By Lawrence Crockett
If Joe Biden ever took the Black vote for granted during his candidacy, then now’s the time to seriously appeal to Black voters on issues and not name recognition. Biden, according to a recently released Quinnipiac poll, has seen nearly half of his support among African-American Democratic primary voters shift to and be shared among candidates Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders.
Joe Biden’s recent erosion of support among African-American voters should not come as a surprise. The former senator and vice president definitely gets my vote in a hypothetical match against Trump come November. There are times, however — namely, maybe once or twice during the debates, and especially at a recent campaign stop in Iowa — when I felt, as an African-American voter, that Biden considered my support all but in the bag. And it never feels good to be taken for granted.
Pre-Iowa caucuses polling data suggests 52 percent of African-American Democratic primary voters supported Biden over any other candidate. The vice president even challenged a reporter in this same timeframe to name one candidate who had more African-American support than him. “Name me anybody who has remotely close to the support I have in the African-American community nationally,” is what he told Antonia Hylton — mind you, a black woman — of Vice News. Perhaps subconsciously, Biden perceived himself to command black loyalty and support based on name recognition alone and affiliation with the nation’s first black president. But that’s just a hunch, and I digress.
Undying African American allegiance to the Democratic Party in presidential elections has long been debated and discussed, but more worthy of note in this primary season are the intra-Democratic leanings of African-American primary voters. In 2016, my father, a lifelong registered Democrat, voted for Donald Trump, albeit while coming to later regret his decision. In a post-Obama era, devoid of any presumptive black frontrunner, I see black voting behavior being about the issues more than ever; not homogenous, sometimes Republican, and dynamically unpredictable in this Democratic primary cycle.
On Feb. 10, Quinnipiac released a poll finding that while Biden still holds a majority of support among African Americans — 27 percent — many of his black supporters have jumped ship to both Sanders’ and Bloomberg’s campaigns, down from 52 percent. Sanders appeals to the progressive wing of the party and has an earnestly articulated desire to help minorities. Bloomberg, notwithstanding his lack of specifics on any real issues thus far, has managed to distinguish himself as a businessman capable of going toe to toe with Trump in a potential November showdown. It is not yet immediately clear what has drawn black voters to either Sanders or Bloomberg in light of Biden’s defeat in Iowa. Some are calculating Biden’s path to a nomination will depend on more than just an overwhelming show of African American support in South Carolina’s Democratic primary, where black voters are expected to make up two-thirds of the electorate.
Being vice president to the first black president in American history can only go but so far. I’m 35, and I care about jobs, wages, affordable housing, student loan debt, improving relations between police forces and communities of color, prison reform, gun violence and more. I have a 10-year-old son, and I want him to grow up with a cleaner environment than mine; where there’s less violence and crime. Ideally, he wouldn’t contract $100,000 of student loan debt after graduating from a four-year university, things like that. I will, in all likelihood, vote Democratic, because I just can’t see myself voting for Trump. But since I have options, I’m willing to listen to what all the candidates have to say, and not just Joe Biden.
Lawrence Crockett is a freelance writer with a passion for grassroots campaigning. He is an
alumnus of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Fellowship program, and he welcomes feedback from readers. He can be reached at [email protected] or (301) 828-7483.
The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
Send letters to The Afro-American • 1531 S. Edgewood St. Baltimore, MD 21227 or fax to 1-877-570-9297 or e-mail to [email protected]