Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Enthusiasm wanes among Black voters who powered Biden’s 2020 Georgia win

ATLANTA: Much has changed since Wanda Mosley helped galvanise thousands of Black voters across the battleground state of Georgia to help clinch the 2020 general election for US President Joe Biden.

Excited to head to the polls then, some Black voters now feel disillusioned by a surge in the cost of living and racial justice priorities they feel Biden’s Democrats have yet to deliver on as promised, polls and interviews show.

“They want to understand that their issues are being heard, that their humanity is being acknowledged,” said Mosley, national director of Black Voters Matter, a nonprofit group that works to increase turnout and registration among Black voters.

Massive voter drives backed by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and other Black organisers delivered the state for Biden in 2020, and the Senate for Democrats.

But four years later, Biden’s strength among Black voters nationwide is less certain, as they question Democrats’ commitment to voting rights, tackling white supremacy and other issues dear to them. A Pew Research Center poll in January found Black Americans are divided over Biden’s performance in office – about 49 per cent of Black adults disapproved of it, while 48 per cent approved.

Both Biden and his rival, Republican candidate Donald Trump, visited Georgia on Saturday in an effort to sway voters ahead of Tuesday’s primaries. Results there could serve as an early bellwether of the tough road ahead for Biden before November’s general election to reach Black voters, who historically are the most loyal voting bloc of the Democratic Party. According to Pew, 92 per cent of Black voters backed Biden in 2020.

Opinion polls show the Nov 5 election shaping up to be a close match between Biden and Trump, making turnout among Black Americans – who comprise sizeable populations in key battleground states like Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – a crucial aspect of Biden’s path to victory.

But there are some early warning signs. Nearly a dozen voters, rights advocates and civil rights leaders interviewed by Reuters said Biden’s campaign has a messaging disconnect on the ground in Black communities across the nation, including Georgia, where 33 per cent of the population is Black. 

They say some voters feel enough hasn’t been done for them, while others are unaware of Biden’s actions that directly benefited Black Americans like expanding access to healthcare coverage, economic gains that led to record low Black unemployment rates and the Child Tax Credit expansion, which helped cut childhood poverty in half in 2021.

Biden appeared on civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton’s syndicated radio show in January, touting several policies, including federal contracting guidelines and lead pipe removal, aimed at improving access to contracting opportunities for Black businesses and addressing decades of low or reduced infrastructure investment in areas with large Black populations.

After the call, Sharpton said his phone lines were flooded with callers who said it was the first time they heard of those actions. Sharpton said he has met with Biden’s team about two or three times since last March and his message to them is simple – they need to deepen their ties to Black communities.  

“I’m trying to tell them this is the feedback I’m getting and you need to fight aggressively on it,” Sharpton told Reuters. “This campaign is gonna be won in between the West Coast and the East Coast. Those people, the ones that I talk to on the radio every day, are not getting this information.”

HEALTHCARE

Across Georgia, a myriad of issues are top of mind for Black voters. Access to healthcare is high on the list: Georgia has some of the worst health outcomes for Black Americans in the nation – it is among a handful of states with the highest Black maternal and infant mortality rates in the country.

Georgia voters are also frustrated by a lack of progress on eliminating roadblocks for Black Americans to vote and blocking efforts to redraw electoral maps that makes it harder for their vote to count, according to voting rights campaigners. 

Democrats’ efforts on the issue – including a comprehensive voting rights act to beef up legal protections against discriminatory voting practices – have largely been blocked or limited by Republicans in Congress during Biden’s term.

“Folks are still frustrated by that,” Mosley said. “They should have done what was necessary … whatever it would take to protect our voting rights.”

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