As a host and pundit for ESPN, Stephen A. Smith is paid to have bold and at times controversial opinions. Usually, these takes are confined to the world of sports, but on Wednesday, Smith generated quite a stir after saying he wanted to see every black American vote Republican in an election.
Smith, who is black, argued during a talk at Vanderbilt University that African-Americans’ overwhelming support for Democrats over the past 50 years has led to their own disenfranchisement. He encouraged black people to temporarily change their party affiliation to demonstrate their political power.
“What I dream is that for one election, just one, every black person in America vote Republican,” Smith said.
“Black folks in America are telling one party, ‘We don’t give a damn about you.’ They’re telling the other party ‘You’ve got our vote,'” Smith continued. “Therefore, you have labeled yourself ‘disenfranchised’ because one party knows they’ve got you under their thumb. The other party knows they’ll never get you and nobody comes to address your interest.”
Though the actual impact of such a switch is impossible to predict, Smith is right that African Americans have been closely aligned with the Democratic Party ever since the civil rights movement. In the 2012 presidential election, only 6 percent of the country’s black population voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney. In the past 40 years, the highest percentage of black votes earned by a Republican was Gerald Ford’s meager 17 percent in 1976.
Predictably, Smith’s comments provoked a deeply divided reaction from the political commentariat on social media.
What Stephen A. Smith understands about racial allegiance and party politics could apparently fit in a thimble. https://t.co/3NChjdAtuE— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) March 19, 2015
Stephen Smith gets a hilariously large amount wrong here https://t.co/kZedlGMgfd— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) March 18, 2015
Photo via The White House/Flickr (PD)