Making sense of where Black voters stand with Biden and Trump

By greatbritton

The White House and Democrats are riding high after sweeping election victories on Tuesday across the country in key swing states like Ohio and Virginia and in the deeply red state of Kentucky.

But a recent poll indicating that voters in battleground states, including 20% of Black voters, prefer Donald Trump over President Joe Biden has some worried about Biden’s chances at reelection in 2024. Twenty-three percent of Black voters polled by CNN also favored the four-times indicted, twice-impeached Republican president. 

, Making sense of where Black voters stand with Biden and Trump
Blacks For Trump members gather on Rice Street on Aug. 24, 2023, to support the former president in Atlanta. (Photo by Benjamin Hendren/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The small but noticeable erosion of Black voters, a crucial part of Biden’s coalition that won him and Vice President Kamala Harris the White House in 2020, could spell disaster.

Biden’s Democratic primary challenger, Rep. Dean Phillips, told theGrio that the outcome from Tuesday’s contests was “outstanding.” 

He said the 2023 off-year election contests compared to polls suggest, “We don’t have a Democratic brand problem,” but rather, “unfortunately,” Democrats “have a Joe Biden problem.”

“Americans are asking for an alternative to President Biden,” said the three-term Minnesota congressman. “This is not rocket science, and I’m just surprised and increasingly disappointed by a dangerous culture of protecting numbers that are clearly screaming red alert.”

But Democratic strategists and political experts tell theGrio it’s too early to sound the alarm and that there’s plenty of time to convince Black voters that in a Biden vs. Trump 2024 rematch, there is only one choice.

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“In every single election, Black people cast the survival vote because, in these elections, the outcome determines whether or not most Black communities live or die,” said Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist who advises national campaigns.

“Every time our lives have been on the line, we always stepped up to save our communities and save this country,” added Seawright. “I don’t think this election or any elections in the future will be any different.”

“Remind me again what the record of the Trump administration is on the issues that Black people care about, and how that is infinitely better than the record that Joe Biden has?” Kevin Olasanoye, national political and organizing director at the Collective PAC, asked rhetorically.

The former campaign director for Senator Cory Booker said in addition to Trump’s record, the broader Republican Party continues to lose at the ballot box because of their focus on “culture wars.” 

Republican governors and candidates across the country have largely focused on policies like restricting Black history curriculums, banning books by some Black authors, and enacting “parental rights” laws that advocates say are really designed to silence Black and LGBTQ+ communities. 

, Making sense of where Black voters stand with Biden and Trump
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at the Pray Vote Stand Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on Sept.15, 2023, in Washington, D.C. The summit featured multiple 2024 Republican Presidential candidates making their case to the conservative audience members. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

This, coupled with the party’s position on abortion, is why strategists believe Republicans continue to fail at the ballot box.

“There is something happening on the undercurrent here that is consistent,” said Olasanoye. 

In response to polls about President Biden’s favorability compared to Trump, he cautioned, “So many things can happen between now and then that could alter this.”

Olasanoye pointed to Trump’s pending criminal trials as one glaring issue for the former president. However, he also acknowledged the same goes for President Biden, who could face any number of wild cards like a downturn in the economy or foreign policy challenge. 

“Who would have ever thought in 2018 and 2019 that the COVID-19 pandemic would be a thing that would decide or help to decide the election in 2020?” he said. 

Terrance Woodbury, a Democratic pollster and CEO of HIT Strategies, warned that, unlike the past two election cycles that were good for Democrats, Trump will be on the ballot in 2024, which could see a “surge” in voters.

“He changes the electorate,” he told theGrio. “It’s just as much about who didn’t vote as it is about who did vote.” He added, “Those white voters who did not vote, they will show up when Trump’s name is on that ballot.”

Woodbury said it’s imperative that Democrats better engage with Black men, who he suspects represent most of the Black voters in recent polls who say they would vote for Trump over Biden. However, he noted the “erosion” of Black male voters didn’t start with President Biden.

, Making sense of where Black voters stand with Biden and Trump
U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris walk to the Rose Garden for an event on high-speed internet access for low-income Americans, at the White House May 9, 2022, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“We’ve seen [this] since Barack Obama exited the political stage,” he said. Woodbury Black men and men of color have become the “new swing voters.”

In order to court them back, he said, Democrats will have to treat them like “persuasion voters” as opposed to “mobilization voters” like Black women. Woodbury said in polling Black men who say they’re voting for Trump, he learned that even things like “racism and incendiary language” do not disqualify Trump for them.

What could be a disqualifier for Black men is abortion, he said, noting that exit polls in Ohio’s Tuesday vote to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution saw overwhelming support from Black voters. 

“In Ohio, Black folks supported Issue 1 higher than any other demographic, specifically…88% of Black men voted yes,” said Woodbury. “If Biden gets 88% of Black men’s votes in Ohio, that’s gonna change some things.”

Woodbury said there are other issues important to Black men where President Biden has “demonstrated tremendous progress,” like the economy, in which Black unemployment reached record lows. He also noted Biden’s “record investment” in Black businesses and actions on criminal justice reform. 

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“The best way to reform the criminal justice system is by appointing more Black women to the bench than every single president prior,” said Woodbury, referring to Biden’s record number of Black female judges installed to the federal courts.

He also acknowledged Biden’s policing executive order, which included demands from advocates like mandatory body cameras and a national database of police misconduct, and the Justice Department’s growing pattern and practice investigations into police mistreatment.

Olasanoye of the Collective PAC said the president should also look at ways to reorient recreational and medicinal marijuana through “intentional” policies that create “opportunities for Black people to participate in this new economy that has largely been used as a cudgel to hold [Black men] down.”

Seawright said Black men are the “most consequential constituency” for Democrats’ short-term and long-term election success.

“We have to do more listening than talking and find out what’s important,” he said, “but we also have to remind them what we’ve been able to do for them and what the other side has made a serious, honest attempt not to do for them and their families.”

Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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