Following the defeat of Hillary Clinton in the presidential election of 2016, many prominent scholars and political pundits argued that a successful Democratic Party in the future must abandon identity politics. While these calls for Democrats to distance themselves from such strategies have received much attention, there is scant academic work that empirically tests whether nonracial campaigns provide an advantage to Democrats today. As Christopher Stout explains, those who argue for deracialized appeals to voters may not be considering how several high-profile police shootings and acquittals, increasing evidence of growing racial economic disparities, retrenchments on voting rights, and the growth of racial hate groups have made race a more salient issue now than in the recent past. Moreover, they fail to account for how demographic changes in the United States have made racial and ethnic minorities a more influential voting bloc.
The Case for Identity Politics finds that racial appeals are an effective form of outreach for Democratic candidates and enhance, rather than detract from, their electability in our current political climate.
Summary: Bringing Race Back In addresses several timely questions about political behavior, black candidates, and race in 21st century America. In particular, Bringing Race Back In explores whether black candidates can make racial appeals to the black community without sacrificing white and Latino support. The study uses content analysis of over 2,000 newspaper articles for over 30 presidential, U.S. Senate, and gubernatorial elections with African American candidates in combination with the quantitative analysis of state exit polls and U.S. Census voter surveys.
The results reported in this book demonstrate that black candidates who make positive racial appeals (e.g. racial appeals which demonstrate that the candidate will either advance black policy interests or highlight the candidate’s connection to the black community without attacking outside political players) not only perform better among black voters, but they also improve their standing among Latino and white voters. This finding counters conventional wisdom which suggests that black candidates can only succeed in majority white settings if they distance themselves from the black electorate. Overall, Bringing Race Back In maintains that black candidates can reach the highest echelons of American politics without sacrificing their presumed racial values and ties to the black community.