The South Carolina primary and Pete Buttigieg’s subsequent exit from the presidential race underscored the important role that black voters play in American politics.
Now, the remaining Democratic candidates are ramping up their appeals to black voters, deploying a range of messages to varying degrees of success.
Past records on race have received renewed scrutiny, complicating some candidates’ future promises and proposals. How are black voters responding to these overtures and who will earn the support of black voters in 2020?
Listen: Understanding the black middle class and how candidates can address those voters’ concerns.
Andre Perry, a Fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings and author of the forthcoming book, Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities, says that there is a chasm between how people think about the middle class and race. “When we talk about the middle class a lot of folks will limit it to income but as we know [in looking at] the wealth gap, there’s a big difference between black and white Americans,” says Perry. He urges people to think about culture, education and access to policymakers when assessing the middle class, not just income.
“When we are talking about the black middle class we should not see it as a group of people who don’t have things or aren’t working toward things…there is a devaluation on those assets that requires a policy response,” says Perry.Looking forward to 2020, Perry says to keep an eye out for candidates to talk about issues that directly address this problem of devaluation.
On the candidates’ proposals, Perry says, “Listen to hear if they have business acceleration programs, listen to hear if they are talking about increasing homeownership, listen if they’re providing remedies from employment discrimination.”
Greg Bowens, a Democratic political and communications consultant, says he hears a lot of black voters saying that if Biden can make it here [Michigan] they will support him. He says this tempered enthusiasm “speaks to his campaign, that it’s not very robust.”
As for black voters supporting Bloomberg despite his record on stop-and-frisk, “Sometimes you need the man to take on the man,” says Bowens.
Wayne Bradley, a Republican consultant and former Director of Minority Engagement for the Michigan Republican Party, insists Democrats aren’t the only ones appealing to black voters. He supports President Trump, saying, “In terms of putting Americans first — the promises he’s made, he’s kept them.”
Bradley credits the record low black unemployment rate and investment in HBCU’s to the success of the Trump administration. Sizing up his competition, Bradley says, “I still think Biden is the Democrats best chance.”