It doesn’t take an overpaid campaign consultant to understand two simple equations:
But don’t tell that to the Democratic Party, which is doing its best to manufacture more Black voter torpidity than any voter ID law or manufactured poll tax, as we recently saw in Florida. The debacle at the Iowa caucuses sucked the wind out of the room, giving the Democratic primary season a worse start than the NY Giants.
For Black people—Black women in particular—who are the make or break of the Democratic party’s electoral elasticity, the fact that a state with roughly 4 percent African Americans has so much influence in the nomination process makes as much sense as putting raisins in potato salad.
But it was perhaps best captured by a former candidate, Secretary Julian Castro, who remarked, “Speaking up for the representation of every voter in our elections is as American as it gets. And if we can’t fight for that, then why in the hell are we Democrats in the first place?”
Unfortunately, we won’t be hearing Secretary Castro’s takes on the need for increased diversity and Black and brown turnout on the debate stage because his campaign has ended, as were those of Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Black and brown candidates have been falling faster in the Democratic primary than in the final battle scene of the movie Glory. And, like that movie, the majority of the people left standing are white, including a male billionaire who purchased, rather than punched, his ticket on the debate stage.
The situation does not get better when New Hampshire holds the nation’s first primary tomorrow. According to recent polls, former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg is running neck-and-neck with frontrunner Senator Bernie Sanders. After a grueling caucus in Iowa, both campaigns claimed victory, which means a big L for the party at-large.
But for all the stories surrounding the meteoric rise of “Mayor Pete,” what’s less discussed is the fact that New Hampshire voters are actually considering a candidate with less Black support than their state has Black people. That’s so low, Flo-Rida couldn’t get lower. New Hampshire is less than 2 percent Black, which may explain why the state’s voters seem to give less than two shits about how Black voters feel about Mayor Pete (and why you can, statistically, find more Black people at a Phish concert—especially when I am in attendance).
How else can you explain why an unknown and obscure mayor, from a town known more for its Catholic university’s football team (and a movie featuring said team and the dude who played Samwise Gamgeee getting 10 seconds of playing time), than anything else, is polling anywhere near a man from a neighboring state whose commitment to racial justice is well-documented? How else could you explain that same mayor be polling ahead of a woman from a neighboring state who has one of the best racial and gender justice platforms of all the candidates in the contest?
But white New Hampshire voters don’t seem to care or include these issues into their analysis before casting their vote. Voters in New Hampshire truly concerned about “electability” should recall that NO Democratic candidate for President has won the white vote since Lyndon B. Johnson. Black votes must be earned and worked for, and they are not transferable to a candidate just because they are a Democrat—ask Hillary Clinton if you don’t believe me.
Eleven percent of Black voters who gave their support to Barack Obama in 2012 stayed home in 2016. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the Democrats will hold their national convention later this summer, the lowest reported turnout rates in 2016 were from districts that are majority Black. In one majority Black district, voter turnout declined by 19.5 percent from 2012 figures according to the City of Milwaukee Election Commission. When interviewed, most of the residents reported they simply saw no affirmative reason to vote for Hillary.
When asked about Mayor Pete’s abysmal numbers with Black voters, a Black woman from South Bend stated, “It ain’t because we need to get to know him better, it’s because we know exactly who he is.” Do New Hampshire voters believe that his fortunes will increase because he made some new tokenizing t-shirts in an anemic attempt to attract Black voters?
The Democratic primary soon moves to states that are more diverse and emblematic of the nation’s demographics. This is an exceptional opportunity for New Hampshire voters to send a candidate to these states with a message, “We believe this candidate best reflects your values as well as ours,” while setting the stage to nominate the most progressive candidate, which is the only way the Democrats have a chance of defeating Donald Trump as poll after poll reveals. Alternatively, they can continue the caucus chaos that occurred in Iowa and increase the flux of the primary season.
The only way that New Hampshire can establish any relevance to the larger electorate is by voting for a candidate who appeals to working-class Black, brown, white, and young people. That candidate is not Pete Buttigieg. Tomorrow the people of New Hampshire should consider changing the state motto from “Live Free or Die” to “Vote Smart or Lose.”