By George Reed
Today, demographics play an important role in how candidates conduct their campaigns. This is very important in the up-coming presidential and local elections for a number of reasons.
Several factors are very noticeable in the demographics when we look at the changes since 2000. Today, minorities make up approximately 40 percent of the electorate and are a force that needs to be recognized and attended to. We have seen an increase of over 4 percent in Hispanics or Latinos and a decrease of approximately 12 percent among Whites while Blacks or African-American percentages have remained stable around 12.3 percent.
Secondly, voters tend to be more interested in the personalities or party label of the candidates rather than their stands on policy issues.
Voters typically evaluate a candidate’s personal characteristic such as experience, honesty, morality, compassion, competence, and leadership ability. An aspect of personal character is the perceived honesty and trustworthiness of the candidate, competence; that is, experience and knowledge, and leadership ability.
Lastly, voters typically prefer candidates whom they see as being concerned and caring about people like them. If you remember the 2002 presidential election, Romney was criticized for not being able to understand the economics problems of ordinary people and for switching his position on public policy issues. His lack of understanding was disastrous for Romney’s bid for the presidency. Most voters seem to see their vote for president as a very personal one, and consider the character of the candidate seriously.
Voters also look at the performance of government. A presidential election is typically a referendum on the performance of the incumbent administration. The basic goals of low unemployment, low inflation, reasonable economic growth, national security, and world peace are shared by all Americans.
Keep in mind that that the economy is important in presidential elections. Four elections produced change in party control of the White House; three of the four changes occurred in years when there was great public concern about the economy: in 1980, 1992 and 2008. National Security and foreign affairs are also important to voters and the incumbent administration and can affect reelection prospects for the incumbent or his successor.
Now, let me get to what I want to say about the importance of demographics as it relates to the upcoming Presidential, congressional, and local elections. This article only deals with the personal characteristics of the candidates. My opinion on the other factors such as party identification, ideological disposition, voting behavior, orientation on public policy will follow.
With respect to the next presidential election, Hillary R. Clinton is clearly a preferred choice if one considers her experience and competence. Her service as First lady, Senator, and Secretary of State is unparalleled, and her election would be a historic accomplishment for women.
With respect to the election of State Senator Kenneth C. Alexander as the mayor of Norfolk, I spent forty-five minutes with him this year in Richmond. He shared his reasons and vision for the City. He brings commitment, experience, competence, and a business model to moving the city forward for all citizens. In my opinion, for the last two decades, Norfolk’s progress has benefited the upper class, business developers, and politicians. The median income for its residents has remained stagnant for over a decade and is one of the lowest among Hampton Roads cities and counties.
Dr. Ella Ward is running for U.S. Congress, 4th Congressional District. She brings a wealth of experience, competence, integrity, and commitment to all people, and will not abandon her constituents for personal gains as Randy Forbes.
Each of these candidates must recognize and understand, however, the current demographics nationally, statewide and locally. In my opinion, they must conduct a campaign to serve all people, but they must focus undue attention equally to the concerns and need of Whites, African-Americans and Hispanics as priority number one. Understanding these demographics and how they interact is essential to running a successful campaign. To ignore them will likely guarantee that you will lose the election.
Each candidate should get inside the numbers, concerns, and need of their constituents. The reorganizing of the 4th Congressional from 31.3 percent Black to 40.9 percent Black gives Dr. Ella Ward a better chance this time to win, but she must run a crossover campaign to win, and a more moderate agenda, one that will appeal to all constituents in the district.
Senator Kenneth C. Alexander’s constituents include 42.7 percent Blacks and 47.1 white, and 7.5 percent Hispanic. His outstanding record in business, the State legislature, and love of his city is a plus, but he must wage a campaign that touches all segments of the City and not just for the upper class and business developers.
David B. Washington, candidate for city council in Chesapeake, must take into consideration the demographics in Chesapeake. Chesapeake has the highest median income in the area with 60.7 percent White, 30.1 percent Blacks, 5.3 percent Hispanic and 3.4 percent Asians. He needs to run a very strong grassroots campaign that will touch each demographic on issues relevant to the City’s progress in education, cultural enhancement and sound economic development. He must get solid support from the Black community, but also must appeal to the conservative element that is driving the City today.
It is so important in the next election that Blacks turn out in great numbers at the polls on Election Day. The demographics favor the election of moderate Democrats.
Keep in mind that you have to get your constituent to know you, your personality, values, and commitment to lead and get results on issues, problems and needs relevant to them.
Candidates must have a strong organization and excellent grassroot campaign to win, in my opinion. Elections are about conflict resolution and choices that have future impact on your life and your future, and you should choose wisely.
George Reed is a retired educator and a resident of Chesapeake.