Black millennials are skeptical of Clinton. Some bemoan her “lack of authenticity.” According to a report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released Thursday, “67 percent of all black voters described President Obama as someone they like very much, while Clinton garnered this response from only 29 percent of all black voters.” And striking fear into the hearts of Democrats from the White House to elsewhere was the news of “soft” black turnout in early voting.
This explains why Obama sounded emphatic, pleading and, daresay, desperate when he talked to the mostly African American audience of the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” on Wednesday. “I’m going to be honest with you right now, because we track, we’ve got early voting, we’ve got all kinds of metrics to see what’s going on,” Obama told Joyner, “and right now, the Latino vote is up. Overall vote is up. But the African American vote right now is not as solid as it needs to be.” Then he addressed the lack of enthusiasm of black voters and why their vote is crucial.
And I know that a lot of people in the barbershops and the beauty salons and in the neighborhoods who are saying to themselves, ‘Well, you know, we love Barack. We especially love Michelle. And so it was exciting and now we’re not excited as much.’ You know what? I need everybody to understand that everything we’ve done is dependent on me being able to pass the baton to somebody who believes in the same things that I believe in. So if you really care about my presidency and what we’ve accomplished, then you are going to go and vote.And if you don’t know where to vote, go to www.iwillvote.com .If you’ve already voted, but your mama hasn’t voted, your cousin hasn’t voted, your nephew hasn’t voted, I need you to call them and say that the President and Michelle personally asked you to vote. It’s not that hard. And I know it’s not that hard because we’ve done it before.But if we let this thing slip and I’ve got a situation where my last two months in office are preparing for a transition to Donald Trump, whose staff people have said that their primary agenda is, to have him, in the first couple of weeks, sit in the Oval Office and reverse every single thing that we’ve done. …
The last time the president sounded this alarmed was in the run-up to the 2014 midterms. What Obama told radio host Steve Harvey then has a familiar ring today.
The truth of the matter is, African American voters, young voters, progressive voters, Latino voters, they now vote at relatively high rates during presidential elections. But I bet a whole bunch of your listeners aren’t even thinking about this election coming up on Nov. 4. … Back in 2010, folks didn’t vote. As a consequence, Tea Party took over the Republican Party. We lost the House. And, although we’ve made a lot of progress on various issues since then, basically Congress has fought me every step of the way and it led to things like the shut down and all kinds of negative consequences in terms of things like gun control that we couldn’t get done. So, we really need to have the kind of Congress that is serious about the issues that matter to folks and the responsibility is ultimately up on everybody’s who’s listening….If people voted at the same rates during midterms as they did during presidential elections we would maintain Democratic control of the Senate….and so I need everybody listening to understand this is really, really important.
African American voters, like most Democrats during midterm elections, didn’t show up. Republicans increased their majority in the House to the largest since World War II. And Democrats lost control of the the Senate. As Steve Phillips reported in his book “Brown Is the New White: How the demographic revolution has created a new American majority,” 14 million fewer Democrats cast ballots for Senate candidates in 2014 as had in 2008.
So, it’s no wonder that Obama used his farewell address to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner in Washington two months ago to issue a thunderous call to action.
There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t matter. It all matters. And after we have achieved historic turnout in 2008 and 2012, especially in the African American community, I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election. You want to give me a good sendoff? Go vote.
The urgency behind Obama’s words then and today are reflected in the campaign stops in the slide to Election Day. The president on Friday will hold rallies in two North Carolina cities, Fayetteville (40.2 percent African American) and Charlotte (35.2 percent African American). Chelsea Clinton will be there and in two other Tar Heel cities on Saturday. Clinton rallies in Detroit (79.1 percent African American) on Friday. And the Clintons and Obamas will spend the final night of the presidential campaign in Philadelphia. The historical significance of returning to the place where she was nominated isn’t lost on me. Nor is the fact that the City of Brotherly Love is 41.8 percent African American.
Phillips reminds us in his book that President Lyndon Johnson was the last Democrat to win a majority of the white vote — 58 percent in 1964. Thus, people of color, African Americans in particular, are a key to victory. If they come out in the historic numbers they did in 2008 and 2012, Clinton will be in the clear on Nov. 8. That’s a tall order, I know. But look at what happened to Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.).
McAuliffe won his 2013 race by three points because African Americans showed up in virtually the same numbers as they did for Obama in 2012. Not only that, it was black women who pushed McAuliffe to victory. As Domenico Montanaro reported for NBC News then, even though the governor lost white women by a 16-point margin, he won black women by 84 percentage points.
Stunning things happen when African Americans defy the odds. Obama knows this. Clinton knows this. But they also know that far too many black voters might sit on the sidelines because Obama is not on the ballot. And that’s true. The president isn’t on the ballot. But the Obamas — everything they stood for, everything they achieved, everything they and their family symbolize about this nation and black people — are on the ballot. All of that will be erased if Trump wins the election.
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