November 17, 2023 | Reading Time: 5 minutes
No, Black voters aren’t going to win the election for Trump
This is so basic as to be boring.
One of the fundamentals of American politics is that Black voters support the Democratic Party by huge, just huge, margins. This is so basic as to be perfectly boring, which is probably why those of us who pay attention to politics find ways to make the basics more interesting.
Every election cycle features news stories that wonder if the tide is turning against the Democrats. Here’s a recent Times headline: “As Black Voters Drift to Trump, Biden’s Allies Say They Have Work to Do.”
Biden’s allies always say that they have work to do in the face of polling that suggests any kind of softening of support among Black voters. This is probably a good thing. A healthy democracy is one in which constituents complain and elected officials respond by saying they’ll try to do better. But let’s not confuse healthy democratic behavior with predictions about the 2024 election. Most Black voters are going to support Joe Biden and the Democrats. This is so basic as to be boring.
The Times story itself underscores my argument, even as it suggests that Biden and the Democrats are in trouble. According to a Times recent poll, “22 percent of Black voters in six of the most important battleground states said they would support former President Donald J. Trump in next year’s election, and 71 percent would back Mr. Biden.”
“Knowing how unpopular their frontrunner is with independents, they create this narrative that Black people are leaving the Democratic Party in droves to make it seem like Biden’s reelection is not the foregone conclusion that anyone who follows politics knows it to be.”
Let’s say that again – 71 percent of Black voters in key states say that they would choose the incumbent over the criminal former president. That’s pretty much the story. There’s no need to go any further.
But because those of us who pay attention to politics have to talk about something, we find ways to make the basics seem less boring, which is why the Times story compares two things that wouldn’t be compared if not for the urge to make a boring subject seem less boring.
What two things? The Times story compares its own poll, which found that 22 percent of Black voters would support Trump, to actual electoral results from 2020 and 2016. “Mr. Trump won just 8 percent of Black voters nationally in 2020 and 6 percent in 2016.” The Times reporters, who are doing what those of us who pay attention to politics do, characterize this “drift in support” as somehow “striking.”
Sure, if we take seriously the comparison of a poll taken a year before from the election to actual election results. By the time we get to November 2024, that 22 percent is probably going to be in the single digits, just like it was the last two times. And sure it’s striking, if we take seriously the fact that a minority of Black voters say they’ll back Trump while a vast majority of Black voters say they’ll back Biden.
We shouldn’t take such things seriously.
Don’t take my word for it, though. I got in touch with Michelle B. Young. She’s active in Democratic politics in Cincinnati, and a shrewd observer of dynamics within the national Democratic Party. I began by asking Michelle to explain why some Trump supporters, some elected Republicans and even some pundits say that Black voters are going to win the election for a white-power candidate like Donald Trump.
MBY: The very cynical part of me thinks they are doing everything they can to create a wedge between Black voters and the Democratic Party.
Ninety-plus percent support from Black voters is an insane statistic. You usually don’t see numbers that high on any issue for any reason, so knowing how unpopular their frontrunner is with independents, they create this narrative that Black people are leaving the Democratic Party in droves to make it seem like Biden’s reelection is not the foregone conclusion that anyone who follows politics knows it to be.
JS: To what extent is talk about Biden’s age fear of a President Harris?
MBY: One hundred percent, OK, just 99.99 percent, but seriously. When have you ever heard the media talk about a vice president, like, every day? The narrative they create around her is not grounded in reality.
They will show a clip of her being on a diplomatic trip and then, an hour later, have a panel discussion, asking “where is Kamala Harris?” It was so obviously misogynistic (misogynoir, really) that people started to pushback. Then the media pivoted to Biden’s age, but it really wasn’t a pivot at all. They just went back to saying the quiet part quietly, which is they hate that a Black woman is first in the line of succession.
The people lamenting Biden’s age know damn well that we have contingencies upon contingencies in place. They just don’t happen to like the contingency that’s in place. They’ve learned, however, to stop saying that part out loud, except for Nikki Haley. She’ll tell you straight up it’s about Kamala becoming president if something happens to Joe.
JS: What would you say to Black voters and voters of color who disapprove of the president’s approach to the Israel-Hamas war? Some are so opposed to it that they are threatening to sit out the election.
MBY: Anybody threatening to stay home this election is an unserious person, who I will not take seriously. Fascism is upon us and if you do not vote in this election, you may never get a change to vote again!
Trump has told us that he would be way more authoritarian the second time around. He thinks the problem is that his lieutenants weren’t loyal enough. If he has a second term, people like [former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] General Mark Milley, who are loyal to the constitution, not a president, will not be in a second administration. Trump will only hire sycophants. That thought should terrify people.
As for how President Biden is handling the war, I think I’ll use his own words: “Do not compare me to the almighty. Compare me to the alternative.” We have a two-party system. The next president will come from one of those parties. That’s it. We have no other choices. So unless something drastic happens, that means our choices are Biden or Trump. I’d invite these people threatening to stay home to tell me how Trump is a better choice, because staying at home is a vote for Trump.
JS: You have been critical of Republicans who wrap themselves in Jesus. You have said they are not Jesus-following Christians. Can you explain?
MBY: These people fight to put prayer in schools (in violation of the separation of church and state) and rail against free lunch as if Jesus wouldn’t want every child fed. I don’t recognize the evangelical version of Christianity as Christianity. It’s grievance-based and about control.
Abortion is about controlling women and getting white women to have more babies (Listen to Jane Elliot or read The Birth Dearth.) They’re anti-immigrant, anti LGBT-plus, anti-everyone who is not white, straight and male. They think trans people should not exist, and that women and minorities should have second-class citizenship.
Their message has nothing to do with love or Jesus, and everything to do with power, particularly the power to subjugate others to their beliefs. If they were actually “pro-life,” we’d have legislation against guns and for school lunches. Sister Joan Chittister said it best:
“I do not believe that just because you are opposed to abortion that that makes you pro-life. … Your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, a child educated, a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”
I grew up Catholic. I also have experience in the Black church traditions. That version of Jesus is so different from what the evangelicals do. We were big on Martin Luther King’s liberation theology. The message was social justice and community. I volunteered in a soup kitchen; we weren’t taught to fear others. We were taught that everyone is welcome at the table. All of this seems much more in line with what Jesus preached. What the GOP is doing isn’t Christianity.
It’s white supremacy cloaked in Christianity.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.