White candidates can count on white votes

The news: A Chicago Tribune/WGN poll showed Rahm Emanuel as the front runner in the race to be the city’s next mayor, with a wide lead among white voters.

Behind the news: Gathered around the table at Carter’s Barbershop in North Lawndale, The Chicago Reporter’s staff fiercely debated on its weekly radio show whether there’s such a thing as a consensus candidate for mayor for Chicago’s black and Latino communities.

Listeners chimed in on Twitter. But one particular comment made everyone laugh.
It came from the Reporter’s Twitter follower @anybodybutrahm: “Rahm, Daley & The Machine effectively made Rahm the white –˜consensus candidate.’ They just didn’t publicly acknowledge it.”

But the joke turned into a question: Do white voters rally behind white politicians?

It turns out the answer is yes. The Reporter analyzed every Chicago mayoral election from 1983 to 2007, and found that majority white wards voted for white candidates 89 percent of the time.
During that span of time, the number of voters in majority black wards who voted for a candidate of their own color decreased–”from 96 percent in 1983 to 36 percent in 2003.
But the percentage of voters in white wards voting for white candidates remained steady–”84 percent in both the 1983 and 2007 general elections, and it rose to as high as 97 percent, which happened in 1991.

But Chicago political pundit Don Washington, creator of the Mayoral Tutorial, warns that economic divisions may split this election’s white vote between Gery Chico and Emanuel.
“There’s also a class thing going on here. Gery Chico has garnered all four police endorsements,” Washington said. “He’s got a lot of white middle class supporters who will help decide the election.”

So it looks like @anybodybutrahm was onto something. Perhaps that’s because, in Chicago, the tradition is clear: The white consensus is to vote for the white candidate.

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