Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spoke at a rally at Morehouse College about his plan to invest billions of dollars to train more black Americans to pursue professions in medical fields.
“We have to make sure that in African American communities there are the doctors, the nurses, the psychologists are there to provide the care that the people in those communities need,” he said.
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg spoke Monday about his Douglass Plan — named for abolitionist Frederick Douglass — that he believes will help narrow the equality gap between black and white Americans in housing, health care and education.
“It sets out to be the most ambitious vision and the most comprehensive vision put forward on dismantling systemic racism in the United States,” Buttigieg said at Morehouse.
And at Clark Atlanta University, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) pledged Thursday to support policies that increase pay for women of color and to address the voter-suppression issues that are a common conversation among many on the left.
“As a white woman, I will never fully understand the discrimination, pain and harm that black Americans have experienced just because of the color of their skin,” she said. “I’m not here to tell you about a painful history that black Americans experienced and know all too well. I am here today for a different reason. I’m here to make a commitment: When I am president of the United States, the lessons of black history will not be lost.”
While a plurality of black voters (43 percent) are backing Biden in the latest Quinnipiac national poll, experts on the black electorate argue that he does not yet have the group on lock — particularly when factoring in younger voters.
According to an October study by GenForward and the University of Chicago of millennials looking at the 2020 election, about 1 in 5 black 18-to-36-year-olds support “someone else” for the Democratic nomination at higher rates than any one candidate.
Some black Biden supporters have pointed to their belief that the Scranton, Pa., native is the candidate best positioned to win the support of independents and white working-class voters who previously voted for President Trump. But traditional ideas about electability are not common among younger black voters, said Keneshia Grant, author of “The Great Migration and the Democratic Party: Black Voters and the Realignment of American Politics in the 20th Century.”
“I think it’s important for candidates to think about who these voters are and to think about the political environment in which they were shaped,” she told The Fix. “They have less worries about electability than some older folks.
“They were like babies when Barack Obama was first elected to office and they watched a reality television star get elected next, so they don’t bring this kind of stigma that it would be incredibly hard for a black president to get elected,” added Grant, an assistant professor of political science at Howard University.
Terrance Woodbury, a partner at HIT Strategies, a firm that conducts research on millennials, people of color and other under-researched demographic groups, told The Fix that some studies indicate younger black voters are not as sold on a particular candidate yet.
He said: “What we found more than anything is it’s very fluid; the plurality of voters of color are undecided. We do see quite a bit of support around Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders and Kamala D. Harris and even Elizabeth Warren, but all of them are losing out to these undecided voters.”
One reason so many young voters are so undecided is because they are still listening, something that is hard to do when you feel as if candidates aren’t yet talking to you specifically. While some candidates have spent significant time reaching out to voters at predominantly black churches, few are prioritizing visits to historically black colleges and other places with large populations of young voters.
According to the Pew Research Center, the black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years during the 2016 presidential election. The black voter turnout rate was above 66 percent in 2012. It was below 60 percent — 59.6 — in 2016.
This was even the case for black millennials. While the overall millennial voter turnout rate increased in 2016, the number of black millennials who turned out to vote dropped. In 2016, about half — 50.6 percent — of black millennials turned out to vote. The number was 55 percent in 2012.
Antjuan Seawright, a 34-year-old Democratic strategist based in South Carolina, said the black youth vote has to be intentionally sought out if candidates want the support of this group of millennials.
“First and foremost, I think that candidates and campaigns have to meet these voters where they are and challenge them to be where they need to be,” he told the Fix. “And oftentimes, that is a real disconnect when it comes to our party.
“Collectively, we’ve got to start treating younger African American voters like we’re in a true relationship with them, which means establishing trust, ongoing communications and also spending time with them,” Seawright said.