Here are six takeaways on the Black vote in the 2020 election:
Biden should be thanking Black people
Biden owes his successes this election cycle to Black people. Beginning with the South Carolina Democratic Primary in February, Biden’s campaign was revived from what began to appear to be a defeat as numbers first trickled in, thanks in large part, by the support of Black voters, especially in the South. Biden rode a series of successes in southern primaries into a large lead over his Democratic challengers, allowing him to pull ahead of candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren.
Once Biden secured the Democratic nomination, it was Black people who kept him honest. Black folks called him out on sideways statements like his comment that “you ain’t Black” if you didn’t support him. Black people pushed him to pick a Black woman as his running mate. Black citizens grilled him on past policies like his 1994 crime bill and made him address issues such as mass incarceration.
And sustained pressure from Black America, within the Democratic Party and in the streets through this year's Black Lives Matter protests, forced the candidate to start addressing systemic racism in his language and his policies, overcoming Biden’s tendency to see problems in personal rather than systemic terms. Now, votes from heavily Black cities such as Philadelphia and Atlanta are fueling a late surge for Biden that has put him ahead of Trump and closer to claiming victory.
Trump has enduring appeal to some Black men
Twelve percent of the Black vote went to Trump in this election with 18% of Black men having voted for the sitting president. But either way, there is clearly a segment of Black voters, mostly young men, who like what they hear from Trump.
Pundits have theories on how the president won over Black men like Lil Wayne. Trump may appeal to their wallets, their masculinity, or their skepticism toward politics in general. While this segment of Trump-supporting Black men remained a minority, it will be useful to figure out what they saw in a president that so many other Black people thoroughly rejected.
Black women remain ride or die for the Democratic Party, and the party should acknowledge that
Black women remain the most loyal Democratic voting bloc in the country.
When the Pew Research Center broke down the 2016 vote by demographics, Clinton’s vote share from Black women was an estimated 98%, and Trump’s support from Black women was so low that it fell completely within the margin of error. As the Washington Post reports, it looks like Black women showed up strong for Biden, with over 90% voting for the Democratic candidate.
Once Biden chose
Harris as his running mate, the California Senator injected much-needed revitalization and enthusiasm into the campaign. Harris pushed aside attacks based on her race and gender, mobilized components of the Black and Indian American communities and handled Vice President Mike Pence like a boss during their debate.
An October Essence profile showed that a number of Black women occupied high-profile roles in the Biden-Harris campaign, working behind the scenes to support the Democratic ticket. And as Blavity previously reported, the Biden-Harris ticket owes Stacey Abrams for her work fighting disenfranchisement, including in her home state, Georgia. Abrams and other advocates have paved the way for Black people to propel Biden to victory there and possibly for Democrats to capture the Senate in Georgia’s two likely January runoff elections.
Black communities are not monolithic
The 2020 election only further proves that Black people are not a monolithic bloc.
Black men and women vote differently, as do younger and older Black men. While this does not mean that both Democrats and Republicans appeal to Black folks equally – the party that caters to white supremacists and dismisses systemic racism is not that welcoming to most of us — it does mean that no party or campaign can take a one size fits all approach to Black America.
The same applies to Latinos, who of course intersect and overlap with Black folks and Black issues. Cuban American, Mexican American and Puerto Ricans often have very different experiences and political views in America, which we continue to see reflected in the voting patterns of these and other Latino groups. Other factors, such as religion, wealth and social status, also impact Black, Latino and other minority groups in America and any attempt to ignore these realities will cause politicians and campaigns to lose out on many votes and will leave important issues ignored in our political discourse.
Black turnout matters
As Blavity previously reported, the Biden-Harris campaign launched a sustained effort to get out the Black vote during this election. Through virtual and in-person campaign events, advertisements like the "Shop Talk" videos and other outreach methods aimed at Black men — like Harris reaching out to students and even her fellow AKAs — the Biden-Harris ticket sought to mobilize Black folks specifically.
These efforts were joined by those of other organizations like the Congressional Black Caucus and People for the American Way that looked to increase Black turnout around the country and in swing states in particular. Meanwhile, celebrities and groups such as LeBron James and his More than a Vote organization brought attention to Black causes and helped to make sure that more Black people were eligible and able to vote.
Black people responded to the call, enduring long lines to vote in person and restrictive rules to cast mail-in votes. Strong turnout from Black people helped Biden get must win victories in Michigan and Wisconsin, and allowed Biden to come back from behind in Pennsylvania and maybe even Georgia and North Carolina as all the votes are counted.
Meanwhile, although the Trump campaign did get support from some Black voters, endorsements from famous rappers and Trump’s efforts to paint himself as Abraham Lincoln 2.0 did not cause a rush of Black voters to the polls for the GOP.
Don’t be quick to blame Black folks, or slow to acknowledge us
Just a couple of days ago, stories were spreading across traditional and social media about how Biden had failed to secure Black voters, or even how Black and brown people were to blame for Democrats’ losses, similar to the blame placed on Black folks for Hillary Clinton’s loss four years ago.
Mere days after Election Day, stories are now proliferating over how Black people are saving the Biden ticket and the country. If history is any indication, however, there's a danger that the current praise for Black voters may be much more temporary than the blame that Black people get when things go wrong.
Though American politics is often slow to learn new lessons, perhaps the experience of this election will remind us to all chill until the race is over, and maybe it will teach our society not to be so quick to throw Black people under the bus or to forget Black issues other than during election time.
Biden will end up in the White House, hopefully he won’t forget who got him there.