Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Matthew Tokeshi's "Campaigning While Black"

Matthew Tokeshi is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Williams College. His research focuses on the role of racial prejudice in U.S. campaigns.

Tokeshi applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Campaigning While Black: Black Candidates, White Majorities, and the Quest for Political Office, and reported the following:
Campaigning While Black is about how anti-Black prejudice influences the electoral prospects of Black candidates running for governor or U.S. senator from 2000 to 2020. Readers who open the book to page 99 would see the first page of a chapter on the campaigns of two such Black candidates: Cory Booker, who ran for a U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey in 2013 and Anthony Brown, who ran for governor of Maryland in 2014.

Page 99 introduces the idea that Booker and Brown faced a significant number of attacks on racialized themes such as crime, sexual misbehavior, and economic redistribution. Earlier in the book, I show that all six Black candidates from 2000 to 2018 who either won or came within ten percentage points of winning faced more attacks on these racialized themes than comparable white candidates. In that sense, page 99’s mention of the heavily racialized campaign environment faced by Booker and Brown would give the reader a good idea of the campaign dynamics faced by all Black candidates running for high-level office in recent decades who had a good chance to win.

However, a reader who stopped at page 99 would miss much of what makes my analysis distinctive. For one, the reader would miss all of the empirical tests I conduct to show that attacks on racialized themes actually increase the salience of anti-Black prejudice in voters’ candidate evaluations – a process known to racial politics scholars as “racial priming.” The reader would also miss my broader analysis of the role of racial prejudice in the campaigns for all Black candidates for governor and U.S. senator from 2000 to 2020, as well as my in-depth focus on the candidacies of Deval Patrick, Harold Ford, Jr., Andrew Gillum, Stacey Abrams, and Kamala Harris. And finally, the reader would miss my consideration of an important, but overlooked aspect of racial communication: rebuttals to racial attacks. By mapping the range of rebuttals used by Black candidates and measuring their effects, later chapters of my book address not only the conditions that activate racial animosity, but also strategies for neutralizing that activation.

In sum, I’d say page 99 offers a good picture of the book’s larger theme of the racialization of Black candidates. But readers who want to see empirical tests of the book’s claims, a wider range of case studies, and an analysis of rebuttals need to read on!
Visit Matthew Tokeshi's website.

--Marshal Zeringue