EDITORIAL: Presidential candidates vie for critical black votes

With the Democratic primary campaign moving from Iowa and New Hampshire to Nevada and South Carolina both democratic candidates are fighting for support from black voters
With the Democratic primary campaign moving from Iowa and New Hampshire to Nevada and South Carolina both democratic candidates are fighting for support from black voters

Presidential candidates vie for critical black votes

As the presidential caucuses and primaries move from the homogenous voting pools of Iowa and New Hampshire, the race to the White House will take a different direction into more racially diverse states like South Carolina, Nevada, Michigan, Ohio and Florida. Now, it’s the black vote that may help tip the balance of power in the 2016 presidential elections.

With 70 percent of eligible black voters and over 80 percent Caribbean-Americans voting democrat, most likely the Democratic nominee this year will be the candidate who wins majority support from black voters. It’s also possible if the Republican Party succeeds in obtaining even a small percentage of the overwhelming Black vote that traditionally support the Democratic Party, this could boost the Republicans chances in swing states like Florida.

Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders (left) and Hillary Clinton vie for black voters with eye toward critical southern states
Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders (left) and Hillary Clinton vie for black voters with eye toward critical southern states

But all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, will need to work very hard to vie for black voters with eye toward critical southern states. No party can count on guaranteed support from the coalition. It’s no secret that a large percentage of black voters are disappointed that certain structural changes have not materialized under President Obama’s presidency. Most are savvy enough to realize that these changes were vigorously opposed in the U.S. Congress. Having their hopes disappointed with a black president in office, there are concerns voters will not be easily persuaded to turn out to vote this year for either the Democrats or Republicans.

Black voters also realize that although their votes desperately matter to candidates seeking election, the issues so crucial to the black population seem to be ignored when these candidates are elected to office. Clearly, black voters cannot continue to provide the cornerstone on which U.S. congressional members, state legislators and other representatives build their political careers, without demonstrating their investment in key issues.

The black vote must be earned, either with a record of improving, or presenting pragmatic plans to improve the economic circumstances of blacks, protect them from racial abuse, create a fairer and objective judicial system, access sound high school and college education, affordable healthcare and housing, among other issues.

Read More: Black votes matter to Clinton and Sanders

But, when they have been brought to the political well so often only to find it dry, this year black voters must be weary of campaign promises. Sure, it would be great to see federal minimum wage increases to $15 per hour, free college tuition available for all Americans, increases in Social Security benefits, and increased income tax thresholds to alleviate low-income earners. But how realistic are these promises? These measures must be passed by both chambers of the U.S. Congress. Obama’s presidency has revealed how difficult it can be to get legislative support, even when he had Democratic Party majorities in both chambers of Congress. To earn the crucial black vote, political candidates can no longer simply make promises. They must show how these promises will be fulfilled when they are elected.

While campaigning in South Carolina last week, Hillary Clinton said “African Americans can’t wait for solutions. They need results now.” These words could be the mantra for black voters in the current election cycle. Fifty-five years since the passage of the 1965 Voters Act, most members of the black population are still waiting for results that could indelibly improve the quality of their lives.

Eligible blacks are encouraged to register to vote and turn out to vote during elections. But they should ensure that whether the candidates are Democrats or Republicans they must present realistic policies and take stringent efforts to earn that vote. As the population commemorates Black History Month, it should disseminate this message: “We are proud black votes matter, but black votes can no longer be taken for granted; they must be earned.”

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