Engaging Black Voters: A Tale of Two Parties

During a critical election season, Black voter engagement is at the forefront, and we're taking a look to see how each campaign has done so far.

Historically, election campaigns in the United States have evolved significantly in their approach to engaging Black voters, recognizing their critical influence on electoral outcomes. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the political landscape shifted dramatically as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 enfranchised millions of Black Americans. This newfound political power made Black voters a key constituency, particularly for the Democratic Party, which generally supported civil rights and social justice issues. In the decades that followed, campaigns increasingly sought to address issues disproportionately affecting Black communities, such as systemic racism, economic inequality, and access to quality education and healthcare. Community outreach through town hall meetings, church visits, and grassroots organizing became essential tactics to build trust and encourage voter turnout.

As for the GOP, last week in Atlanta, at Rocky's Barbershop, an event was hosted by Ben Carson, Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, and Texas Rep. Wesley Hunt. Trump called on speakerphone to boast about his mugshot, leaving many, including the barbershop's owner, Rocky Johnson, feeling misled. Johnson later told Atlanta News First that he felt "betrayed" by the nature of the event, as he was not informed it would be political and had no prior communication with any Trump campaign representative.

Johnson was taken aback by Trump’s call, remarking, "I'm like, why is the ex-president calling someone in my barbershop? This has nothing to do with small Black businesses." He emphasized that he has "no involvement in politics" and believed the event was intended to support and discuss issues affecting small Black-owned businesses. "I thought it was going to be something real private," he said, expressing his frustration. "I'm thinking about Black businesses in Atlanta, small Black businesses in Atlanta. And I'm like, 'Ok, so when are we gonna start talking about this?'"

Johnson also told 11 Alive that his business had suffered since the event. 

Additionally, in May, Trump held a rally in the Bronx, joined by drill rappers Michael Williams (Sheff G) and Tegan Chambers (Sleepy Hallow). These rappers, allegedly part of the 8 Trey Crips and 9 Ways gangs, were indicted in May 2023 along with 30 others on charges including murder, attempted murder, and illegal firearm possession. The following month, he appeared with more rappers at a church in Detroit. 

Regarding the Democrats, Biden's campaign is spending the summer reaching out to Black student organizations, community groups, and faith centers. This effort is partly because some of his support from these groups has weakened while Trump is trying to gain their backing. However, outside of engagement, the campaign has detailed its initiatives directly involving the Black community.

Jasmine Harris, Black Media Director for Biden-Harris 2024, said one of these initiatives is the continued commitment to addressing student loan debt, disproportionately affecting Black Americans. Harris emphasized the administration's dedication to fighting against MAGA Republicans to secure maximum debt forgiveness, noting, "Black Americans are more likely to take out loans for college, whether for themselves or their children. Forgiving this debt directly tackles the racial wealth gap, offering significant financial relief and greater economic mobility for our community."

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During the pandemic, the Biden-Harris reduced child poverty by expanding the Child Tax Credit, which successfully cut Black child poverty in half. Harris underscored their ongoing efforts to reinstate this essential support. "We are committed to bringing back the Child Tax Credit to make a tangible difference for Black parents. By putting more money back into their pockets, we help them manage costs and ensure they can provide for their families. This initiative is crucial for reducing economic disparities and supporting Black households," she highlighted. The administration aims to restore and extend the Child Tax Credit to provide crucial financial relief and support to Black families struggling with rising costs.

The Biden-Harris administration has also made notable progress in lowering healthcare costs, particularly for seniors. Harris detailed the importance of expanding these benefits to all Americans. "We capped the cost of insulin at $35 for seniors and are working to extend this across the board. Keeping healthcare costs low is essential for our community, where many are still struggling. By reducing expenses, we aim to alleviate financial burdens and improve access to essential medical care for Black families," she stated. 

Engaging Black voters requires both political parties to go beyond superficial gestures and address this diverse community's unique challenges and aspirations. Historically, Black voters have been pivotal in shaping election outcomes, particularly in battleground states. Effective engagement involves addressing systemic issues such as racial injustice, economic disparities, and healthcare access and actively listening to and incorporating the voices of Black communities in policy development. For Democrats, maintaining strong relationships and delivering on social and economic equity promises is crucial. For Republicans, rebuilding trust through genuine outreach and policy proposals that resonate with the Black electorate is essential, but they refuse to do it. Both parties must prioritize sustained, respectful engagement that recognizes the significant role of Black voters in the democratic process and commits to addressing their needs and concerns.

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