From an LA Times piece by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom regarding race in the presidential election:
In a remarkable number of states, according to exit polls, Obama won more than 40% of the white male vote. Those states included Clinton's home state of New York (where Obama got 43%), Arizona (45%) and, most remarkably, the Deep South state of Georgia (46%). Indeed, in Connecticut, New Mexico, Illinois, California, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin, his support from white men was in the quite amazing range of 56% to 64%….
The Voting Rights Act, 43 years after its original passage, still calls for the creation of majority-minority districts in order to encourage the election of nonwhite candidates. In 1995, awaiting a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of racially gerrymandered districts to ensure minority office-holding, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund's Ted Shaw warned: "If we lose these cases, the Congressional Black Caucus will be meeting in the back seat of a taxicab." Rep. Mel Watt, a black Democrat from North Carolina, took the point a step further. "Without these districts," he said, "you're not going to have minority representation in Congress. It's just that simple."
But even then, it wasn't "just that simple." And indeed, when the court struck down the Georgia race-based district in question as unconstitutional—a geographical "monstrosity," said the court—African Americans still did very well in the newly configured districts. The Congressional Black Caucus does not meet in a taxicab; it is stronger than ever….
The enormous and heartening appeal of Obama among white voters certainly suggests that is the case. Whites refusing to vote for black candidates has finally gone the way of segregated water fountains. Or so we hope.
Hat tip: Manny Klausner
Update: Dave Weigel showed how "the Wilder Effect"–the notion that whites tell pollsters they'll vote for blacks in higher numbers than they actually do–was finished by 2007.