Despite an increase in black voter turnout Tuesday, the nation's largest minority overwhelmingly voted for a losing presidential candidate, made no gains in Congress and openly questioned whether increased black voter activity helped drive southern whites away from the Democratic Party.
"We've got to somehow prevent disappointment at the presidential election from turning into disillusionment," said Joseph E. Madison, director of voter education for the NAACP. "This is a bittersweet election for us."
Ten percent of all voters Tuesday were black, a 1 percentage point increase from 1980, according to ABC News exit polls. However, hopes stirred by Jesse L. Jackson's voter-registration drives for a massive black voter turnout to put blacks into more state and local offices apparently did not materialize.
According to samples in key black precincts in several states, black turnout generally was up Tuesday. It was up 27 percent from 1980 in Alabama, up 8 percent in Arkansas, up 16 percent in California, up 19 percent in Maryland, unchanged in Mississippi, up 37 percent in New Jersey, down 3 percent in South Carolina and up 16 percent in North Carolina.
Despite the turnout, most goals set by black politicians went unfulfilled.
Rep. Katie Hall (D-Ind.), a black, was defeated earlier in the Democratic primary, and blacks picked up no seats Tuesday. The black House delegation consequently dropped from 21 to 20 members.
State Sen. Robert G. Clark failed to become the first black to represent Mississippi in the House since Reconstruction, despite running in a district that is 53 percent black.
"The black turnout was not what we hoped it would be," said Randy Patterson, executive director of the Mississippi Democratic Party. He said he believes that increases in black registration and turnout this year were at least offset by a movement of whites into the Republican column.
"It was probably a wash," Patterson said.
Racial voting patterns were stark throughout the nation, but particularly in the South, according to exit polls.
While southern whites gave 71 percent of their vote to Reagan, about 90 percent of blacks voted for Mondale. Blacks comprise 11 percent of southern voters.
Jackson, in a meeting with reporters, blamed the losses of Clark in Mississippi and Ken Mosely in South Carolina, another black considered to have had a chance to win, on "a problem in the Democratic Party with reciprocal voting . . . . Whites are not voting for black candidates like black Democrats vote for white candidates.
"The black vote is adequately disciplined," Jackson said. "We voted for Mondale. And if labor, if women, if Hispanics, if Jews had voted 90 percent for Mondale, we clearly would have won the election."
Jackson, who met with Democratic Party Chairman Charles T. Manatt yesterday, said he will try to persuade the Democratic Party to expand its appeal to southern whites without losing sight of blacks as the "backbone of the party."
"There is too little competition for that 24 million poor whites ," Jackson said. "Too often they are given flags, prayer cloths, snake oil and a sense of self-esteem, but their standard of living is going down . . . . Unemployment was 7.4 percent when Reagan took office, it went up, it is now 7.5. That hurts black and white."
Jackson said he felt that race relations were hurt during the election by "subtle race messages" sent by Reagan to whites. He said Reagan's frequent references to America being No. 1 appealed to "white male machismo" while Reagan "played up the perception that poverty and blacks and browns are synonymous."
Tom Cavanaugh, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political Studies, said black voters boosted three white candidates into the Senate: Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.) won with 46 percent of the white vote; Rep. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) defeated Sen. Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.) with 43 percent of the white vote and Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) defeated Jack Lousma, a former astronaut, with 45 percent of the white vote.
Overall, blacks favored Mondale 88 percent to 12 percent, while whites favored Reagan 65 percent to 35 percent.
The voting of another key minority bloc -- Hispanics -- was not nearly so monolithic. ABC News exit polls showed that Mondale outpolled Reagan 56 percent to 44 percent among Hispanics. In 1980, Reagan received 36 percent of the Hispanic vote.
The overall vote breakdown, however, masks sharp differences among different groups of Hispanics.
Cuban Americans in Miami supported Reagan by a 9-to-1 ratio, according to an exit poll conducted by the Southwest Voter Education Project. In Texas, Mexican Americans went for Mondale, 79 percent to 21 percent; in Los Angeles, Mexican Americans went for Mondale, 68 percent to 32 percent, and in New York City, the predominantly Puerto Rican Hispanic population supported Mondale, 67 percent to 33 percent.
William Velasquez, director of the Southwest Voter Education Project, disputed the claims of some Republican leaders that their party has made major inroads into the Hispanic vote. "It's still to be determined if a vote for a popular president translates into a vote for the Republican Party," he said.
As in the black community, there were massive efforts in Hispanic neighborhoods this year to increase voter registration. Velasquez estimated that Hispanic registration grew from 3.4 million voters in 1980 to 4.5 million voters this year.
While no turnout figures were avaliable, Velasquez estimated that Hispanics would not break their historic pattern of turning out in lower percentages than whites. But he said the gap is narrowing.
This year's voting produced a gain of one seat in the House for Hispanics -- for a total of 10 -- with the election of former judge Albert G. Bustamante (D) in Texas.