How will Democrats beat President Donald Trump in 2020? That is the question of the hour. With the impeachment hearings in the rearview mirror and a very real election upon us, we have to take a look back at 2016 and ask, “What happened?”
One set of simple statistics speaks volumes. 66.6% (2012) vs. 59.6% (2016).
The Census Bureau reported that in 2012 there was a 66.6 percent turnout for Black voters compared to a 59.6 percent turnout in 2016. Compared to a 65.3 percent turnout for White voters in 2016. It is safe to say that if Black people had turned out in higher numbers in 2016, Hillary Clinton would be President right now.
From my vantage point, it seems as if President Trump placed a bet and ran the table.
Bernie Sanders hails from Vermont and doesn’t have the connections to the Black community and Hillary Clinton may have underplayed her allegiances that the Clinton name affords her with people of color, specifically in the South. Fast-forward to the 2020 elections and an over-crowded Democratic field and still no front-runner besides Joe Biden. No Democrat has garnered the attention or captured the hearts of the Black community like we’ve seen with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
The Black vote carries an unprecedented weight that may change the way politics are played from this election going forward. As far as race, there hasn’t been a more loyal constituency for the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016 should be a cautionary tale. The very real reality is that the days are gone where black voters all move the same. Even with the hate for President Trump at an all time high, Black people are interested in policies and what candidates can do to address the issues that directly affect their communities. Not just beating President Trump in 2020.
President Trump has been highly successful at using white identity politics but what does that mean for the Democratic Party? Democrats have had the burden of appeasing white liberals who may fall on the far left, while not alienating conservative southern blacks. A recently released WSJ/NBC poll states that white voters who describe themselves as liberal or very liberal is double the amount of Black people who fall into that category. On the opposite end, the amount of Black voters who describe themselves as conservative or moderate is double the amount of white Democratic voters who fall into that same spectrum.
As more & more Black people are becoming politically informed, there has been a shift in the political sphere. Traditionally, there have always been historic norms but there are also new angles being formed this election. With an ever-growing movement to limit President Trump to one term, the pressure falls on the Democratic Party to compete. The rule of thumb has always been, if you’re going to make a mistake, at least make an original one. So, what can Democrats learn from Hillary Clinton “crashing out” in 2016? And what can be done to avoid the same pot hole?
The tables have turned as White Democrats have moved sharply to the left and Black voters have become more centrist and conservative — making up 25 percent of the primary vote. The dilemma now is, how do candidates feasibly go about checking the temperature within party ranks? In an earlier article, I spoke about Candace Owens rallying more conservative Black Americans to leave the Democratic Party. This speaks to the notion of the many Black people who are leaning more towards the center and right.
Tasha Philpot describes this phenomenon in her 2017 book, “Conservative but Not Republican: The Paradox of Party Identification and Ideology among African Americans,” Philpot states that “when group consciousness is high, blacks, regardless of ideology, will identify with the Democratic Party,” continuing that “blacks use a different set of criteria when placed on the liberal-conservative continuum than” whites do.
Over the past five decades there has been a rise of conservatism in the Black community. This creates a mitigating dilemma for Democratic candidates who wish to court the Black vote necessary for the primary. For instance, when considering abortion, a WSJ/NBC survey reveals that a third of black Democrats think that abortion should be illegal, compared to 97 percent of white Democrats who think the practice should be “totally legal”, while two thirds of black primary voters agree with their white counterparts.
Jobs and wages also play a major factor as Black people are the last group to fully recover from the Great Recession. When asked to rate the importance of a strong economy, 84 percent of black Democrats polled as “very important,” in comparison with 64 percent of white Democrats, a steep 20 point difference. Democratic presidential candidates have also been discussing a number of major changes in public policy which has caused Black voters to hit the breaks. CBS asked, “Would you favor or oppose the U.S. creating a national, government-administered ‘Medicare for All’ program, available to all individuals?” 47 percent of black Democrats said they would back it, compared with 59 percent of white Democrats.
