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Title: Black democrats in white America : racial campaign strategies in majority-white contexts, 1989-2013
Author: Johnson, Richard
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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Black electoral politics has undergone a profound transformation in the half century since African Americans statutorily secured equal voting rights with whites. Once confined to a small number of exceptional cases, the population of black elected officials has multiplied dramatically. The genre which studies African American politics has, likewise, vigorously proliferated, but theoretical deficiencies persist. In particular, the dominant model used to explain the choice of racial campaign strategies by African American candidates in jurisdictions where most of their voters are white is incomplete. The model's underlying hypothesis is premised on limited and increasingly outdated assumptions. Commentators continue to argue that successful black candidates must discard their racial identity in order to win white votes, yet a careful examination of the actual practices of black politicians in majority-white jurisdictions demonstrates that this argument is not substantiated empirically. As a result, scholars are mischaracterising the potential for black candidates to win elections in majority-white contexts. This thesis is an attempt to advance the scholarship through a theoretical reconceptualisation of racial campaign strategies underpinned by original, empirical research. The thesis sets out to achieve two goals. The first goal is to provide a rich, analytical account based on primary research of the range of campaign strategies available to office-seeking African American candidates outside of majority-black election contexts. The thesis demonstrates the capacity for black candidates to embrace their racial identity and champion policies which redress racial inequality while still seeking support from white voters. The second objective is to offer plausible explanations as to the strategic decision-making process in these campaigns. The thesis highlights the shifting importance of three sets variables which candidates face when choosing their racial campaign strategies: racial context and history, the racial attitudes of supportive and opposing elite actors, and candidates' own racial biographies.
Supervisor: King, Desmond Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Elections ; Race ; African American politics ; US politics ; Political communications ; Campaign strategies