Uneasy Alliances: Race and Party Competition in America

By Paul Frymer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Is the Concept of Electoral Capture Applicable to
Other Groups? The Case of Gay and Lesbian
Voters in the Democratic Party and the Christian
Right in the Republican Party

[The Defense of Marriage Act is] this year’s
Sister Souljah—a way to show [Bill Clinton]
isn’t beholden to gay people.
(David Mixner)

Robert J. Dole appears to have stolen a page
from Bill Clinton’s Sister Souljah playbook.…
This past week, Dole has similarly sought to
draw a line separating himself from the
religious-conservative wing of his own party…
a stand that has infuriated the Christian right.
(Thomas Edsall)

And it is this which frightens me: Who knows
but that, on the lower frequencies,
I speak for you?
(Ralph Ellison)

I HAVE ARGUED throughout this book that racial cleavage, in conjunction with majority-based electoral laws, has created a set of incentives for party leaders to capture black interests and, in the process, make their concerns largely invisible in electoral competition. Envisioned by elites in the late 1820s as an institution to prevent racial issues from dominating the national political agenda, the two-party system continues to marginalize black interests in a way that is unique in American society.

While this argument is relevant for mainstream public debates about the relationship between African Americans and the Democratic party, my intent in this book is not to argue that the Democrats could do more to help their African American constituents. There is little question that this is true—yet it misses a deeper point. As institutions founded in part

-179-

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