For election participation, economic well being is more important than voter rights.
Now, remember, Los Angeles had several Black middle class neighborhoods, starting in the 60’s if not before. Los Angeles had a per capital personal income in the top 10 percent of U.S. cities, back in 1969, when we voted in our first Black mayor, Tom Bradley.
Read below how things have dramatically changed. Ultimately, it always comes down to economics, not civil rights. And, those who haven’t learned that yet, leave a lot to be desired.
Voter turnout for a local election peaked at 76% in 1969, when Tom Bradley challenged incumbent Mayor Sam Yorty. Back then, it was actually much harder to vote. That was before motor-voter registration, before it was so common for Angelenos to send in their ballots by mail.
But the area was also more prosperous. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 1969 Los Angeles had a per capita personal income in the top 10% of U.S. cities. By 2009, per capita personal income had collapsed to the point where Los Angeles was in the fiftieth percentile. In that same year, voter turnout also collapsed to a then record low 18%.
A report issued last week by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation made clear that the region is not in good health, economically. As summarized by this newspaper, the report “found that since the recession, the county has replaced jobs in manufacturing and finance, which tended to pay well, with less remunerative restaurant gigs and low-level positions in healthcare.”
The middle class is in decline. And as it declines, so, it seems, does voting. That’s the story of Los Angeles, but perhaps it’s also the story of the Democratic Party.
If Democrats want voters to show up — and they’ve long argued that when more people show up, they win — they may have to prove to people who have less and less of an economic stake in our society that voting really matters. And to do that, they’re going to have to do more than remind everyone that Donald Trump is in the White House.
By Kathleen Wells.