The Corner

Elections

Elizabeth Warren and the Black Vote

Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks to reporters after a town hall meeting in Franconia, N.H., August 14, 2019. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

During the Democratic debate in Detroit, Elizabeth Warren — presumably drawing upon her experience as a woman of color — accused President Trump of “environmental racism, economic racism, criminal-justice racism, health-care racism.”

Expect Warren to accuse Trump of agricultural racism, transportation racism, and national-security racism soon. That’s because it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a Democrat to win the White House unless 1) there’s a large black-voter turnout and 2) that candidate receives between 85–95 percent of the black vote. Many of Warren’s policy prescriptions — e.g., free health care for illegal aliens, abolishing private health insurance, decriminalizing illegal border crossings — have marginal appeal to black voters. The perception that she gamed the affirmative action spoils system by identifying as Native American doesn’t help either. So she’ll resort to the standard Democratic tactic of branding everyone and everything within a fifty foot radius of the Republican candidate as racist. Oh yes, and promising reparations.

Warren, now considered the Democrat frontrunner, has erased the gap in overall voter support between herself and Biden. But despite improving her position somewhat among black voters, she still trails him in that category by a substantial margin. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Warren with an anemic 19 percent support among blacks. Although that’s a 9 point increase over the previous poll, she’s still far behind Biden, who enjoys 40 percent support among black voters.

Warren fares worse in the early primary state of South Carolina, where blacks constitute 60 percent of Democrat primary voters. A recent CNN poll shows black South Carolinians preferring Biden over Warren 45 percent to 4 percent.

Of course, if she’s the nominee, Warren, as a Democrat, will get the majority of the black vote. Her percentage of the black vote in the 2018 Massachusetts Senate race (88 percent) was nearly identical to Hillary Clinton’s percentage of the black vote in the 2016 presidential election (89 percent). But that percentage wasn’t enough for Clinton to win because of tepid black turnout — an estimated 4 million fewer blacks went to the polls in 2016 than in 2012. It will be difficult for Warren to win in 2020 unless she can inspire a greater black turnout than Clinton did, particularly in battleground states. Getting 88 percent of the black vote in her home state of Massachusetts doesn’t necessarily project to 88 percent of a robust black vote in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Michigan. And 88 or even 90 percent probably won’t be enough.

Warren’s underwhelming black support is compounded by the fact that Trump’s black support hasn’t remained static. He received 8 percent of the black vote in 2016 (about average for GOP presidential candidates), but his approval rating among blacks today ranges between 15-34 percent. This, despite his oceanographic racism, grain elevator racism, and medical waste product racism. Apparently, black voters have been unduly distracted by the best economic conditions for blacks in history.

If  Trump raises his percentage of the black vote to 10-12 percent in 2020, he’ll be reelected.

Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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