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The 99 Percent Speak

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By now, we are all familiar with the Republican view of elections.  When they win the election it was fair, when the Democrats win it was because of fraud.

For a recent example, consider the remarks made by state House Speaker Sam Smith the day after the Nov. 6th election. 

Smith had predicted big things in Pennsylvania for his candidate Mitt Romney, and now it was clear he was wrong. Despite a last-minute Romney push in the state, the Republican candidate fell short, losing to President Obama by five percentage points -- just under 300,000 votes.  It wasn't even close.

What could have lifted Obama over the top? Smith was willing to speculate.  As the Associated Press reported:

Republican state House Speaker Sam Smith is suggesting the election in Philadelphia was rigged.... Smith said Wednesday is a 'questionable' because he heard that more than 90 percent of voters cast ballots in 90 percent of Philadelphia precincts. Smith says he has no evidence of fraud....

What's the line between being questionable and fraudulent? It's a thin one, I assure you, that will be crossed in the coming weeks as Republicans rally to say: "See, I told you so!" about the need for the repugnant voter ID law.  Put on ice this election by a court order, voter ID will be back next year.

It's hard to argue the facts when the facts are irrelevant, but let me give it a try.

Smith is wrong.  In looking over returns from the city's 1,678 divisions, I have yet to find one where turnout was 90 percent.  To say that turnout was that high in more than 1,000 divisions is ludicrous and laughable, not to mention patently false.

Voter turnout last Tuesday in Philadelphia was 62 percent.  Statewide, it was 66 percent. In Jefferson County, which is Smith's home county, it was 60 percent.  (Shame on the Republicans there for not coming out in greater numbers to help Romney.)

What is true is that President Obama got near-unanimous support from black voters in Philadelphia. In a dozen key black wards I monitor as indicators, Obama got 99 percent of the vote.

Is this so off the charts as to make it "questionable" and an indicator of fraud? No.  African Americans are behavioral Democrats, with a strong inclination to vote for candidates of that party. Al Gore and John Kerry -- two very white guys -- got 98 percent shares of the black vote in Philadelphia when they ran for President.

And it is not true that blacks will always support black candidates.  Just ask Gov. Lynn Swann (black guy) who got swamped by Ed Rendell (white guy) in Philadelphia.

Let me suggest another theory as to why blacks supported the President in such numbers.

Maybe it was because they had endured 10 months of relentless attack on a man they consider a historic figure -- the first black ever elected President of the United States -- where his opponents called him everything but a child of God.

Maybe it was because his opponents not only opposed his policies, but his very heritage. They said he wasn't a citizen.  They questioned the validity of his birth certificate. They said he was not really a Christian, but a Muslim.

Maybe it was because they called him weak and an appeaser when it came to radical Islam.  Remember the line about Obama's "apology tour" of the Middle East?

Maybe it was because they refused to give him credit for saving the United States from a depression and instead focused on the deficits created by the steps -- the bank and auto industry bailouts, the federal stimulus package -- taken to save the country from economic disaster.

Maybe it was because they heard Romney's remark about the 47 percent -- and knew, in that equation, Romney and his friends were the makers and they were the takers.

Maybe it was because they weren't enthusiastic by the Romney-Ryan plan to give tax breaks to the rich and pay for it with cuts in social services spending.

Maybe it was because the Republican candidate was a multimillionaire, a bona-fide member of the 1 percent, who never had a hungry day in his life and appeared to have zero empathy for those who did.

Maybe it was because they figured out that the true purpose of the voter ID law was to keep them away from the polls and that the law reeked of voter suppression, just like in the bad old days in the South.

When you add it all up, maybe it isn't such a surprise that Barack Obama got 99 percent of the black vote in Philadelphia.  Maybe the surprise is that Mitt Romney got any black votes at all.

-- Tom Ferrick


Photo: House Speaker Sam Smith

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