Black voter turnout dropped seven percentage points in 2016 from a record high in 2012, and there is a growing sense among African Americans of mistrust in the mainstream political establishment. Conventional wisdom holds that Biden – who does his best to tie himself to former President Obama – will clean house with Black voters and reignite enthusiasm for Democrats. This assumption is short sighted, and fails to capture the increasing mistrust and apprehension Black Americans feel toward Democrats. For too long, the Democrat Party has counted on the support of Black Americans, but many believe the party has failed to deliver measurable opportunity or advancement.
A recent Politico article by Tim Alberta recounts his trip to a cookout full of Black Democrats in an affluent Detroit suburb where this sentiment was high. The story was originally supposed to be about Black voter enthusiasm, but what Alberta ended up uncovering was a growing lack of trust in the Democrat Party and a defeatist outlook on Biden’s chances of ousting President Trump. While most attendees were resigned to voting for Biden, many regarded him as disingenuous and unlikely to spark real change. Black voters questioned Biden’s credentials, with one attendee asking, “what are his credentials to us, other than Obama picking him? It’s nice that he worked with Obama. But let’s keep it real: That was a political calculation. Obama thought he needed a white man to get elected, just like Biden thinks he needs a Black woman to get elected. We can see through that.”
Another echoed, “my vote doesn’t matter—it’s all decided by the big money. And like I said, nothing ever changes no matter who wins anyway. Obama. Trump. Biden. Nothing ever changes.”
While none of the attendees at the Detroit event appeared to be avid Trump supporters, some admitted they respected the President’s transparent attitude. One attendee said, “at least with Trump you know where he stands. If we were sitting here, me and you, and you’re pretending we’re friends, but then behind my back, you act like you don’t even know me, that’s the worst. I’d much rather you just tell me to my face that we’re not friends. That’s Trump. I respect that.”
There was a strong sense of disappointment among the attendees over former President Obama as well. One guest summed it up as, “some people thought just because we had a Black president, he was going to make things better for Black people—he was going to free Black prisoners, wipe out Black debt. That was just ignorance. But the disappointment some of us felt with Obama—more so with the Democratic Party—that was real. And it hasn’t gone away.”
Another Politico piece form early June exposed a similar lack of enthusiasm for Democrats among young Blacks, with one young man from Philadelphia stating his mother and grandfather had voted before, and “all of them got nothing. So why should I participate in the same process?”
These excerpts are anecdotal, but they place a voice behind the dwindling Black vote that pollsters have worried about since 2016. While many on the left do not appear to understand why Black voters are less loyal to the party now, the reality is the views of a majority of Black voters are politically moderate on a range of issues, and often at odds with progressive ideals. What’s more, there is a growing sense of betrayal. Progressivism has failed to advance the Black community as promised, and many Black Americans prefer moderate policy solutions and identity as conservatives.
Market Research Foundation’s 2018 study of African Americans found that when talking about ideology instead of parties, twice as many African Americans are willing to self-identify as conservatives on a variety of issues; moral such as gay marriage and abortion (26%), education (21%), economic (20%) and healthcare (19%).
Two-thirds (64%) of Black Americans believe some conservative politics that promote individual freedom would benefit the Black community – but the majority will not listen to them if they are being promoted by Republicans as 76% believe the Party talks down to them. School choice is a key policy example in this category (90% support).
The vast majority, 88%, of African Americans believe the best way to help the poor is with education and a good job, compared to government aid. Four-in-five African Americans (80%) believe that small business is the key to American success and the same number do not trust the government to spend tax dollars. There is near universal agreement (93%) on reducing individual tax rates. Half of the African American community would like to see stricter enforcement of immigration laws with the highest levels of support from those ages 55-64 (59%).
What’s more, support for President Trump increases significantly when isolating Black males, and those with higher levels of education. Black voters with higher levels of education were more likely to support President Trump in 2016, not less. Market Research Foundation’s data found 17% of Black Trump voters had a Postgraduate Degree, versus 12% of black Clinton voters. What’s more, only 10% of Black Trump voters had no education beyond high school, and among Black Trump voters, only 5% had less than an 11th grade education. Overall, half of Black Trump voters had at least a Bachelor’s degree, as shown below.
This higher education link to Republicanism among Black Voters is validated by outside data as well. A 2019 The Hill-HarrisX survey found 25% of Black voters with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher would support President Trump over any Democratic challenger. This is compared to 17% of Black voters with less than a High School Education, and 12% of those with either a High School diploma or some college.
In this light, it isn’t hard to see why Black voters are increasingly wary of the Democrat’s empty promises and presumptuous assumptions. Biden’s bizarre statement that ‘you ain’t Black’, if you don’t vote for him exemplifies the Democrat’s condescending and self-serving attitude toward the African American community. Instead of demonstrating what they have done for Black voters, how they have alleviated poverty, reduced unemployment, or enacted real criminal justice reform, Democrats point their fingers at Republicans and call them racist, hoping to dissuade Black voters from considering the alternative. This could easily change with a solution-based strategy from conservatives.