The Great Re-Migration and the Coming Realignment of African-American Voters

In a reversal of the Jim Crow-era “great migration,” African-Americans are leaving failed cities in the north and returning to the South, writes Daniel Disalvo in a recent City Journal essay. But they’re not moving back to the poor, rural counties their ancestors hailed from, nor are they moving back to the inner city. The migrants typically are moving to the suburbs.

In the no-longer “lily white” suburbs, middle-class African-Americans  increasingly share the same day-to-day concerns as their white counterparts. DiSalvo asks whether the suburbanization and Southernization of the African-American population will erode the monolithic loyalty of African-Americans to the Democratic Party. Does this broad socio-economic trend portend a political shift?

As blacks spread out residentially, it becomes harder to draw predominantly black districts. Further, increased numbers of black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are likely to change the equation, as their experience in the United States differs significantly from that of native-born blacks. The traditional grievance narrative doesn’t capture the imagination of entrepreneurial Nigerians in Houston or Somalis in Minneapolis.

New political attitudes among blacks also have trouble finding expression when black candidates are concentrated into one party. So some blacks may eventually decide to test their political fortunes outside the safe harbors of the Democratic Party—and that means becoming independents or even joining the GOP. Recently, Republican members of ethnic minorities have had more success than their Democratic counterparts in winning office in states and districts with white voting majorities: think of Congressmen Tim Scott (South Carolina) and Allen West (Florida), Senator Marco Rubio (Florida), and Governors Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), Nikki Haley (South Carolina), and Susana Martinez (New Mexico). That trend could coincide neatly with the southward migration of middle-class, entrepreneurial black Americans. The South, then, in addition to holding more economic promise for blacks, could soon offer them greater political opportunity as well—and, in the process, transform the two parties’ long-established racial dynamics.

I think it’s going to happen. The gap between the race-hustling rhetoric of many Democratic Party politicians and blacks’ real-world experience is getting wider and wider. Assertions that Republicans want to “bring back Jim Crow” are beyond ludicrous. They are psychotic — psychotic in the clinical sense of being totally detached from reality. At some point African-Americans will see that the liberal/progressive policies are detrimental to their interests and serve only to prolong dependency and poverty. When they do, they will, as DiSalvo argues, seek political expression outside the Democratic Party.


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  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka


    Lots of problems here. First African-Americans being upwardly mobile and moving to the ‘burbs is hardly news.
    Secondly, your laud of “ethnic” minorities becoming prominent Republicans is off base. I doubt that most African-American are registered Republicans. As far as Rubio and Martinzez, there are, and have been, plenty of Latinos in both parties.
    Your use of “ethnic” is loaded. Do you mean White Anglo-Saxon Protestants such as yourself? Are they the ones in power for so long? You seem to forget that the first “white, European” settlements in North American were Spanish. People of Spanish descent have lived along the border in the U.S. Southwest for far longer than the WASPs or Irish or Germans or whatever. Nice of you to throw the Hispanics a tasy enchilada.
    This isn’t even getting into the Native Americans.

    What I find annoying is the condescending tone of this post. It says, “Gee, ‘ethnics’ have a place at the conservative table with White Guys like me who have always sat in the Daddy Seat.”
    I gather you don’t consider yourself “ethnic”, Jim, but “ruling elite?”

    1. First, I didn’t use the term “ethnic” minority. DiSalvo did.

      Second, nobody is claiming that “most African-Americans are registered Republicans.” They aren’t. Everybody knows it. What the post suggests is that as the day-to-day experience of African-Americans bears less and less resemblance to the florid, race-hustling rhetoric of Democrats they will come to see that rhetoric as fraudulent and that more will of them will explore political affiliations outside the party.

  2. Way, way off here. If you think that “the traditional grievance narrative” is all that’s keeping African-Americans attached to the Democratic Party you’re way out of touch with actual voters. The Republican Party is struggling to attract immigrants and their descendents of all ethnicities and races, so I don’t think it’s a question of “entrepreneurial Nigerians” swinging to the GOP.

