The backbone of the Democratic Party is bending and this may be the election when we see it break. Increasingly, Black voters — especially Black women — are walking away from progressive politics and embracing independence.
President Donald Trump spent his own political capital to get a bipartisan criminal justice bill signed into law and that is not lost among these voters.
This may very well be the issue that causes some black women to give a nod of approval to the president or at least to finally break-up with the Democratic Party.
Black women are the most reliable voters for Democrats, but they are coming to grips with politicians under-delivering on promises and failing their communities.
Twenty-nine-year-old Wendy Caldwell Liddell observed about her party:
“The Democratic Party has not done a good job at all in taking care of communities like ours . . . (Democrats) take us for granted because they know that Black women are going to help them get the big wins they need, where it matters. But they also know that they can give us the bare minimum, knowing that we aren’t going to choose the other side.
Liddel articulated what has been showing up in poll after poll. In a survey by HIT Strategies this summer, black voters under age 50 (57%) were more likely than those 50 and over (40%) to say that the Democratic Party takes Black people for granted.
The 2020 annual Power of the Sister Vote Poll conducted by the Black Women’s Roundtable and Essence magazine, confirmed once again that black women are losing confidence in the Democratic Party and there remains a significant generational divide.
In 2020, 71% indicated that Democrats represent their interests compared to 73% in the preceding two years, but down from 85% in 2016.
This is a massive four year decline.
Generationally, just over half (58% ) of 25-35 year-olds agree with the sentiment that the Democratic Party best represented their interests compared to 87% of black women 55 and older.
This doesn’t mean an automatic shift in votes.
The same poll showed that a whopping 90% said they would vote for the Democratic ticket compared to just 4 percent who would vote for the Republican ticket.
However, according to the Sister Vote Poll, criminal justice/policing reform is Black women’s number one concern and that presents an opportunity for the president who successfully passed the most significant criminal justice reform bill in three decades to make a play for their support.
His best advocate: a black woman.
The most recognizable face of criminal justice reform is a grandmother, a woman of faith, a model former federal inmate, and a supporter of President Trump: Alice Marie Johnson.
Johnson was handed a life sentence without parole for her role in facilitating communications in a drug trafficking ring.
She was a first-time, non-violent offender with five children and in financial hardship.
Johnson admits that she was wrong for committing a crime but, like many Black men and women serving time, she was slapped with a punishment not fitting her crime, thanks to federal mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines created by the policies that Joe Biden, and others, ushered in during the 1980s.
Her story illustrates how well-intentioned policy triggered significant harmful unintended consequences for the Black community.
A MIC video featuring Johnson’s story went viral and caught the attention of Kim Kardashian West. West took Johnson’s story all the way to the White House and successfully pleaded for her release.
By that time, Johnson had served over two decades.
I spoke with Johnson recently about her life and the issue of criminal justice reform.
She remarked that this is not a partisan issue and that Blacks are entitled to support whomever they want.
As a free woman, she now speaks and advocates for greater reforms, even recently writing a memoir.
Black men and women are watching.
Although Kim Kardashian and her husband, Kanye West, were ridiculed for working with President Trump, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump, their efforts helped secure the release of Johnson — and others.
The Trump administration’s commitment to reforms makes the shortcomings of the Obama administration all the more acute. President Barack Obama had multiple chances to grant Alice Johnson clemency, but did not.
To his credit, however, Obama advanced some reforms while in office, but did not make the First Step Act, which removed mandatory minimums and promoted policies to reduce recidivism, a priority.
Since being implemented, this law has reduced the sentences of over a thousand people, over 90 percent of whom were black.
President Trump has promised to build on these efforts during another four years in office.
Meanwhile, his economic policies and educational policies that expanded school choice and pumped significant resources into historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), provide ample reasons for black women to consider supporting him.
Trump delivered economic progress for the Black community that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, led blacks to earn record-high incomes, see record-low unemployment, and experience all-time low poverty rates.
We also saw movement of Black households into the upper-middle-class and wealthy income brackets. This signals that Blacks are experiencing economic mobility.
The only way to ensure that Black voters are not taken for granted by the Democratic Party is to break its monopoly on their votes.
Blacks should no longer support policymakers out of blind allegiance, but based on the merits of those policymakers’ records. Young Blacks are making that assessment and when the dust clears, we will observe just how much diversity of thought really exists in the Black community.