The Bloc Vote Strikes Again

Think Progress’ Igor Volsky reports these lines from Paul Ryan about how and why he and Mitt lost:

In his first interview since losing the election, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wouldn’t admit that voters rejected his economic vision and instead chalked up President Obama’s victory to a large turnout of the “urban vote.” “I don’t think we lost it on those budget issues, especially on Medicare, we clearly didn’t lose it on those issues,” Ryan to local station WISC-TV. “I think the surprise was some of the turnout, some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race.”

Volsky goes on to contrast this “turnout” talk with Ryan’s pre-election assertions that the election was a big, bold choice between big, bold policy agendas.

But to an old cracker like me, the Dairy State Randian’s words had a very different connotation. Back in the 1960s, when southern African-Americans could (in some places, and to some degree) vote but segregationists were still in the saddle, any seggie setback was invariably blamed on “The Bloc Vote,” or “The Negro Bloc Vote” (a less inhibited term was, of course, used privately). The idea was that an election properly settled by white people talking about policy options was being hijacked by the hordes of Others who blindly voted for whoever their political bosses told them to vote for.

Now I am not, repeat not, accusing Paul Ryan of being a segregationist or a racist. But this habit of thinking of “the urban vote” as being a policy-indifferent mob that is simply turned out to neutralize the “big choices” being made by civic-minded folk, making the election results meaningless in terms of the direction of the country, certainly bears the pungent whisky-and-brimstone aroma of Old Dixie politics. Ryan would be well advised not to use this sort of terminology to support the no-mandate-election spin of his party.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.