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Which Voting Bloc Saves Democrats Again And Again?

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Which Voting Bloc Saves Democrats Again And Again?

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Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

 

It’s curious, though fairly predictable, that most postmortems of the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races seem to gloss over the fact that Democrats lost the white vote. More specifically, Democrats lost white women, the same demographic of so-called values voters whose majority support for Donald Trump proved collectively that its most cherished value is white supremacy.

Fifty-one percent of white women and 63 percent of white men cast their ballots for Virginia’s Ed Gillespie, the most Trumpian local choice, whose main campaign strategy was immigration fear-mongering and praising slaveholding Confederates. In New Jersey, 50 percent of white men and 55 percent of white women voted for Kim Guadagno, the former lieutenant governor to Chris Christie who promised to ban sanctuary cities. People of color overwhelmingly rejected both candidates, but no group did so more decidedly than black women, who gave Ralph Northam and Phil Murphy more than 90 percent of their votes. Coverage of the election almost consistently credited “women,” without using any modifiers, for pushing Dems over the top, but that’s far too generous. Once again, black women got to the polls, got the job done, yet got almost no recognition or credit.

It was déjà vu all over again, as the saying goes. On election day 2016, 94 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton, not because they were monolithically #WithHer, but to keep the unqualified, lying, racist, self-described pussy grabber out of the White House. (#GirlIGuessImWithHer was an expression of black women’s justifiable discomfort with Clinton.)

In 2008, 2012 and again in 2016, African-American women had the highest voter participation rate of any demographic in the country, and black turnout soared on Tuesday. Black women’s crucial role in getting Northam and Murphy elected wasn’t some kind of fluke, it was par for the political course. While politically diverse, black women’s intersecting marginalized identities also mean they often prioritize racial and social justice, civil rights and protecting the social safety net. The result is that, collectively, black women vote for left-leaning and progressive candidates more consistently than any other demographic cohort, including other groups of color and black men.

According to the rules of voting, numbers and reliability, all this should make black women the undisputed and highly prized core of the Democratic base. The party would be smart to dedicate itself to energizing and engaging black women who didn’t vote in 2016, and focusing its attention on issues black women care about ahead of 2018 and 2020. But, nah. Instead, the fractious left, which finds so much else to quarrel about, has agreed to chase voters it will never win over. “We have got to take on Trump’s attacks…against Latinos and blacks…we’ve got to fight back every day on those issues,” Bernie Sanders stated perfunctorily during a recent interview, before moving on to the people whose feelings really matter. “But equally important, or more important: We have got to focus on bread-and-butter issues that mean so much to ordinary Americans.”

“Ordinary” is really a stand-in here for authentic, a way of specifying the people even the most “progressive” politicians in this country value as real citizens. (If you identify “Latinos and blacks” as distinct from “ordinary Americans,” you’re locating that normalcy somewhere within whiteness.) Dig in and you’ll also find a reminder that “ordinary Americans” don’t care about “those issues”—Trump’s attacks on marginalized communities—because they have “more important…bread-and-butter” problems to concern themselves with.

Black women are paid less than white men, white women and black menmore negatively affected by America’s health gap than any other group; punished with unfairly high rent and mortgage costs because of racism and sexism; and have lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality rates than white women. Those challenges rival any bread-and-butter issues faced by “ordinary” Americans, particularly those who don’t also have to reassert their humanity on the regular.

More to the electoral point, all this leftist fretting over a white vote that departed generations ago is just wasteful. Politico illuminated the futility of this thinking Wednesday, when its top story following Tuesday’s big Democratic winsturned out to be yet another “But What About The Trump Voters?” piece. The Trump supporters interviewed in the piece showed they’re still at least as racist as they were on election day 2016, not to mention absolutely willing to use the n-word in front of reporters. They’re still in the same cruddy situations Trump emptily promised to get them out of. They still report that they not only wouldn’t change their votes, but would vote for Trump again in a heartbeat. The only thing that’s changed with these “ordinary” Americans is their willingness to admit it was never about jobs or economic anxiety in the first place. “It’s not that the people who made Trump president have generously moved the goalposts for him,” Politico writer Michael Kruse notes. “It’s that they have eliminated the goalposts altogether.” In old-school diners and truck stops bursting with reporters all over this land, Trump supporters have made clear they will stand by their president as long as he keeps trying to keep Muslims out and continues to insult uppity black NFL players.

These are the people Democrats are spending their time stalking and cooing over, searching for the right combination of self-deprecation and swagger to catch their eye. It’s an unwise strategy, ignoring the Democrats’ real base, and the potential consequence is an erosion of support. A Black Women’s Roundtable/Essence poll released in September found that between 2016 and 2017, the percentage of black women who “felt the Democratic Party best represented their interest” fell from 85 to 74 percent. Additionally, “the percentage of black women who said neither party represents them jumped from 13 percent in 2016 to 21 percent in 2017,” according to a report by the New Republic. These black women won’t suddenly become Republicans—joining the political wing of the Klan does not appeal—but they are more likely to stay home. Dems need all the help they can get, yet seem hellbent on not helping themselves.

Black women, more than any other demographic, were right that Trump would be an unmitigated disaster. (In multiple pre-election polls, they expressed greater fear of a Trump presidency than any other group.) They’ve been leaders in every social justice movement from calling out sexual harassment, to destroying the Confederacy, to founding Black Lives Matter, to being the first woman to make a run for the White House.

