Now that we have gotten the first two political anomalies out of the way en route to electing a new president – mostly White Iowa and New Hampshire – the primaries and caucuses are moving to states that are more representative of a diverse America and the outcomes will be heavily influenced by the Black vote.
Black voters will make up half or nearly half of all Democratic voters in North Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana.
Super Tuesday, March 1, has also been billed as the SEC Primary. Six southern states – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia – will hold a primary or caucus that day.
More than half of all African Americans live in the South and they will play a crucial role in determining whether Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders gets the Democratic nomination and whether a Democrat or a Republican succeeds Barack Obama, the first Black U.S. president.
In its report, “50 Years of the Voting Rights Act: The State of Race in Politics,” the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies pointed out, “Turnout among black Southerners exceeded that of their white counterparts in four of the twelve presidential elections since 1965, and nationwide black turnout clearly exceeded white turnout in presidential elections in 2012 and perhaps in 2008.”
Black political clout will not be limited to the South. “Deconstructing exit poll data from 2012, African-American voters accounted for Obama’s entire margin of victory in seven states: Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia,” according to the Cook Political Report. “Without these states’ 112 electoral votes, Obama would have lost decisively.
African-Americans also accounted for almost all of Obama’s margin in Wisconsin. All of these states, except Maryland, will be crucial 2016 battlegrounds.”
The Black vote will also be important in determining whether Blacks gain a stronger foothold in elective politics.
The Joint Center report noted, “Based on the most recent data, African Americans are 12.5% of the citizen voting age population, but they make up a smaller share of the U.S. House (10%), state legislatures (8.5%), city councils (5.7%), and the U.S. Senate (2%).”
That same pattern holds true for other people of color.
“Latinos make up 11% of the citizen voting age population, but they are a smaller share of the U.S. House (7%), state legislatures (5%), the U.S. Senate (4%), and city councils (3.3%),” the report stated. “Asian Americans are 3.8% of the citizen voting age population but a smaller share of the U.S. House (2%), state legislatures (2%), the U.S. Senate (1%), and city councils (0.4%).”
Because Blacks vote at a higher rate than Latinos at this point and are more diverse geographically, the major attention is being paid to them.
The contest between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is an intense one, splitting families, pitting friends against one another and, unfortunately, are characterized by attacks that misrepresent the record of the opposing side.
Firmly lined up in the Clinton camp are most members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who through the CBC PAC, endorsed her candidacy. She is also supported by many other Black elected officials, former Attorney General Eric Holder, and Lucy McBath, whose son, Jordan Davis, was killed in Florida in 2013 for allegedly playing his music too loud.
In the Sanders corner are entertainer and long-time civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Professor Cornell West, former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and writer Ta-Nehesi Coates.
In endorsing Clinton, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said in response to a reporter’s question, “I never saw him. I never met him [Sanders]. “I was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966,” Lewis said. I was involved with the sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery [Alabama] and directed [the] voter education project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President [Bill] Clinton.”
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is being attacked for policies of her husband that expanded the incarceration rate of African Americans, especially Black males.
Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, wrote an article for the Nation magazine under the headline, “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote.”
Each side needs to step back and acknowledge that both Sanders and Clinton have excellent records on civil rights – each consistently earns an A on the NAACP Legislative Report Card. And yes, both have longtime ties to the Civil Rights Movement.
Frankly, I am tired of hearing each of them say how much better Blacks would be under a Sanders or Clinton administration without offering any evidence. Without a doubt, either would be infinitely better than anyone running for president on the Republican side. And each Democratic candidate, in his and her own way, have acknowledged as much.
Rather than continuing a mindless debate about who is the real progressive in the race, let each of them offer detailed proposals that show that Black Lives Matter. So, far when the subject of race has come up, neither has been particularly impressive. They tend to focus their remarks on reforming the criminal justice system – which is extremely important -but our problems extend beyond the prison pipeline.
After they detail their specific proposals, Black voters will determine who is the real progressive.
George E. Curry is President and CEO of George Curry Media, LLC. He is the former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA). He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at twitter.com/currygeorge, George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook, and Periscope. See previous columns at http://www.georgecurry.com/columns. •