Over the past fifteen years, a New Black Politics has swept black candidates into office and registered black voters in numbers unimaginable since the days of Reconstruction. Based on interviews with a representative sample of nearly 1,000 voting-age black Americans, Hope and Independence explores blacks' attitudes toward electoral and party politics and toward Jesse Jackson's first presidential bid. Viewed in the light of black political history, the survey reveals enduring themes of hope (for eventual inclusion in traditional politics, despite repeated disappointments) and independence (a strategy of operating outside conventional political institutions in order to achieve incorporation).
The authors describe a black electorate that is less alienated than many have suggested. Blacks are more politically engaged than whites with comparable levels of education. And despite growing economic inequality in the black community, the authors find no serious class-based political cleavage. Underlying the widespread support for Jackson among blacks, a distinction emerges between "common fate" solidarity, which is pro-black, committed to internal criticism of the Democratic party, and conscious of commonality with other disadvantaged groups, and "exclusivist" solidarity, which is pro-black but also hostile to whites and less empathetic to other minorities. This second, more divisive type of solidarity expresses itself in the desire for a separate black party or a vote black strategy—but its proponents constitute a small minority of the black electorate and show surprisingly hopeful attitudes toward the Democratic party.
Hope and Independence will be welcomed by readers concerned with opinion research, the sociology of race, and the psychology of group consciousness. By probing the attitudes of individual blacks in the context of a watershed campaign, this book also makes a vital contribution to our grasp of current electoral politics.