I’m not saying individual black women’s politics can’t or shouldn’t be smartly and substantively critiqued, as Zoé Samudzi does. I am also definitely not with white liberals who have patronizingly suggested on social media that “black women will save us.” What I am saying is that black women consistently get this stuff right. At a time when this country is led by sentient versions of its worst tendencies, and Democrats are foolishly courting a voting bloc too busy looking backward to give a damn about the future, black women are doing this thing. This whole country—at the very least those who nurture any hope of moving forward again—better start following their lead.

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

 

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5 Comments

  1. aquietwhyme November 13, 2017

    African Americans were the most reliable voting bloc the Republican party had from the end of the civil war until the 30’s, when they, like most other struggling Americans, benefited from FDR’s New Deal. The New Deal united working and middle-class people across all racial demographics (horrid practices like redlining non-withstanding) until the Democratic party decided that solidarity was less important than they money brought in by the professional class, those that “really mattered” going forward into the future. This was in the 70’s, and the Democratic party has struggled and moved right ever since, pushing the Republicans even FURTHER to the right as they moved into the space previously occupied by the party of big business.

    Suggesting that white people are “a voting bloc too busy looking backward to give a damn about the future” ignores the fact that their votes are necessary for victory, and is as patronizing as those “Black women will save us” posts you mention.

    This kind of divisive nonsense about “which people matter” is what got us here today, where we have what should be (and used to be) the party of the people routinely losing the votes of the poor and working classes to the clowncar Republican party in election after election, to a party that undermines and destroys the very things that help those poor and working classes through the skilled use of propaganda, resentment, anger, and prejudice.

    Solidarity is the only way we win on the left. It’s the only way we ever have, and bashing people for being white (or for any other reason related to their identity) is the opposite of solidarity, and plays right into the ongoing campaign of “divide and conquer” carried on by the wealthy and powerful since the beginnings of civilization.

    Reply
    1. Eisai November 14, 2017

      I think you have a case of myopia … It may have been the “Golden Age” for the mob and America, but it sure as hell wasn’t for black America. There have always been two Americas and then subdivisions. If you can’t agree on that, then you are in denial of so much academic work by sociologist and economist. And we won’t even talk about the juris prudence system that has always shown a stark racial prejudice to stark implicit racial bias. Don’t even talk about red-lining and how the HR guy/gal sees a name on a app and if it looks too foreign (not wasp like) it goes to the bottom of the heap. When your child is killed for furtive movements, looking 10 years older than his age, essentially strip searched on broad-street (dressed just like a crumb crusher at a high flalutin prep school) for looking thuggish … Then come to me and talk about how we’re all one people…Nice theory, but as RFK knew, we’ve a long ways to go and the election of ’45 had nothing to do w/being forgotten. Remember when manufacturing left the inner city due to white flight and interstates were built to accommodate, but not mass transit … Inner city residents w/no means of transportation were told to “re-tool” and learn a new trade. And when despair hit and “H” from SE Asia was running wild … “Just say no”. But when it’s coal, and manufacturing in the rust belt…”We’re the forgotten” or when its Opiod “we need to find rehab dollars”. Your words are nice prose, but they are through primrose glasses … Myopic. (Btw, for all this “me too” on sexual harassment, no conversation about the blue-collar min. wage mother, for decades, that has been harassed and assaulted daily on the job.) I sincerely look forward to your ansrbk …

    2. Eisai November 14, 2017

      I think you have a case of myopia … It may have been the “Golden Age” for the mob and America, but it sure as hell wasn’t for black America. There have always been two Americas and then subdivisions. If you can’t agree on that, then you are in denial of so much academic work by sociologist and economist. And we won’t even talk about the juris prudence system that has always shown a stark racial prejudice to stark implicit racial bias. Don’t even talk about red-lining and how the HR guy/gal sees a name on a app and if it looks too foreign (not wasp like) it goes to the bottom of the heap. When your child is killed for furtive movements, looking 10 years older than his age, essentially strip searched on broad-street (dressed just like a crumb crusher at a high flalutin prep school) for looking thuggish … Then come to me and talk about how we’re all one people…Nice theory, but as RFK knew, we’ve a long ways to go and the election of ’45 had nothing to do w/being forgotten. Remember when manufacturing left the inner city due to white flight and interstates were built to accommodate, but not mass transit … Inner city residents w/no means of transportation were told to “re-tool” and learn a new trade. And when despair hit and “H” from SE Asia was running wild … “Just say no”. But when it’s coal, and manufacturing in the rust belt…”We’re the forgotten” or when its Opiod “we need to find rehab dollars”. Your words are nice prose, but they are through primrose glasses … Myopic. (Btw, for all this “me too” on sexual harassment, no conversation about the blue-collar min. wage mother, for decades, that has been harassed and assaulted daily on the job.) I sincerely look forward to your ansrbk …

    3. Vivian November 14, 2017

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  2. Rich November 14, 2017

    This piece assumes that white men and women are a monolithic group that will always put white supremacy ahead every other issue. This is the big mistake made by the Clinton campaign when it chose to ignore the large sub-group of white voters who feel their economic interests have been abandoned by Democrats and would move back to the Democratic Party of their parents and grandparents in a heartbeat if they heard serious proposals to improve their lives with the same force and regularity as they heard proposals about improving the lives of other demographics. If Democrats in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio want to recapture these voters they will also need to openly condemn Republican attacks on unions as attacks on all those who work for a living…and directly including the white workers who make up a majority of union members across the country as a group that has suffered from globalization just as much as other working people have suffered.

    Reply

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