Why Courting White Voters Will Not Save the Democratic Party

Courtesy of hillaryclinton.com
Courtesy of hillaryclinton.com

A key factor that contributed to the Democratic Party’s loss in the presidential election was its failure to engage minority voters. And trends indicate that this will only become more important for the fate of politics in future elections.

A Pew Research Center study revealed last week that 2016 was the first year the Black voter turnout declined for a presidential election — from 2012’s record-high of 66.6 percent to a low 59.6 percent. This is also the largest decrease in voter turnout by ethnicity for any racial group since white voter turnout went down by about 10 percentage points from 1992 to 1996. According to Pew, the number of Black voters went down by an estimated 765,000.

In total, Blacks consisted of 11.9 percent of 2016’s voters, compared to 12.9 percent in 2012 — “the first time since 2004 that blacks have declined as a share of voters,” Pew reveals.

Disappointed by the options their preferred party has offered them, young Black Democrats are taking politics into their own hands and running for high office on the state level, with a number running for governor in 2018, a New York Times article recently investigated.

According to the Times, these potential candidates “are willing to defy the conventional strategic thinking of the national party establishment, which has tended to recruit moderate, white candidates for difficult races and largely failed to help blacks advance to high office under President Barack Obama.”

Democratic Rep. Stacey Abrams of Georgia, a possible candidate for governor, explained that politicians would be better served focusing on groups that are frequently left out of the conversation: minorities.

“There is a hunger for representation,” Abrams told the Times. “There is a desire to make certain the state starts to serve everyone.”

“There’s muscle memory that’s been built up over a long time about what the candidate has to look like, sound like, where they have to come from,” said Tallahassee Mayor and candidate for governor Andrew Gillum to the Times — typically, the white, middle-of-the-road candidate that the Democrats also serve up for the presidential election.

“In our case, in Florida, it hasn’t worked,” he added.

Meanwhile, the number of eligible Hispanic voters is only growing — signaling yet another demographic the Democrats should have their sights on when courting voters.

In 2016 a Pew study reported that Latino millennials comprise the majority of eligible Latino voters at 44 percent. And, in addition to being the largest group among its own race, Latino millennials also make up the largest eligible voting block out of all races and generations. But despite potentially having such a great influence on the election, Latinos historically do not go out to the polls.

The key to the next presidential election may be motivating and earning this group’s support.

In 2012 48 percent of eligible Latinos voted, similar to the 47.6 percent that voted in 2016. But the Democrats have a lot to gain if they focus on this potentially influential bloc of voters, as the Hispanic population continues to surge, based on Pew’s data:

“Due largely to demographic growth, the number of Latino voters grew to a record 12.7 million in 2016, up from 11.2 million in 2012. Even so, the number of Latino nonvoters — those eligible to vote who do not cast a ballot, or 14 million in 2016 — was larger than the number of Latino voters, a trend that extends back to each presidential election since 1996.”

All of the data and trends align with the content outlined in “Brown is the New White,” a Times best-seller by civil rights attorney Steve Phillips.

Phillips discussed the themes highlighted in his book at DiversityInc’s 2016 fall conference, “Conquering Recruiting Challenges,” at which he was the keynote speaker.

He alluded to the United States’ rapidly changing demographics that will make progressive people of color (and progressive whites) the “New American Majority.” This has created a new American market of diverse consumers and a new talent pool. By Phillips’ assessment, this not only provides a new unique group of eligible workers but an unforeseen bloc of voters, all with different wants from what politicians have previously catered to.

Phillips said that in the workplace highly talented people of color are often “hiding in plain sight” and used the entertainment industry as an example.

The same thought process could be used in politics. Minority voters are “hiding in plain sight,” so to speak, but their voices are not being brought to the table.

Still speaking about the entertainment industry, Phillips said, “They were there all along, hiding in plain sight waiting to be believed in, invested in, promoted and empowered.”

Similarly, eligible minority voters are waiting to be “invested in, promoted and empowered” by their own political party that has repeatedly left them out of the conversation.

View Phillips’ full remarks below:

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