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Thursday, June 06, 2024

Opinion Do Black voters deserve more from Biden?

Opinion Do Black voters deserve more from Biden?

Audience members wait for the start of a campaign rally for President Biden in Philadelphia on May 29. (Andrew Harnik/Getty Images) 

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“Democrats have benefited from Black voters’ consistent support since the civil rights era. But this cycle, many Black people are (rightfully) demanding more from Democratic leaders, and a significant number are looking for alternatives or tuning out the race altogether.

So I asked my Post Opinions colleagues Perry Bacon and Ted Johnson: Can President Biden keep the Democratic coalition together?

Alexi McCammond: Is all this discourse about Black voters fleeing from Biden overblown? I think it reflects the broader vibe of this election — general unhappiness with Biden as president and 2024 candidate — but I don’t think unhappiness with Biden necessarily means support for Donald Trump.

Ted Johnson: I think that’s right. Disapproval of Biden or the party’s direction doesn’t inherently translate to votes for Trump. There may be a small bump in Black support for Trump, but the election will be determined more by Black turnout than converting Black voters.

Perry Bacon: I worry this discourse distorts reality. At the absolute best, Trump will win 25 percent of Black voters. Likely much lower. (About 7 percent of Trump voters would be Black in that scenario.) Biden could lose with, say, 75 percent instead of 90 percent Black support. So this matters. But Trump will win primarily because the biggest racial bloc (Whites) favors him. Black people cannot be blamed for Biden’s problems.

Alexi: Lately, the Biden-Harris campaign has been leaning into Trump’s racism — specifically telling Black voters, “Vote for us to keep Trump’s racist and toxic agenda out.” Is that compelling? I’ve heard from some Black voters who say that it mostly feels like the Democratic Party is putting pressure on them to “save” the country from Trump, which they already did in 2020.

Perry: I happen to think the message that “Democrats delivered” on funding for historically Black colleges and lowering Black unemployment is not going to work. I don’t deny those things to be true. I just don’t see a lot of satisfaction in polls or hear it when talking to friends and family. I think “Trump is crazy and racist” probably is the best message. But that may not work as well as it did in 2020.

Ted: Democracy is not Black people’s responsibility to preserve. It’s a means toward securing equality. And to Perry’s point, delivering on campaign promises won’t be sufficient. He delivered on naming a Black woman to the Supreme Court, yet Roe v. Wade was overturned and affirmative action killed. More voters are unsure Biden can deliver the America he promises even as his policy wins add up.

Perry: I also think it is worth breaking this down: Black voters under 40 seem blah on both candidates. Black men seem much more open to Trump than Black women.

Alexi: True. Republicans certainly see an opening with Black men and younger Black voters who trend more conservative than their older counterparts.

Perry: So it feels like one issue is people not voting and a separate one is people backing Trump. (Again with the caveat that a group that votes for you 80 percent is still pretty good!!)

Ted: My sense is that there isn’t a policy agenda Biden could craft that would keep voter turnout at 2020 levels. Meanwhile, there’s a small cohort of Black pragmatists and older conservatives who think Democrats have moved too far left. Trump is mining the latter while Biden struggles to turn them out.

Alexi: Okay, here’s a two-part question for you guys on vice presidents (1) If Trump picks Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), does that significantly change this dynamic with Black voters? (2) Is Biden effectively using/elevating Vice President Harris?

Perry: I am not sure Scott means much. He is a conservative Black man. I think that demographic is already open to Trump. But that pick would make the media more gun-shy about casting Trump as racist, which would help him with all voters, including Black ones.

Alexi: Ugh, that’s a really smart point, Perry, and sad because it would definitely happen.

Perry: I think Harris is being used as a voice for progressives/the base, and that makes sense. I liked when Biden hinted Harris could be president. To be personal about this, I am less enthused about Biden after the Gaza policy. So making this a vote for Harris (whom I associate less with that policy, right or wrong) is useful for me and, I suspect, other Black voters.

Ted: On the first question, I would’ve said yes a year ago. I no longer think so. Scott’s style of auditioning for VP has hurt him with Black voters, although I agree with Perry that Scott would be a bulwark against racism accusations for folks open to giving Trump a chance. On the second, I think Harris is doing her job on the campaign trail well. But responses to her won’t be like they were for Barack Obama. She just doesn’t mobilize voters like he could.

Alexi: Tough to match that Obama swagger!

The Post’s Dan Balz expressed some uncertainty that Biden will be able to regain ground with Black voters. He writes:

“Despite legitimate skepticism about the validity of some of the current polling, no one can say definitively that Trump’s share of the Black vote won’t increase this November, certainly not in a political environment this volatile. Add to that the possibility that some Black adults who vote only infrequently will simply stay home — or even cast a vote for a third-party candidate — and it’s clear why Biden’s team will be intently focused on these voters.”

In an interview with “Fox & Friends”, radio host Charlamagne tha God discussed criticism Biden received after delivering a graduation speech at Morehouse College. His advice for Biden:

If I was President Joe Biden, and I was getting the backlash that I was getting from Morehouse students, I would have talked with them, not to them. … They spend so much time telling America how bad Donald Trump is, but not enough time saying what they feel President Biden has done right.

But don’t forget the number of demeaning things Trump has said about Black people over the years or all the times he has made gratuitous comments about what he has done for the Black community. U.S. News and World Report compiled a helpful list here.“

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