    Although I do know one “entrepreneurial Nigerian” who’s working on Republican outreach to minority voters, but is struggling to raise the capital he needs. If you could just provide some basic financial information to him …

    1. FreeDem, No, I don’t think that the “traditional grievance narrative” is the *only* thing keeping African-Americans attached to the Democratic Party. But it is one of the things that does.

  3. thebyurokrat Avatar

    I don’t see how blacks moving from the north to southern suburbs will change their voting tendencies.

    The shifting of economic growth to the sunbelt has seen internal migration from the north among all racial and ethnic groups. However, we have not seen those individuals changing their voting habits. Rather, in many cases, they have shifted the electoral balance of southern states. Just look at the shifts in federal politics seen within former GOP strongholds such as Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. High levels of migration from the north have also changed the political calculus within states such as Colorado and Nevada.

    Maybe in the long term this analysis will bear out, but what we’re seeing is that northerners are bringing their voting habits with them, and increasing the viability of Democrats being elected.

    1. You may be right. Once people align themselves politically and ideologically, they rarely change their outlook. The older they get, the more invested in that outlook they get. But change does happen sometimes, especially when one’s views are wildly discordant with reality. We’ll see….

  4. reed fawell Avatar
    reed fawell

    What are folks so worried about? A crossed fertilized big tent two party system is essential for a healthy American Democracy. Otherwise, we got Venezuela. So Relax. Let all the folks – Black, White, Yellow, Red and Brown – out into the fresh air, to escape or otherwise get off their respective Plantations, Reservations, and Gated Communities. Mix is up. We’ll all individual humans, after all. Each one of us deserve respect, each one of us are men and women of free will and wit, fully capable of deciding for ourselves what is best of us, without outside interference, or mindless stereotyping by others.

  5. Voting suppression is a Jim Crow tactic. It’s not psychotic or insane to point out that a significant election strategy of the Republicans this year is to suppress the vote of traditional Democratic voters with i.d. and early voting laws that have no utility except to make it harder to vote.
    If you want to know why minorities and others don’t vote Republican all you had to do was to watch the Republican convention – the people there and the message. You obviously don’t recognize real “race hustling” – it’s been an important part of Republican strategy since Nixon – see Jesse Helms, Willie Horton, welfare queens, and most recently the cynical statements about the elimination of work requuirements for welfare.

  6. reed fawell Avatar
    reed fawell

    “You obviously don’t recognize real “race hustling”” – Guess all those blacks up there at the podium speaking don’t recognize it either.

    1. Reed – I think you might have stated that awkwardly (“blacks up there at the podium”??).
      But I didn’t see any race hustling (stupid term by the way) at the Democratic convention.

  7. DJRippert Avatar

    It’s already happening, Jim. I have the benefit of having attended a public high school that was always a melting pot. I still live in the same area (NoVa) where I went to high school. I still keep up with my friends who went to high school with me. My buddy Jose is married to my friend Russ’ sister. I just went to my friend Eugene’s retirement celebration from the US Army (after 31 years). Sadly, many of us got together at our friend Tom’s funeral.

    These are middle class and middle aged blacks, whites, Asians and Hispanics. The actual political distribution of my “sample set” of friends from high school is far different than you would expect. The only hard core Democrats and real liberals are the white people – especially many of the women. The only hard core conservatives and Republicans are the white people – especially many of the men. The only Democratic policy plank that matters to most of the Hispanics is immigration law. The Asians are generally more conservative than I am.

    Back in high school things were quite different. If you were black or Hispanic, you were liberal. If you were white or Asian, you were conservative. There were few exceptions. Of course, back in high school – you pretty much were what your parents were. Which is the point. The kids have grown up and become the parents. And, today, you most definitely can’t tell the political persuasion of my high school classmates by the color of their skin.

  8. reed fawell Avatar
    reed fawell


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