Furman University

How to Win the Black Vote

What Democratic candidates have to do to get the support of this key vote.
14-Nov-2019 7:05 AM EST, by Furman University

Newswise — Currently, Sen. Joe Biden is considered to be the favorite to win African Americans’ votes and the 2020 Democratic nomination for president. But, that could change, and it boils down to one factor: who has the best chance of winning the general election, according to Teresa Cosby, an associate professor of politics and international affairs at Furman University and a specialist in race politics.

“Biden is the favorite until (Sen.) Elizabeth Warren can prove she’s electable,” Cosby says

African American voters are, generally, very pragmatic and strategic with their votes, Cosby says. While young African Americans trend more liberal, “older black people, who are the reliable vote, are not that progressive,” she says. “Go by a black church at 2 o’clock; they’re still there.”

Warren is seen by many African Americans as too liberal and, consequently, unable to win the general election, Cosby says. Biden, on the other hand, can perform well in states that have large African American populations and those that don’t.

But, Biden could find himself in the situation Hillary Clinton faced in 2008. Clinton was the frontrunner going into the first primary because African American voters didn’t think Barack Obama could win in November.

Surprisingly, Cosby says, Obama won the Iowa Caucuses. “Then Bill Clinton said ‘fairy tale’ and Obama won South Carolina,” she says, referring to a comment the former president said he made in reference to Obama’s stance on the Iraq War. South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn told The New York Times he was bothered by Bill Clinton’s “fairy tale” comment and comments Hillary Clinton made about the Civil Rights Movement.

Seeing that Obama won Iowa and South Carolina, and perhaps taking a cue from Clyburn, African Americans turned their favor toward the first-term senator from Illinois and away from the senator from New York, and the rest is history.

A shared history among African Americans has created a cohesive group, with shared threats and opportunities. “It creates cohesion about voter choice,” Cosby says.

"While Hispanics, the country’s largest minority group, emigrate to the United States from many different Latin American countries, and Asians come from different countries and with different languages, most African Americans come from the same historical backdrop: slavery,” she says.

In the 2016 presidential election, low voter turnout among African Americans, especially in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, meant the difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Cosby says, and Clinton didn’t have a strategy to turn out the African American vote.

Regardless of who the Democratic nominee is, Cosby expects wide voter turnout in the  2020 general election.

“Blacks are so energized to get Trump out of office, it won’t matter. It could be a turnip,” she says.

 

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