The myth of Stacey Abrams’ Black male voting problem

By greatbritton

21 Savage listens as Stacey Abrams speaks during a campaign event and conversation with Charlamagne tha God, and Francys Johnson at The HBUC on September 9, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Stacey Abrams, you in danger, girl!

Apparently, there’s some kind of issue with Black male voters that could doom her quest to become the first Black woman governor. Lately, people who say stuff on TV about things have been explaining how Black men are really dissatisfied with the Democratic Party, causing an unprecedented lack of enthusiasm that could result in Republicans retaking the Senate, Democrats losing the House and a delay in Rihanna’s upcoming album.

To be fair, none of this is Abrams’ fault. New York Times columnist Charles Blow called it the “Democrats’ Black Male Voter Problem” while fellow reporters noted that Black men have “inched toward Republicans during the Trump era.” When Newsweek explained Abrams “struggle for the support of Black men,” Black Male Voter Project founder W. Mondale Robinson explained that “Stacey Abrams doesn’t have a Black man problem…the Democratic Party has a Black man problem.” 

Still, Democrats don’t seem to have a “problem” with white men—the most conservative constituency in America. The issue doesn’t seem to extend to the white women, who complain about the loss of reproductive rights while continuing to vote for GOP candidates who strip away reproductive rights. It’s not Latino voters in Texas and Florida who are growing more conservative. 

No, apparently, the Democratic Party’s “problem” is with one of its most unwavering, most dependable bases of support. There’s only one problem with this wholly manufactured narrative…


The myth of the “Black vote.”

This recurring narrative is based on the subtly racist premise that Black people love the Democratic Party. 

To understand how this counterfactual narrative became a political truism, one must first understand how so-called “experts” view Black people in general. Unlike white voters, African Americans who participate in elections are not regarded as complex human beings who use the ballot box to realize their economic, political and social agendas. They don’t live in places or care about policy issues like white “suburban moms” who are concerned about “kitchen table issues.” Even the most detailed polls don’t disaggregate Black voters by education, income or religion. Instead, the “Black vote” is a monolithic thing weilded by people who share one homogenous political outlook. 

Yet, even the party’s staunchest Black supporters will privately admit their frustration with how the party will abandon its most reliable constituency to chase moderate white voters who always end up supporting Republicans. But, in a two-party system where one party has genuflected towards dog-whistle rhetoric and conservative policy (pronounced “hoo-wyatt suh-prim-missy”) since the days of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, Hispanic voters, Asian voters, Jewish voters and Muslim voters and every other non-white racial and ethnic voting constituency in America has overwhelmingly sided with the not-Republican Party. Yet, somehow, your favorite pundits have somehow concluded that Black men are more disappointed than they have ever been, which will cause them to cast their votes in a totally different manner in the upcoming midterm election. 

It must be true! How could so many people be so wrong? 

What if they’re wrong? What if they realized that Black people actually approach voting just like everyone else? What if they understood that Black people aren’t genetically predisposed to vote for the Democratic Party? What if they knew that Black people don’t love the Democrats any more than a carpenter loves a ball peen hammer or the Kardashians love Black men? What if Black people vote like people vote? Then, political analysts on cable news shows would have to actually analyze Black politics. Who wants that?

The real problem with Black men.

Perhaps the biggest monkey wrench in this perpetual mythology machine is the fact that history and math exist. 

I guarantee that Black men won’t support Stacey Abrams as heavily as their Black female counterparts. And yes, Black men will definitely lag behind Black women in their support for the Democratic Party. Even though I am not a soothsayer, there is a good reason why I am so confident in the aforementioned electoral results:

It happens in every election. 

, The myth of Stacey Abrams’ Black male voting problem

Like every other demographic, Black men are marginally more conservative than Black women.  Hispanic males are also more likely to vote for Republicans. So are white men. In the 2020 election, 27 percent of Hispanic men voted for Donald Trump versus 23 percent of Hispanic women. Again, Black men are not unicorns or dragons; they are human beings who vote like other human beings. 

Although the vast majority of African Americans usually vote Democrat, when theGrio looked at exit polls for presidential elections since 1972, we found that Black men were slightly more likely than Black women to vote Republican. Although this small percentage of Black male Republicans has remained consistent for the last 50 years, they are a relatively tiny fraction of the overall electorate. More importantly, anyone trying to solve the mystery of Black male voters could easily see that Black men who cast ballots for Republicans tend to vote like most men who cast ballots for Republicans.

, The myth of Stacey Abrams’ Black male voting problem

The percentages are so tiny, it does not even warrant a real political discussion. Take, for instance, the last Georgia gubernatorial election—one of the closest races in the 2018 midterms. If every single one of the 23,000 or so Black men who voted for Brian Kemp had voted for Abrams instead, it wouldn’t have erased Kemp’s 54,723-vote lead. Yet, somehow, Black men have become the scapegoat and Abrams’ inability to change a political reality that has existed for more than a half-century became her Achilles heel. 

A better approach.

Of course, we could always revert to the Democratic Party’s playbook. When they want to appeal to older moderates, they tout their policies on Medicare and elder care. They appeal to white suburban voters by promising to keep them safe and “fund the police.” But when it comes to Black male voters, the Democratic strategy is to enlist the help of rappers and celebrities. What Black voter wouldn’t follow the sage political advice of 21 Savage? If anyone can talk some sense into disaffected Black men, it’s the host of “The Breakfast Club,” Charlamagne tha God. After all, “tha God” is right there in his name.

And none of this negates the fact that Black men should be less conservative. But why vilify the party’s second-most reliable voting bloc? Before centering the discussion on Black men, the Democratic Party would be well served to shore up their support among larger segments of the electorate, including:

  • People who support felony disenfranchisement: In the 2018 midterms, 6 percent of Black men voted Republican versus 13 percent of Black men who were disenfranchised because of a felony conviction, according to the Sentencing Project.
  • White women who want to look like Black women: If you get lip injections, a butt lift or a deep tan, you should also have to vote like Black women. 
  • People who want rational laws: Fifty-nine percent of Americans support safe and legal abortions, while 64 percent of white American believe gun violence is a problem. Yet most white people vote Republican. 
  • Sports fans: If you support the NFL or fill out an NCAA tourney bracket, then you should be in favor of Black people achieving in all arenas.
  • White people who want to say the n-word: In exchange for their political support, I’m willing to offer a “get-out-of-racism-free” card to anyone who wants to recite Tupac lyrics. 

Maybe the mythology works. Maybe lies and conjecture are easier to believe. Or maybe, instead of asking DJs, rappers and one lone Black woman to change the entire political spectrum by focusing on a tiny part of the electorate, we could actually talk about facts and truth. 

Nah, that would never work. 

, The myth of Stacey Abrams’ Black male voting problem

Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in 2022.

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