According to a new report by NPR, many Black voters may need a lot more coaxing at the polls than anyone previously thought. The report approximates that a huge voting block (a whopping 36 percent) that showed up for Barack Obama in 2012 stayed home in 2016.
Though there are many theories about the reasons, one, in particular, is that Black Democrats feel they are being taken advantage of. Ifeolu Claytor, a 23-year-old working with the Ohio Young Black Democrats, said:
“They just kind of expect us to jump on board, And that’s something that needs to change, clearly, cause black millennials will just stay at home. It’s not 1980 where people are still kind of fresh, like, ‘oh, our parents just got the right to vote.'”
This kind of one-sided relationship has led some Black voters to conclude that, though the Democratic party wants Black votes, Black people are incidental to them, an idea I fleshed out in a 2016 article entitled This Election, Minorities Are Stuck Between Two Idealisms.
“To me, this suggests a fundamental misconception among liberals: minorities like blacks, who vote reliably Democratic, are needed for support, not input. This again creates a dynamic of blacks sitting in the background while the adults make the decisions. For the conservatives, it’s “We don’t want you.” For the liberals it’s, “We want you…to get on board.”
This idea has existed since the time of Malcolm X, who argued fervently against the notion that Democrats had earned the votes of Black people simply because they were not as bad as Republicans.
In X’s day, this dynamic was most perfectly shown by Capitol Hill Democrats failing to push forward on more progressive changes that would have helped Black communities, for fear of alienating their Dixiecrat (conservative, Southern Democrat) base.
While many are hoping for a blue wave, it won’t happen without the Democratic Party’s most loyal voters. Black voter apathy in 2018 may be the thing to push politicians to have courage, and favor progressive agendas over white appeasement. Otherwise, Black people might just stay home in November.
Image By Mississippi Department of Archives and History Via Flickr/Public Domain.