Wednesday, July 24, 2024
HomeUSAAfter Propelling Biden in 2020, Black Women Aren’t Eager to Abandon Him...

After Propelling Biden in 2020, Black Women Aren’t Eager to Abandon Him Now


As a growing number of Democratic leaders and voters call on President Biden to step down following his poor performance in the debates, Black women continue to be a wall of support for him.

During conversations at a national music festival in New Orleans on Saturday, at a small organizer gathering in rural Georgia shortly after the debate last month, and in recurring chats on text chains and phone calls, black women Democrats have reaffirmed their willingness to turn out to vote and organize their communities to support Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, whose presidential ticket they lobbied heavily for in 2020.

Many believed the president's performance in the debate was flawed. Others expressed concern that his weak standing and his meandering answers on the debate stage would make it even more difficult for him to excite black voters, who have already expressed a lack of enthusiasm for the Democratic ticket.

But he has joined a large group of Black lawmakers in publicly rejecting the idea — an idea that is now circulating widely among others in the party, including a group of top House Democrats — that Mr. Biden should step down.

“The amount of attention that Democrats are giving to this and not making any effort to persuade and motivate voters is completely distracting,” said Stephanie Brown James, co-founder of Collective PAC, an organization that supports Black candidates at all levels of government. “I don’t think it’s helpful right now.”

Black women have long been the Democratic Party's most reliable voting bloc. More than 91 percent of black women who voted in 2020 supported Mr. Biden, and surveys have consistently shown that they are still his strongest voter base, one that has not yet broken away, even as those same surveys show a broad decline in support among black voters.

Interviews with nearly two dozen black Democratic women, including several of the grassroots organisers who played key roles in Mr Biden’s victory four years ago, indicate that a large portion of this loyal voter group is still not ready to abandon him or Ms Harris.

His continued support is motivated in part by pragmatism. Many argue that if he withdraws, it would throw the Democratic Party into disarray and seriously jeopardize its chances of defeating former President Donald J. Trump, whom they see as a threat to democracy and the racial progress made over the past several decades.

Mr Trump's comment during the debate that immigrants were taking “black people's jobs” circulated widely online and prompted some black leaders to remind voters of his racist and derogatory comments. And the latest New York Times/Siena College poll shows Mr Trump is enjoying support among about 15 per cent of blacks – a drop from previous surveys, even as he is increasing his overall lead over Biden in battleground states.

But Ms Harris is also a key factor in his support, they said, expressing concern that efforts to undermine Mr Biden could also weaken him as part of the ticket and harm his future prospects. Many suggested that if Mr Biden steps aside and the Democrats select a candidate other than the vice president, it would ensure a sharp drop in black support.

Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove of California compared the Democratic Party to a sports team during a panel discussion with the Congressional Black Caucus PAC at the Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans on Saturday. She said the party's victory depends not just on the coach, but on “its star players.”

“We also need to remind ourselves that we have a Black woman who is vice president of this United States,” he said. “We need to continue to protect her because she is an issue and part of the ticket that still sees us when Republicans don't.”

Mr Biden has repeatedly insisted he will not drop out of the race and reiterated his commitment to run again in a letter to congressional Democrats on Monday. But in recent days, Ms Harris, who has not shied away from her support for Mr Biden, has attracted more attention as an alternative presidential candidate.

Some donors who have shied away from the president have shown renewed interest in Ms. Harris. Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina told the MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell last week that he would support Ms. Harris if Mr. Biden withdrew, adding that Democrats should “do everything they can to help her, whether she’s in second place or at the top of the ticket.”

At the Essence Festival, where she participated in a moderated conversation, Ms. Harris drew a large, excited crowd of mostly black women. Many said in interviews that, while they were supporters of Mr. Biden, they were excited by the prospect of seeing Ms. Harris at the top of the ticket — either this year or in 2028.

One attendee, Joyce Dallas-Maryland, said she believed Ms. Harris would be an “excellent replacement” for Mr. Biden, but felt it would be too disruptive for the party to change its stance now.

“I'm on Team Biden and the people who are with him are for democracy, and I'm for democracy,” said Ms. Dallas-Maryland, who traveled to the festival from Mobile, Alabama.

This week, Ms. Harris will host several campaign events, including two on Tuesday in Nevada, a crucial swing state. She will also have the opportunity to speak directly to Black women at national ceremonies for two Black sororities: Alpha Kappa Alpha, of which she is a member, on Wednesday and Zeta Phi Beta, in late July.

Across the broadcast, black women have been among the Democratic ticket's most prominent defenders. In a CNN interview with Victor Blackwell on Saturday, former Senator Carol Moseley Braun called Democrats' criticisms of Mr Biden “very disappointing” while acknowledging that his debate performance was poor. She said “the nonsense has to stop.”

Representative Frederica Wilson of Florida released a statement on Sunday outlining her support for the Biden-Harris ticket and condemning Democrats who have called on Mr. Biden to step down, saying whoever does so “needs to get their priorities straight.”

Black women who support Mr. Biden also point to his record. He has appointed more Black women to federal courts than any other president and his policies to lower the cost of insulin have disproportionately benefited Black diabetics. And although his student loan debt forgiveness plan was hampered by legal and legislative hurdles, his administration recently canceled student loan payments for more than 160,000 borrowers — a boon for Black women, who disproportionately owe student loans.

“Abandoning Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, for me personally, feels like it’s like giving up my own freedom,” said Jotaka Eddy, a veteran Democratic strategist who holds regular meetings with black women organizers and elected officials.

A group of more than 150 black women organizers at a gathering in Macon, Georgia, a day after the debate said plans were made immediately to solidify support for the president. Some leaders are now planning weekly meetings to discuss voting strategies.

The heads of several of these organizing groups, which focus on rural Black voters and voters in the deep blue metro Atlanta area, say they will focus their efforts on young voters and men. They also plan to counter Republican-led misinformation efforts targeting Black voters through in-person engagement.

Still, many of the organizers who worked for Mr. Biden four years ago face a much tougher challenge in re-electing him. In surveys, focus groups and interviews, black voters have shown little interest in supporting Democrats this November, and have expressed significant disappointment with Mr. Biden. Some have said they will vote for Mr. Trump or withhold their vote altogether, pointing to higher prices as a result of inflation and the party’s failure to pass voting rights or criminal justice legislation.

Experienced organizers are also struggling with fewer resources to carry out their work. Some said recent Supreme Court rulings targeting affirmative action have limited funding for organizations that specifically set out to engage black communities.

And while they stand behind Mr. Biden, some organizers are also making contingency plans. One prominent organizer in Georgia with direct knowledge of the talks said there have been conversations with donors and other leaders of Black voter mobilization organizations about shifting strategy if Democrats move forward with a new candidate. He insisted on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Still, some black Democratic women said the immediate calls and plans for a new flagbearer reflect a lack of loyalty to the president, whose re-election they had pledged to support.

“After the debate, everything has been about his performance and his look and his voice and all that,” said veteran Democratic strategist Leah D. Daughtry. “We still haven’t gotten to the bottom of this administration’s accomplishments and performance over the last three and a half years.”

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