patrick’s field organization in minority areas, which Green believes is as strong as in 2006. Minority voters typically vote Democratic if they go to polls, he said. “Every Democratic campaign has to make the sale, or folks will stay home,’’ he said.
Despite Obama’s sinking approval ratings, there’s little doubt that his appearance will be a boost for Patrick among minority voters, said David A. Bositis, senior political analyst at the Joint Center. “The president is enormously popular with African Americans. To the degree that he needs help, Obama’s appearance will be very much a plus.”
And many voters are keenly aware of what the election means to them, said Darnell Williams, executive director of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts. “The issues that were pertinent in 2006 are completely different than issues that are on people’s radar screens now,’’ he said. “When I think about where the economy, jobs, certainty of the future, enthusiasm is not the right word. People have a heightened awareness of what the governor’s race means to them.” Clayton Turnbull, 53, an African American businessman from Boston who hosted a fund raiser for Patrick this year, agreed id the energy is there. “So many people registered to vote, so many people came out for what they wanted. They are going to keep voting, you just don’t turn that around very quickly,’’ he said. d. “I’m optimistic and confident about the population of color and their enthusiasm and their increased enthusiasm.’’
This year, voters will have to be drawn to the polls by more than the promise of making history.
“I don’t think it’s the same as, ‘We are going to have the first black governor. We are going to have the first black president.’ No — that enthusiasm is not there,’’ said Charles Clemons, who co-owns Roxbury radio station TOUCH 106.1 FM. “What’s there now is that, ‘OK, we have elected these men to office and now it’s time for us to support these men because they can’t do it by themselves.’ ”Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/us_politics/view.bg?articleid=1289388