My Aunt Gloria, an African American woman who lives in North Carolina, was the truth-teller at the family barbecue last summer in the Tar Heel State. Even though she said that she really liked Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Aunt Gloria thought Biden was the person to defeat President Trump. “The way the system is set up now, there is so much racism that it’s going to have to be an old white person to go after an old white person,” she said then. “Old-school against old-school.”
Over time, her words proved to be the perfect explanation for why African American voters were solidly in Biden’s corner and therefore helping him remain high in national polls, despite his misspeaking and story conflation. But the Quinnipiac University poll released on Feb. 10 showed that Biden’s hammer lock on black support has slipped.
While Biden is still ahead with 27 percent support, he has lost 22 percentage points since last month, with former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg being the main beneficiary. He is just five percentage points behind Biden with 22 percent support, a 15-percentage-point jump since January. This reflects the No. 1 goal of black voters: defeating President Trump. And, yes, this reflects the power of the multibillionaire’s money to get one’s message out.
Bloomberg is skipping the first four contests in favor of the Super Tuesday states, which includes North Carolina, where Aunt Gloria lives. He has been campaigning and airing radio and television ads in those 14 delegate-rich and more diverse states since jumping into the race in November. And his social media program includes a torrent of personal and substantive knocks against the president that send the signal that Bloomberg is not afraid of Trump and is willing to spend whatever it takes to get Trump out of the White House. Aunt Gloria is unmoved.
“I can’t see Bloomberg coming to the front — too much money,” she said about the billionaire’s chances of becoming the front-runner. “If anything, he needs to throw his support to Biden.” Bloomberg’s money is a real issue for her. “Having someone buy the presidential nomination? I disagree. If they want to buy it, send me a check and end all this political crap.”
She also had a warning about Trump and his Republican backers. “The Democratic Party is in trouble, and they don’t seem to notice what is happening,” she said, sounding an awful lot like Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey. He told me during an interview for my podcast “Cape Up” in December, “President Trump is already winning, and Democrats don’t even realize it.” Aunt Gloria, however, took her admonition a step further. “The Republicans are acting like mobsters,” she said. “They will do anything to get the Democrat they can beat.”
Aunt Gloria even suggested Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as a running mate for Biden, which runs counter to the buzz surrounding potential running mates who are women of color, such as Harris or Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia. “This will give him old white people and young people. People want things returned to normal, but also want change on health care, tax cuts for the middle class and Social Security increases,” Aunt Gloria said of Warren.
At no point did she bring up Bloomberg’s use of the stop-and-frisk police policy during his mayoralty as a reason to not support him. So I asked her what she thought about it and the apology he delivered days before jumping into the campaign. Her response reflected the painful pragmatism of black voters that might confound most political observers.
“There is stop-and-frisk everywhere. Every black young man under 35 has been stopped and frisked more than once,” Aunt Gloria said. “I thought I had done all the right things. I had a good education, lived in a good neighborhood [and] your cousin was stopped and frisked more than four or five times, never finding anything. This is not new.”
“My friends and I vote, but are frustrated,” Aunt Gloria told me when I asked whether she and her friends would be voting on Super Tuesday. And what if Biden isn’t the Democratic nominee? Would she still vote if he isn’t the one? “I will vote and vote Democratic,” she said, confirming her membership in Club “Vote Blue No Matter Who.”
Like Aunt Gloria, my mother also believes it’s going to take an old white man to beat an old white man. She was behind Biden, but she told me that she is seriously considering voting for Bloomberg during the Acela corridor primary on April 28. And, no, my mom is not bothered by his use of stop-and-frisk or recently revealed controversial remarks about the practice. She just wants Trump out.
“There isn’t a candidate that doesn’t have an issue with the black community. A Bloomberg presidency is better for people of color than to leave Trump in office,” my mother said via text. “I am not concerned with what Bloomberg did or said in the past. I’m looking toward the future.” We’ll know soon enough if African Americans will stand with Aunt Gloria firmly behind Biden or will make the same calculation as Miss Lady by sliding over to Bloomberg regardless of the past.
(Disclosure: I worked on Bloomberg’s first campaign for mayor in 2001. My husband currently works on his campaign.)
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj. Subscribe to “Cape Up,” Jonathan Capehart’s weekly podcast.
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