5 Things We’re Keeping An Eye On In 2024

The new year could mark an inflection point for the Black community.

With 2023 almost in the rearview mirror, next year will be pivotal. Black voters, arguably the most loyal Democrats, could play a key role in which party controls Congress and whether President Joe Biden remains in the White House. 

Once again, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling that can either reinforce or further weaken Black voting rights. Also at stake is the economic well-being of Black households after a year that saw record-low Black unemployment. 

There’s a long road ahead, likely with unforeseeable twists and turns. Here are five things we’re keeping an eye on.

  1. Watch Kamala Harris shift into campaign mode

    Critics, including some Democrats, have criticized Vice President Kamala Harris for not living up to expectations. According to a June NBC News poll, Harris hit a record low for vice president net favorability. 

    But in the second half of 2023, Harris gave us a glimpse of what we might see in 2024.

    TIME reported in May that President Joe Biden’s team had an awakening that he might not win reelection without Harris. The reboot involved moving the vice president away from no-win tasks like solving the migration problem and deploying her more strategically.

    Early in his presidency, Biden assigned two formidable tasks to Harris: stem the migrant border crossings that previous administrations couldn’t fix and shepherd voting rights legislation that faced strong opposition from Senate Republicans and conservative Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin.

    In mid-2023, Harris went on a mission, shifting into political attack mode as the Biden-Harris ticket began gearing up for the 2024 presidential election.

    Some of Harris’ allies in California, where the vice president served as attorney general, told The New York Times that seeing her crisscross the nation brought back memories of her old swagger.

    Since then, Harris has voiced the administration’s outrage on issues from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis“revisionist history” about slavery to the Republicans’ war on abortion rights, as well as making high-profile appearances, including the NAACP annual conference in July.

    Look for Harris to step it up in 2024.

  2. A Supreme Court backtrack on voting rights?

    In 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a win for Black voters in Alabama, reaffirming the Voting Rights Act (VRA). 

    Will the conservative-dominated court make an about-face next year in an election district case that hinges on the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause?

    In October, the high court heard oral arguments in Alexander v. South Carolina NAACP. South Carolina Republicans appealed to the Supreme Court after a lower court ruled that GOP lawmakers created an unconstitutional racially gerrymandered election district map. 

    In that map, Republicans moved tens of thousands of Black voters out of the state’s congressional district that covers part of Charleston County.

    According to Republicans, they shifted district lines because those voters were Democrats – not because of their skin color. The high court has given states leeway to create voting districts favorable to a political party.  

    But voting rights advocates argued that the move was racially motivated to dilute Black voting power.

    The  New York Times explained that the case addresses the “constitutional puzzle” of “how to distinguish the roles of race and (political) partisanship in drawing voting maps when Black voters overwhelmingly favor Democrats.”

    After oral arguments, voting rights advocates feared that the high court was poised to side with South Carolina Republicans. 

    In the Alabama case, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh surprised many when they crossed ideological lines and sided with the court’s three liberal justices. 

    But in the South Carolina case, Roberts “seemed unpersuaded” by lower courts’ findings and reasonings that led them to rule that the GOP-drawn election map was unconstitutional.

    Still, the South Carolina NAACP was hopeful after their day in court.

    Black voters in South Carolina deserve to fully and fairly participate in a democratic process where we are represented and our communities are accounted for.  It is crucial that every voter is fairly represented in our democracy, and we hope the Court rules in favor of this fundamental truth,” said S.C.’s NAACP President Brenda Murphy.

    The court is expected to announce its decision in June 2024.

  3. House speaker Hakeem Jeffries?

    It’s possible in 2024 for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to receive the House speaker’s gavel and lead the chamber.

    Jeffries made history in November 2022 when House Democrats unanimously elected him as their leader, making Jeffries the first Black lawmaker to head a party in Congress.

    Democrats are gearing up to push the House minority leader across the finish line ahead of Republicans in the 2024 general elections. If they retake the House, the Brooklyn Democrat is poised to become House speaker in 2025.  

    It’s doable after the Republicans underperformed in the 2022 midterm elections. 

    As the Associated Press reported, Democrats need just a handful of seats to win the House. It’s a task made easier by the surprise Supreme Court ruling in June that created a second majority Black district in Alabama.

    Analysts expect Democrats to play offense in the House and aggressively go after 11 current GOP seats in deep Blue New York and California.

    Meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucus has launched a super PAC to mobilize Black voters, the party’s most dependable supporters. 

    Rolling Sea Action Fund plans to raise money and invest in ads and campaigns in the upcoming election cycle. Its election strategy includes targeting districts that contain at least 8 percent of Black residents of voting age, as well as investing eight figures into mobilization efforts and campaigns.

  4. Black voter turnout

    Alarm bells are going off in the Democratic Party over the fear of low Black voter turnout in 2024.

    An NBC News poll found declining enthusiasm for President Joe Biden among Black voters. A few weeks earlier, a New York Times suggested that Black voters in crucial swing states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) are drifting toward former President Donald Trump. According to the poll, 22 percent of Black voters would back Trump, who won 8 percent of the Black vote in 2020.

    Many Black voters have said they are frustrated with the Biden administration’s progress toward achieving legislative priorities that impact their lives, including solving the student loan debt crisis that disproportionately burdens the finances of Black Americans and the Democrats’ inability to enact police reform more than three years since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a White former police officer.

    Biden’s 2020 campaign pollster Celinda Lake told that the president’s team has failed to communicate what the administration has already delivered to the Black community.

    While the survey indicates Biden has also lost support among Latinos and young voters, Democratic strategists are particularly concerned about the erosion of support among Black men, who backed Trump by 27 percent compared to 17 percent for Black women in the new survey.

    Some advocates say that elected officials have neglected Black men’s policy priorities.

  5. Black economics

    In 2023, the economy saw record-low Black unemployment. Will the trend continue in 2024 for African-American households? 

    According to The Wall Street Journal, the current job market has transformed employment prospects for Black Americans in a way that could be long-lasting. In April 2023, the unemployment rate for Black workers fell to a record low of 4.7 percent.

    Historically, the Black unemployment rate has been twice the White unemployment rate since 1972, when employment data was disaggregated by race, according to the Center for American Progress. This 2-to-1 gap has largely remained steady for decades, which the think tank blames on structural racism.

    In this economic trend, Black workers have benefited from strong demand for labor and demographic shifts, in which many older White workers are retiring. That has opened the door for Black workers to land higher-paying jobs that offer better long-term stability.

    However, it’s unclear if this trend will continue. Newsweek reports that the Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development predicts that the national unemployment rate will increase from 3.6 percent to 4.1 percent in 2024.

    Even if record-low unemployment is shortlived, the Biden administration touts the longer-term benefits of Bidenomics for Black households. According to the administration, under its watch, Black child poverty declined, Black entrepreneurs are creating small businesses at a faster pace, and infrastructure in communities of color are getting long-overdue investments.

    Let’s see if the positive economic news continues.

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