Elections are coming upon us and I’ve been wanting to write this post since the 2020 races. Well, longer. The frank truth is, we can’t have this conversation after people have become emotionally invested in their faves as candidates. Let’s consider this the prophylactic conversation that needs to come before the infectious fuckery. The thing is, we get passionate about people we perceive as holding a strong vision of What Must Be Done, because we agree with them – there’s a ton of narcissism in fanhood. We’re not sure about all of what they say, but they sound right, it sounds good to you and by cracky! – they are the right person for the job. We all fall in love just a little bit, with a mirror of who we are or desire to be. And it’s ok. It’s a critical component to being a successful public anything but definitely a politician. Where it goes off the rails is when the candidates with a lot of media favor and shall we say a fairly monochrome fan base runs smack dab into THE BASE.
Now, who the base of the Democratic Party is, is fair question. Is it largely white people? Especially very young people active on social media? The numbers on that are kinda tricky. Black voters are a bit less than 25% of the Democratic voting base for 2020 according to those Pew numbers and 40% of the Democratic voting base is non-white – which still means that 60% of the Democratic voting base is white. But is it really as far left as say, Twitter, would have you believe? Doesn’t really look like it. Frankly, I find most of these definitions ridiculous and inadequate. Believing that shutting up about social justice is fine if we get to free college and Medicare for All is about as progressive as Separate But Equal. You’re just asking for a bribe for the moral compromise, but I digress. Either way, social media is a terrible gauge of where the base is on policy & media is a bad gauge of who the base is.
All this allows me to jump to the point of this post – people who gain attention, a following and then launch their campaigns for office due to their personal popularity. It happens over and over again, yet, it’s always a surprise. But why does it happen? After all, the majority of the Democratic base is white. The problem is, the white vote is largely held by Republicans and when Democratic candidates win, it’s due to the coalition of white and non-white voters. So, when primaries are held in majority white areas, those candidates who win do fantastic, then collapse when they need to appeal to the entire voting base in more diverse areas.
I feel this is a very basic fact, like 2 + 2 = 4, yet it’s always a surprise every election. Every time there’s a “dream” candidate that has a plan or a real revolutionary, white progressives are very, very shocked when the response from the non-white, particularly Black, voting base is at best, a shrug. When they’re told that a Warren, a Sanders, a Buttigieg has no real track record with the community, then a speech is brought up or a very recent photo op. We do understand what history is, correct? Clinton Foundation was in Harlem for years before the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign, not to mention her work & her husband’s throughout the years – that’s a track record. Photos at the local Pride Parade starting in 2014, that’s… adorable.
Good or bad, you have to have a record of engagement with minority communities. You can’t discover us like Christopher Columbus when you need us. A good portion of the hottest candidates that seek office are not used to having to not just talk to POC, but relate to us, and integrate with us. And if you make a mistake, you’re going to have to step up to us, own it and at the very least, make some mouth noises that make it seem as if you get why it was wrong with a plan for what to do going forward. The minority vote is taken for granted in the primaries. Sure, we don’t really have an option with regard to Republicans holding power. They are dangerous to our civil rights. We can’t ignore them. I mean, we’ve not voted for Republicans for decades. This has not made the Republican platform transform into reparations for Black people, end qualified immunity for police and properly seasoned food mandates.
For years, I’ve watched Black people be presumed pro this person or that, then people are stunned when the CBC and Black voters come to a different conclusion on who would be effective at winning and legislating. I’ve watched people I respect bemoan that Black voters don’t understand how good [X] is and don’t seem willing to realize how this is their best choice. I cannot stress this enough – Black people have had to live in a world that turns hostile on a dime. They have to understand white culture & thought patterns to navigate this place. They know who has made an effort and they know who just showed up and beckoned to them as if Black voters are the help. And if all they have is a few speeches or a couple of minority endorsements, this is not connection to the Black voting block.
It’s a huge mistake and it’s a consistent mistake. The attitude that just mentioning a subject or appearing with a notable person means the minority vote isn’t being taken for granted is a weird privilege. It says a lot being told this is an issue can immediately cause anger. We exist. We are a necessary party of winning. We have been asking for help with voting issues for decades, yet we’ve been sidelined for arguments over Monsanto, donations from rich people and various other things. This election and every election to come requires a strong, united, Democratic party voting wave and all out effort. All because warnings about election access, courts and local seats went ignored in elections prior. For want of a nail, etc. etc.
The common “wisdom” that we must appeal white voters means that critical relationship building by potential candidates is neglected and when they run, the hype may be blinding them to key voters who are not interested. Allegiances aren’t built overnight and you can’t just cater to a small subgroup as if they’re representative of everyone. I’m looking at the Fetterman gubernatorial run in PA as I type this but it applies to so many races past and sadly, future. Treat us like people you give a flying fuck about, Democratic candidates. Respect us enough to work alongside us instead of coming in like we can be picked up as a side dish. It would be nice to feel we’re just as important as the mythological white voter who is simply waiting for free healthcare.