Philpot reiterates, “Black conservatives behave more like black liberals than they do white conservatives.” She adds, “In 2012, for instance, 96 percent of black liberals and 78 percent of black conservatives identified with the Democratic Party.” No matter the ideological leanings among Black Americans, Philpot adds, “levels of group consciousness remain high as does Democratic Party identification.” Black Americans, she stresses, “hold two beliefs simultaneously — the belief that blacks should take responsibility for their own success but also that there still are systemic barriers to doing so.”
Philpot presented this issue, in surveys asking for descriptions of what it is to be morally conservative or liberal,
Whites were nearly three times as likely as blacks to describe the moral dimension in terms of religious leaders, organizations or denominations. Blacks, on the other hand, were more likely to describe this dimension in terms of knowing the difference between right and wrong, traditional values, and the expected behaviors that accompany each side of the moral divide.
For example, in Georgia, 78 percent of Black people and 75 percent of Whites voted to ban same-sex marriage, in comparison with 15 percent of blacks who voted for George W. Bush versus 88 percent of whites in Georgia. A thousand miles away in Michigan, the ban garnered nearly the same support with 57 and 58 percent support for the ban, with George W. Bush boasting a 59-point difference between white and black support, 71 to 12 percent. Tasha Philpot, a political scientist at the University of Texas, states that for Black Americans, being ideologically conservative is less about free market economic views and more about the crucial role of an activist government in outlawing discrimination and pushing criminal reform.
A preponderance of black voters in a recently released ABC News/Washington Post poll say they favor Barack Obama’s former vice president, Joe Biden, as the Democratic nominee for 2020. Thirty-nine percent of Black American primary voters back Biden, in comparison with twenty-two percent for Senator Elizabeth Warren, Six percent for Senator Bernie Sanders and Four percent for South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the latest poll.
Black voters have historically been kingmakers in the Democratic Primary. Securing a majority of black votes and winning the party’s nomination go hand and hand. As no modern presidential candidate has won without the support of the Black Caucus.
ABC News interviewed a plethora of black voters in Atlanta, who expressed their “feel good” memories of the Obama Era. Connecting them to Joe Biden as being a reassuring voice and known quality. But also keeping an open mind to a candidate who can ignite them in a way that Barack Obama did in 2008. Undoubtedly, a reoccuring issue has been that many of the presidential candidates don’t speak directly to issues in many African American communities.
Former Georgia State Congresswoman and Host of the “Fearless Chic Podcast”, Alisha Thomas Cromartie, states the many black women are appropriately feeling uninspired. “I’m proud of the diversity of our candidates in terms of thought, ideology, demographics. There’s a lot to be proud of in terms of aesthetics to it,” she adds, “but I think the reason that black women like myself are not yet excited is because we’re not hearing about the issues that we care most about.” One of the many issues that has been sidelined is education, a topic that many of her podcast listeners feels holds a high degree of importance. Along with economic inequality, mass incarceration and homelessness.
A number of candidates have rolled out policy proposals with the intention of addressing these issues. For example, Senator Cory Booker discusses regularly the need to eradicate “Systemic Racism” from the Justice System to Health Care. Senator Kamala Harris has divulged a $100 billion dollar plan to stimulate black home ownership. Former Vice President Joe Biden has taken aim at Black economic mobility by making job training and investments in Community Colleges; key components in his plans to address issues within the Black community.
“I have a lot of respect for Vice President Biden. I think that he and President Obama did some incredible things during their tenure, but you have to be running on more than that,” Cromartie stresses.
Derrick Johnson, the NAACP President, adds that Black voters are also searching to see whether the presidential candidates have constructed diverse campaign staffs that reflect their message of inclusivity.
“If you look at any of the candidates, look at the staff. Let’s peel the onion; that will tell the story,” Johnson tells ABC News.