Wednesday Reading List: Special Election Results & The Messages We Send to Parents

In last night's special election, voters in Alabama decided to send a Democrat to the United States Senate for the first time in a generation. As Vann Newkirk II of The Atlantic points out, turnout among Black voters is a big part of the story:

The Washington Post’s exit polls indicated that black voters would make up 28 percent of the voters, greater than their 26 percent share of the population, which would be a dramatic turnaround from previous statewide special elections in the South, including a special election for the Sixth District in Georgia which saw black support for Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff dissipate on Election Day ... turnout was particularly high in the counties with the highest black populations. In Greene County, a small, 80-percent-black area that Martin Luther King, Jr., frequented in his Poor People’s Campaign, turnout reached 78 percent of 2016 turnout, an incredible mark given that special elections and midterms usually fall far short of general-election marks.

That first statistic is invigorating, as it challenges the wrongheaded "conventional wisdom" of political hacks about the propensity of non-White voters to turn out.  I have literally heard politically influential old White men say, "I wish we could invest more electoral resources in Black communities, but they just don't vote."


The national Democratic party poured a bunch of money and organizing resources into this election. Money alone doesn't win elections, though, and it is critical to understand that the outcome here - which relied on maximizing turnout in communities with high concentrations of Black voters - was a tactical decision that the party can emulate elsewhere.

Here's The Washington Post exit polling that Newkirk references:

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Quartz broke down CNN's exit polling by both race and gender:

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First of all, a quick message from me - on behalf of White, progressive dudes - to Black women:

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Second, it's important to understand the strategic political ramifications of this result. An investment in turning out a Black woman to vote in Alabama was roughly three times more likely to generate a vote for the Democratic candidate than the same resources invested in a White woman. Campaigns work with limited cash over short periods of time, and in an environment with finite resources, understanding this massive differential in return on investment should change two things: 1) where the Democratic party spends the bulk of its money in 2018 and 2020, and 2) the extent to which the party focuses on recruiting candidates who are naturally appealing to non-White voters.

Looking forward to seeing both of those things happen. Your move, Democratic party.

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In other news, Chris Stewart, writing at his personal blog, wants to dissect the messages we send to different groups of parents about schooling:

When white schools fail school workers rethink everything, including their staffing, budget, curriculum, daily schedule, and so on. They reform. If white kids aren't learning it's assumed there is something wrong with the system and the system is expected to reconfigure. With black students, the attack is different. If we aren't learning there is something wrong with us, our culture, our parents, and our neighborhoods. It's funny that many people who charge Teach For America with acting like white saviors are the same people proposing we suck down the apogee of all white saviorism: the idea that we are incapable of educational worth without comingling ourselves with whites ... I'm simplifying a complex thing.

Stewart's message is thought-provoking, and one that I've had to reckon with throughout the years. Read the whole piece, because you're bound to be pushed to rethink something something you've taken for granted about schools and integration.

Have a great day!