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Strategic Voting and African-Americans: True Vote, True Representation, True Power for the Black Community


Maxine Burkett


University of Hawaii at Manoa - William S. Richardson School of Law


U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-37
Michigan Journal of Race and Law, Vol. 8, pp. 425-469, 2002-2003

Abstract:     
In this article, the author attempts to answer the question of whether or not voting for African-Americans should be the purest disposition of one's convictions or a bargaining chip to be traded strategically. In coming to her conclusion, Burkett explores African-Americans relatively long-standing affiliation with the Democratic Party and exposes the lack of actual representation and vigorous advocacy displayed by the Party, in spite of unflinching loyalty by the Black community. Using the political mobility and cross-voting practices of the Latino community as a model of "strategic voting," Burkett argues that African-Americans would indeed benefit in the political marketplace if it cross-voted similarly. However, Burkett argues that for African-Americans, the vote is not merely a political instrument to be employed in a marketplace. Rather, the vote holds in it the sentimental and powerful duties and rewards of citizenship, which Black people in America were prevented from enjoying, by both law and practice, throughout American history. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, individualist notions of the right to vote trump strong community notions of action in the general American polis. For African-Americans, however, the shared experience of profound exclusion and enduring struggle is what unites the community. With such ties created and re-created in American society, the vote can never be a mere tool; and the goal sought by the vote can never be solely about individual gain. As a result, until the Republican Party provides a more attractive and sincere politics, the Black community will remain, for better or worse, with the better ideological fit. The article concludes with a discussion of the true villain in party politics: the two-party system. As long as American politics remain securely bound to the two-party system, Blacks will remain a voting block; a block that may shift, but a block nonetheless.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

Keywords: voting rights, civil rights, race, African-Americans, Latinos, politics

JEL Classification: K19, K39, K49

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Date posted: December 5, 2006  

Suggested Citation

Burkett, Maxine, Strategic Voting and African-Americans: True Vote, True Representation, True Power for the Black Community. U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-37; Michigan Journal of Race and Law, Vol. 8, pp. 425-469, 2002-2003. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=949548

Contact Information

Maxine Burkett (Contact Author)
University of Hawaii at Manoa - William S. Richardson School of Law ( email )
2515 Dole Street
Honolulu, HI 96822
United States
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