“Hillary was talking to those women, especially those Black women down in South Carolina,” said attorney and CNN commentator Bakari Sellers last night after the Democrat #CNNTownHall. Sellers talked about the importance of candidates connecting with a diverse 2016 electorate. Researchers at Pew note that Election 2016 heralds a turn to a more inclusive electorate.
Bakari Sellers joined other pundits, and at least one New Hampshire local, on a show with Don Lemon last night after the New Hampshire Democrat Town Hall Meeting. Next week, New Hampshire voters cast ballots in the first primary of the Presidential season.
Sellers’ insight into how the next President of the United States can win the White House by appealing to Black women helps conservatives, progressives, liberals, neo-liberals, and socialists, alike. No candidate (whether it’s Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Rubio, Cruz, or “Other”) should take the Black vote for granted.
I recall a time when an elder white Democrat woman engaged me in conversation during the 2000 election. The conversation steered toward the pros and the cons of the Green Party vs. the Democrat Party. During a discussion about Al Gore (Democrat) and Ralph Nader (Green Party Candidate), the elder white woman said to me, a woman of color, “Just vote Democrat, like you always do.” Her statement “… like you always do” conveyed the message that people of color need not explore political alternatives. Rather, people of color need to vote according to prescribed expectations set by the political status quo. In reality, nothing could be further from the the truth. Just ask a Black woman.
Whether it is politics, or everyday life, being treated like your presence is non-negotiable does not build the long-term trust needed to cement a healthy relationship. Presidential candidates, in particular, need to work hard to build trust within communities of color. So many people of color act as independent political thinkers. So, my advice to candidates running for the White House is, do not take the Black vote for granted.
Black women of 2016 see a Black First Lady doing phenomenal work in the White House and outside of the White House, daily. Many Black women actualize their potential daily through holding leadership positions, through running businesses, and obtaining academic degrees. The question remains, how seriously do the 2016 presidential candidates take Black female political influence? What policy proposals best appeal to female people of color?
Candidates need to realize that the “Black vote” is not one thing. It is diverse. Often, black women drive voting power, according to this article by The Washington Post.
Winning the black female vote may be especially tough simply because there is so much differentiation in the category. Look at the KPCC story on black women in Watts, a neighborhood in Los Angeles that struggles with unemployment and homelessness, while also undergoing a bold cultural rebirth. Let’s see 2016 candidates campaigning in Watts, and in rural and Appalachian communities. Let’s see the candidates connect with Black women who have not yet registered to vote.
How to court Black women is the question?