With one week to go to the midterm elections, Black voters are still facing obstacles. In Georgia Black voters have faced obvious voter suppression efforts. Recently, some elderly Black voters in Georgia were pulled off a bus, by a county official who questioned an effort to get them to the polls.
Also, in Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams is locked in a bitter fight with Sec. of State Brian Kemp for governor. Kemp is facing legal challenges from the ACLU, because he oversaw the removal of more than 50,000 names from the voting rolls. Seventy percent of those voters were Black.
Republicans have been pushing the message that Democratic voters are discouraged, but that might be the opposite of the truth. Many Black voters are even more determined to vote, in the face of these voter suppression efforts. Also, many of them are determined to cast a vote to protest the antics of President Donald Trump.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a Los Angeles-based radio show host and political analyst, said he’s cautiously optimistic about a potential “Black wave.”
“I’ve seen more talk about enthusiasm but I haven’t seen any figures that show there ‘s been a massive enough increase in Black voter registration to justify making the claim of uber-political enthusiasm on the part of Black voters,” said Hutchinson.
Black voting numbers dropped in 2016 when some African Americans failed to get behind Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
According to Hutchinson, there were several reasons for this.
“One she wasn’t Obama. Two, she had a lot of hubby Bill Baggage; namely his draconian crime bill, draconian welfare reform, and his centrist-right political emphasis. That hopelessly tainted Hillary with many Black voters,” said Hutchinson.
He said Democrats have a good chance of being successful, but they’re going to have to take a multi-pronged approach to the elections.
“It all comes down to whether they have a solid ground game — boots on the ground ringing doorbells, gathering absentee ballots, peopling phone banks, and working the analytics — and a compelling message and vision of change, and not just relying on hatred of Trump to get Blacks, Latinos and young people out in big enough numbers to take either wing of Congress,” said Hutchinson.
Rev. Shane Harris, a West Coast civil rights activist, said that he has seen an increase in political activity among Black voters. But it’s not because of Trump, or national issues. Harris said Black voters are more interested in effecting change at the local level in areas that directly affect their lives.
According to Harris, Black voters are interested in issues such as homelessness, police misconduct, cannabis laws and minority contracting.
“People are beginning to realize that all politics is local,” said Harris. “The way we keep hope alive is working at the local level.”
Harris said that he thinks that Black voters didn’t come out en masse for Hillary because she didn’t have a strong ground game. He said that the Clinton operation in California focused on high-income communities and just assumed African Americans would vote for her.
“The Hillary Clinton campaign assumed people were not going to vote for Trump,” said Harris.
This is an important lesson for both politicians and voters. Harris said voters have to stay on top of politicians, once they’re elected, and not assume they’ll do the right thing.
“If we assume we will lose everything, we have to make them (politicians) listen,” he said.