With less than a month before the 2014 midterm elections, news has emerged that a record number of African Americans are running for federal office this year. However, some experts find that these advances in elected office have been met by increased racial polarization in politics, particularly in the Deep South.
According to an analysis by David Bositis, an expert on African-American politics, there are 82 black nominees in the two major parties running in 2014, surpassing the 2012 record of 72 candidates.
Of the 82 candidates running, 64 are Democrats and 18 are Republicans, and all but three are seeking election to the U.S. House.
Two black Democrats, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Joyce Dickerson of South Carolina, and one black Republican, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, are on the ballot for U.S. Senate seats.
Among the candidates are four African-American women who are likely to be new additions to the U.S. House: Democrats Brenda Lawrence of Michigan, Alma Adams of North Carolina, and Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands, as well as Republican Mia Love of Utah, who would be the first black Republican woman elected to Congress.
Currently there are 44 African Americans serving in Congress, and their ranks are forecast to grow in November, which means next January will bring in a Congress with the highest number of blacks serving in U.S. history.
The growth of blacks in Congress has been most notable in the House Democratic Caucus. After the 2012 elections, House Democrats became the first congressional faction in history to be more than half women and minorities. The 2014 election slate suggests that trend will not reverse itself anytime soon.
While this may seem like positive news, Bositis explained the issue further. “I wish I could write with confidence that these increases in black major party nominees was a positive development, but the fact is that many of the increases are occurring in states (especially in the South) where most whites are withdrawing from Democratic party politics — leaving black candidates the nominations by default,” he wrote.
As the 2014 midterm elections approach, it’s important to remember the words of Zora Neale Hurston that, “all your skin folk ain’t your kin folk.” It’s important to research every candidate’s positions and policies and not just vote for the Black candidate by default. However, the fact that more Blacks are being involved in national politics is encouraging news, because access to both the ballot box and the slate are key to progress.