Black women have historically voted on the right side of history, and their 2020 candidate to watch is U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA).
She the People, a network connecting and amplifying women of color as transformative leaders, conducted a survey among 264 women of color. The participants serve as campaign workers and managers, political strategists, organizers and activists and were questioned about the upcoming 2020 presidential election. When asked about their top three potential candidates for what is soon to be an all-news-consuming race, Harris drew a strong lead with 71.1 percent choosing the Democrat as their front-runner. Beto O’Rourke and Joe Biden followed behind with 38.3 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Stacey Abrams and Bernie Sanders were also considered as presidential potentials, but each received less than 25 percent of the vote.
The numbers correspond to top issues women of color associated with their ballots. With a polling mix of races and cultures that are affected by policy in different ways, the diverse group of female powerhouses chose humane immigration policy (51.9 percent), criminal justice reform (50.8 percent), Medicare-for-all (49.2 percent), protecting voting rights (48.9 percent) and gun control (47.3 percent) as their leading concerns.
Harris has been a championed advocate for programs like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), fighter of mandatory minimums in prisons, a vocal supporter of Medicare-for-All and has both an intolerance for voter suppression and those who try to make gun reform a partisan issue.
Everyone deserves access to quality and affordable health care. No one should die just because they don’t have enough money to afford to go to the hospital. That’s why I support Medicare for All.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) December 18, 2018
Winning the approval of women of color will be critical to a prospective candidate’s race. 63.7 percent of Black women, 50 percent of Hispanic women and 48.4 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander women turned out for the 2016 election, according to a Rutgers study. It was in this same election cycle that the mass of support from Black women alone provided Hillary Clinton with enough of a projected lead among voters to win the nomination from the Democratic party over Senator Bernie Sanders.
“Women of color, as a voting bloc, are the backbone of the Democratic Party and we’re really leading the way with these issues, and we’ve shown that we can get behind candidates of different genders and different races and really affect an election,” She the People Founder Aimee Allison told BuzzFeed News. “But now we’re demanding way more from the candidates. They need to speak directly to us, and anything short just isn’t going to cut it.”
The "more" expected of candidates hoping to lead their party to victory centers around demonstrating a commitment to change. Those surveyed said potential presidents would need to hire more women of color in leadership positions (54.4 percent), support more women of color candidates (52.5 percent) and create a bold agenda that embraces their issues (43.7 percent) if the candidate hopes to win their support.
The candidate who was within the top three of those they would not consider was Bernie Sanders. The senator barely collected scraps left in the South after Clinton picked up over 80 percent of the Black vote in states including Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas. He failed to connect with Black Southern voters – a trend consistent in this survey of women (40 percent Latinx, 50 percent African American, 16 percent Asian and 5 percent Native) who were unable to connect with his campaign.
With hope lost on Sanders, the left has its eyes on Harris and O’Rourke as 2020 approaches. The candidate to win their party’s nomination will need women of color behind them because, as a collective, the minorities become a majority.
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