Black Voters To Black Candidates: Representation Is Not Enough

Written by Ann Brown
Who will get the coveted Black vote? Each election, the Democrats bank on it and now they are battling hard for the Black vote. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks to voters during a campaign stop, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Who will get the coveted Black vote? Each election, the Democratic candidates bank on it and now as the primaries near for the Democratic presidential nominee for 2020, they are battling hard for the Black vote.

Currently, Joe Biden “leads with Back voters, and Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are making better inroads with younger ones than Kamala Harris (who recently announced she was pulling out of the race) and Cory Booker. In interviews, voters rejected the idea that racial representation equated to change,” the New York Times reported.

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But some are wondering wth Booker and harris in the race, why haven’t they locked down the Black vote. After all they are Black candidates.

“Like all voting blocs, Black voters have diverse priorities that crisscross the ideological spectrum, creating fault lines across regions, generations and economic class. But in interviews with more than two dozen Black voters in Atlanta and across South Carolina, many articulated a particular disenchantment with the idea that racial representation equated to change, and that they should automatically back a candidate who looked like them,” the Times reported.

What the candidates seem to be finally realizing is that Black voters are not monolithic and are as diverse as the candidates.

Biden can owe his lead to moderate Black voters, especially older ones. Black voters who tend to be more on the left and are younger, were not too happy with the policies of Obama-Biden, so are looking elsewhere this time around at candidates like Sanders and Warren.

“In the latest national polls, Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the two progressive standard bearers in the Democratic primary, are Biden’s closest rivals in terms of Black support — not Harris, of California, or Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey,” the Times reported.

“I want Black women in office, I do, and I love Kamala Harris and think she’s amazing, but I’m just more policy-focused,” said Amber Lowe, 29, a pastor and community activist in Atlanta, explained to the Times as to why she is backing Warren instead of Harris. “You need to focus on things beyond relating to me,” she said. “I want to talk about the stuff that affects me. What are you going to do for me?”

Aqil Shakur, a 53-year-old Atlanta-area barber, said, “If I had a Kamala Harris or a Cory Booker that sounded like Bernie Sanders, of course I would choose them, because they’re closer to my lived experience.”

Both Booker and Haris have tried to connect with the Black community. “When we talk about black girl magic, we know that it is something special,” Harris recently told a crowd at HBCU Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. “But that magic is born out of hard work.”

And while Black voters have historically supported Black candidates, Booker and Harris aren’t enjoying the luxury.

“Now, younger Back voters have largely flocked to Sanders and Warren over the race’s Black candidates, because their left-wing promises to upend systemic racism and radically reform the economy are much more in line with the language of activism that emerged after the Black Lives Matter movement during Obama’s presidency. Older voters have stuck with Biden, despite Harris and Booker being well liked by Black influencers and elected officials in the Congressional Black Caucus,” the Times reported.

So far, the two are connecting on policy and more. At a recent rally at Morehouse College, the historically Black all-men’s college in Atlanta, where speakers connected Sanders to the likes of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.and he walked out to the rap song “Pick Up the Phone” by Young Thug and Travis Scott.

Warren’s event at HBCU Clark Atlanta University she connected with supporters with her message of “big, structural change.” 

When asked why Warren supporters opted for her over Harris, Booker, or even former Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, the first black governor in the state’s history, one person put it this way: “Of course Black people want to be pro-Black, but I feel like their records are anti-Black,” said Jesiah Osbourne, a 19-year-old political science student at Morehouse College.

Angela Peoples, an activist and leader of “Black Womxn For,” a collective of activists and influencers and a Warren supporter added: “Black voters are being asked, again, to roll along so we can get along, but those days are over.”