Why We Must Keep Fighting To Help Our Communities Fully Realize The Political Power They Already Possess
The insurrection at the Capitol was, in part, a repudiation of Black political power.
January 19, 2021 at 7:10 pm
On the eve of election day, I published an article about Black voters' anticipation of white violence in the event of Donald Trump’s defeat. In our late-cycle research, we discovered that nearly half of Black voters feared violence following the November 2020 election's conclusion regardless of the winner. I wrote that piece to raise awareness of the fear and urge political leaders to reject inflammatory rhetoric ahead of the election cycle.
On January 6, Black voters' predictions became reality when thousands of white supremacists attacked the United States Capitol to disrupt democracy and halt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's election. And the threat of continued violence remains more prevalent than ever. This palpable threat and fear are central to Congress's swift action to impeach President Trump for a second time, one week before the inauguration.
The insurrection at the Capitol was, in part, a repudiation of Black political power. In the days leading to the Capitol attack, Black Georgians and other diverse communities delivered the final blow to Trump and Republicans, shifting the balance of power in America.
In American history, gains in Black political power are always met with furious white backlash. The end of American slavery birthed the Ku Klux Klan, America's first domestic terrorist group, that was dedicated to preventing political and economic advancements of Black Americans. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s, of which voting rights were a key priority, was met with the same violent resistance. The Tea party galvanized following the election of the first Black president. Combine this narrative with an electoral college and Senate wins bolstered by Black voters and the first Black female vice president's nomination, and you have all the markings for this watershed historical moment of violence and impeachment today.
In the days before the insurrection, the nation was watching history unfold with Black voters in Georgia. The country turned to the story of Black people taking control of their destiny and finding their agency. The numbers and margins were remarkable — Black voter turnout in the Georgia runoffs was 90% of the general turnout, making the general and runoff elections respectively the first and second highest turnout for Black voters in the history of Georgia elections.
The expression of Black power in the 2020 election cycle was no overnight success story. Before the political universe descended on Georgia, Black organizers were preparing for the moment to flex their political muscles. In the months leading to the general and runoff elections, dozens of Black activists and community organizations wielded investments to organize and energize diverse communities. Leading the charge was New Georgia Project, Move On, Black Lives Matter PAC, Higher Heights, NAACP, Fair Fight Action and Collective PAC, all of whom worked collectively to implement a Black empowerment message. When working with these groups, we learned that when you make elections about Black voters about their power, they are more likely to engage.
"Wow, we finally turned a Republican state to Democrat," a Black voter from Georgia exclaimed to me in a late November focus group. "…Something like that, it is kind of crazy. And to think that we [were] able to change it like that…"
This voter's words follow suit with other Black voters saying they felt empowered. We asked Black voters in Georgia how they felt about their political power in the month following. 74% percent said they felt "extremely powerful."
The pride and power of Black voters stand in stark contrast to the animosity exhibited by Trump supporters who ascended to the Capitol last week. Though Trump laid the foundation of the insurrection that we witnessed in horror on January 6, we can't detach America's historical and systemic racism from the backlash of white people demanding to “take their nation back.”
History shows Black power is always followed by white backlash. But we must keep fighting to help our communities fully realize the political power they already possess. Because the best way to silence white supremacy is to eliminate their platform — making sure people in power look more like us and advocate for us.
Terrance Woodbury is a partner at HIT Strategies where his research focuses on people of color and millennials who have become the driving force of rapidly evolving consumer and electoral trends in both the United States and abroad. Terrance conducts polling and focus groups for candidates in local, state, national and international elections and for innovative companies such as Uber and Google. You can follow him @t_woodbury1.