As if the embarrassing complications at the Iowa Caucuses weren’t bad enough for the Democratic Party as a whole, its presidential candidates’ struggles with getting substantial traction with Black voters were being compounded by the seemingly nonstop stream of race-related issues campaigns have been forced to confront. The petty bickering hasn’t helped, either, all of which might explain why Stacey Abrams was asked in a recent interview what Democrats need to do to really resonate with such a crucial voting bloc that President Donald Trump has been making inroads with.
Abrams has been busy at work trying to prevent the rest of the country from becoming victims of voter suppression like what happened to her in the 2018 midterm gubernatorial election in Georgia, making her a popular running mate choice for the eventual nominee. Considering that Black people are among the country’s primary targets of voter suppression, Abrams’ relevant political acumen makes her a natural choice for USA Today to ask what the current crop of Democratic candidates must do to secure more — or, in some case, any — support from Black voters.
In an interview that was published hours before the annual State of the Union address, for which she delivered Democrats’ official response last year, Abrams offered some words of advice for what the candidates could do better to attract support from Black voters.
“There has to be early investment in those communities and that investment has to be more than a visit to a barbershop on Saturday and a church on Sunday,” Abrams said in an apparent reference to the popular (stereotypical?) places where white politicians often choose to engage Black voters. “It has to be organizing in those communities.”
While sound and seemingly a no-brainer, it was also advice that Black voters in Iowa said wasn’t heeded by candidates ahead of the caucuses. They complained about feeling ignored in favor of rural residents who are typically white, something that some pollsters fear could result in apathy at the polls n Election Day in November.
Abrams emphasized that Black voters need to feel just as coveted as how the Democratic Party values the votes of white people who live in the so-called swing states that are credited with winning elections.
“The issue with the swing voters is they can swing either Democratic or Republican,” Abrams explained before doubling down on what Democrats fear most: a repeat of the 2016 election.
“Black voters can either swing towards the polls or they can stay home, and that’s the thing that we need to be most afraid of on the Democratic side of the aisle,” Abrams added.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has been leading the polling pack when it comes to the support of Black voters, with the latest national poll showing he is more than 15 percentage points higher than the next closest candidate, Bernie Sanders. But the senator from Vermont has been slowly but surely eating into Biden’s lead with Black voters, underscoring the fact that nothing is guaranteed in politics. After those two, though, the support drops off significantly for the rest of the candidates.
And since no modern candidate for president has won the party’s nomination without securing a majority of the black vote, it would behoove campaigns to heed Abrams’ advice.