Listening to the noise surrounding the campaigns for the pending presidential elections, it appears as if the Democratic presidential ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris has already counted South Florida’s African-American and Caribbean-American votes in their column.
But, they should be cautioned, “not so fast.”
For successive presidential cycles, the Democratic Party has assumed that the Black vote—consisting of African Americans, and Caribbean Americans—is theirs. While the majority of the Black voters in the region are registered Democrats, there is no guarantee they will turn out to the polls in sufficient numbers boost the Democratic ticket’s victory.
The Democratic Party and the Biden/Harris ticket must be aware that there’s much work to done in the Black community to guarantee the votes expected.
CNW research indicates the Caribbean-American vote declined steadily from a high of 78 percent in the 2008 election to 68 percent in 2016. Over the same period, the African-American vote declined from 79 percent to 64 percent. It’s no secret that if the combined Black vote was a few percentages higher, Hillary Clinton may have carried Florida in 2016. That’s how pivotal the potential of the combined Black vote is in South Florida.
According to Miami political analyst Michael Brandt, “The Democrats must exercise aggressive effort in the Black community to maximize this vote.”
Courting The Caribbean-American Vote
Potential voters are incensed that with less than eight weeks to November 3, and ballots ready to be mailed out in two weeks, there’s not sufficient buzz from the Democratic ticket among South Florida’s Caribbean-American community.
“We aren’t hearing or seeing ads on Caribbean radio, in Caribbean newspapers or websites; we are not hearing of planned meetings, even virtual meetings because of COVID-19, with the candidates. We want to feel as if our votes are really needed, and the candidates are working to get them. We’re not feeling this,” argued Donette Bloomfield a North Lauderdale Caribbean-American resident.
Mason Bentham, a potential first-time voter who lives in Miami Beach said, “I see where the Biden campaign raised over $360 million dollars in August. How much of this money is being spent in targeting the Black vote in key states like Florida?” The 22-year-old Caribbean American added, “If the Democratic Party needs our vote, they must commit to spend campaign funds in the Black communities. Money wins elections.”
Although the Trump/Pence and Biden/Harris campaigns are spending heavily with the mainstream media, there is no evidence of such expenditure with the local Caribbean-American media—at least not yet.
Democrats, who are relying heavily on the Black vote, cannot leave it until the last minute to begin courting the Caribbean-American community directly. Not only would they be missing out on an opportunity to generate enthusiasm, it will also send the message that these votes are taken for granted. To understand how crucial this is, one need look no further than 2016.
The best way to reach the Caribbean-American community is through Caribbean-American media—particularly amid rampant misinformation, including the chaos surrounding mail-in ballots; and paranoia about voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the media is just one segment of the community that needs engagement. Campaigns need to reach out to civic organizations, religious groups and the youth through various platforms. It’s politically ill-advised to leave votes on the table, especially when razor-thin margins become the difference between winning and losing.
It would also be a sad reflection, and a slap in the face, if with a candidate of Caribbean-American descent on the Democratic Party presidential ticket, the campaign did not invest in the community to maximize the full potential of the Caribbean-American voting bloc.
As the election draws near, there several are local groups that are taking the initiative to implement get-out-the-vote strategies for Biden/Harris, but these risk falling short if the Democratic Party and presidential ticket do not offer the required support.
Additionally, this year’s presidential election in South Florida is shaping up to be a competition between the Hispanic and Black voting blocs. A poll released on Tuesday showed the race between Trump/Pence and Biden/Harris has tightened considerably, putting them in a dead heat. More interestingly, Hispanic voters supporting Trump outdo those supporting Biden by some five points.
Based on the large combined Black voting bloc in South Florida, if the potential voter turnout could increase from 68 to, say, about 80 percent, most political analysts believe this would give the Democrats the edge.
But, as Bentham concluded, based on the lackluster effort from Democrats, “I am wary of the validity of the promises the Democrats are making to represent the Black community…If they need our votes, they must work for our votes. Just don’t take us for granted.”