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A message to the Democratic Party: Black people will not be the scapegoat if you lose Wisconsin again

SCAPEGOAT: a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place.

I have heard consistently since the 2016 election that Black people in Wisconsin caused the Clinton loss. The narrative has been driven into the consciousness of people here, around the country and around the world. I have been interviewed by reporters from Australia, Canada, London, Belgium and Holland who all asked me questions about how important it is that Black people get out to vote so that Wisconsin does not see a repeat of 2016.

I have refused to fall for this narrative and plan to make sure that we are not being set up for the okey doke. We are not the reason Clinton lost in 2016. There were many factors that led to her defeat by about 22,000 votes. I have previously written about a few of the factors that led to the loss of Wisconsin by Hillary Clinton in 2016 after Barack Obama won the state in both 2008 and 2012.

In 2012 the Black voter turnout in the United States was the highest ever recorded and exceed the White turnout for the first time ever. Looking back at the last three presidential elections in Wisconsin shows us how up and down voting was in the state. In 2008 Obama received 1,677,211 votes; 1,620,985 in 2012 and Clinton received just 1,382,536 votes in 2016. On the Republican ticket in 2008 McCain received 1,262,393 votes; Romney received 1,407,966 in 2012 and Trump received 1,405,284 in 2016.

In 2008 43,815 ballots were cast for someone other than the two major party candidates; in 2012 39,483 votes were cast for alternative candidates but these disenchanted voters who supported an alternative candidate, grew to 188,330 in 2016 in Wisconsin. These are the voters who showed very clearly that they did not like either of the major party candidates. The 148,847 additional disenchanted voters turned the tide of the 2016 election and no one talks about them as a reason for Clinton’s loss.

Trump won 215,701 less votes in 2016 than Obama won in 2012 and 271,927 less than Obama received in 2008. Clinton received 25,430 less votes by losing in 2016 than Romney received when losing in 2012 and 120,143 more votes than McCain received when he lost in 2008. The margin of victory in 2008 for Obama was 414,818 votes; 213,019 votes in 2012 and Trump won by 22,748 votes in 2016.

The Democratic Party won 294,675 less votes in 2016 than they won in 2008. In 2016 the Census Bureau reported that 355,473 Blacks live in Wisconsin. The Democratic Party has a problem attracting White voters.

In 2016 just 37 percent of White voters voted for Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump received 57 percent of White votes. By contrast, 89 percent of Blacks voted for Clinton and only 8 percent voted for Trump. Over the past ten elections the Democrats received 37%-2016, 39%-2012, 43%-2008, 41%-2004, 42%-2000, 44%-1996, 39%-1992, 40%-1988, 34%-1984, and 36%-1980. When Jimmy Carter won 48% in 1976 that was as close as Democrats have come to winning half of White voters in recent memory. Republicans have received over 55 percent of White votes in all ten of these elections except in 96 and 92 when Ross Perot cut their totals to just 46 and 41 percent respectively.

Looking at the state of Wisconsin demographically, Whites are currently 80.8% of residents according to the Census Bureau. Blacks are 6.3%, Hispanics 7.1%, Asians 2.9% and Native Americans are 0.8% of the state’s residents. Based on this breakdown, eight of every ten residents are White yet we keep hearing that Blacks in Milwaukee are the biggest factor if the Democrats expect to win Wisconsin. Just over 60 percent of all Blacks in the state live in Milwaukee. Only 4.4 percent of the Whites in the state live in Milwaukee.

All of the focus has been on those Black voters in Milwaukee since 2016’s loss by Clinton. In 2016 441,053 votes were cast in Milwaukee County. Of those 288,822 votes went to Clinton (65.5%). She won by 152,231 votes in Milwaukee County. So in the county where most Blacks in the state live, basically two of three votes were won by Hillary Clinton. Milwaukee County accounted for just 14.8 percent of all votes cast in the state. If you subtract all Milwaukee County votes Trump won 1,279,215 votes to just 1,093,714 for Clinton a margin of 185,501 votes.

Taking a closer look at just the city of Milwaukee, Clinton won 188,653 votes to only 45,167 for Trump. Subtracting all city of Milwaukee votes from the state total, 1,360,117 people voted for Donald Trump and 1,193,883 voted for Clinton.

The only counties Clinton won in the state were; Ashland, Bayfield, Dane, Douglas, Eau Claire, Green, Iowa, La Crosse, Menomonee, Milwaukee, Portage, and Rock. The other 60 counties voted for Donald Trump. In 2012 Obama won half of the 72 counties in Wisconsin. In 2008 he won 59 counties. The Democrats went from winning 59 counties in 2008 to just 12 in 2016.

Blacks exceed 5 percent of the population of only 4 counties in the entire state (Milwaukee, Dane, Kenosha, Racine). Of the twenty-three counties that voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 but Trump in 2016, known as pivot counties, they averaged just 1.8 percent Black population and subtracting Racine and Kenosha from the list they average just 1.1 percent Black population. These counties combined accounted for 39,114 fewer votes for the Democratic Party in 2016 than they did in 2012.

I argue that the weakness in these counties was as big a factor for the Democratic Party losing Wisconsin as losing Black votes. The loss of 39,114 votes in those twenty-three counties is almost identical to the 39,157 votes lost in the city of Milwaukee.

Why then is so much pressure placed on Black voters in Milwaukee than on those White voters in those pivot counties? Because we are an easy scapegoat. It is much easier to blame Black voters who were largely disenfranchised by the voter ID law which became effective in 2015 than it is to take responsibility for the loss of the pivot counties.

The Democratic Party has focused so much attention on the loss of Black voters that they have failed to emphasize the importance of those White voters in the pivot counties. I hope they are prepared to admit this mistake if they lose again instead of using Blacks as a scapegoat.

About The Author

Reggie Jackson

As an award-winning Senior Columnist for the Milwaukee Independent, Reggie Jackson covers a range of African American issues. He is also a Consultant with Nurturing Diversity Partners, and volunteers as Head Griot for America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM) in Bronzeville.