Now less than a week before Election Day 2016, Black voting experts say they see strong and steady voter participation and voter enthusiasm among African-Americans, the constituency that votes most faithfully for the Democratic ticket. At this point, it’s all about whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will reach 270 electoral votes first. Black turnout will be key; especially Black women who are expected to carry the election.
“I think it’s going to be high,” says Melanie Campbell, president/CEO of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, the leading organization for voter turnout in national Black communities. “There’s definitely been an enthusiasm in showing up and I think there are various reasons for it.”
Clinton and Trump campaigns hit by bombshell news stories
One those reasons has obviously been because of the vitriolic campaign between Democrat Hillary Clinton and her Republican opponent, Donald Trump. Another has been because of the two last minute bombshell revelations involving both camps.
In early October, the Trump campaign was hit with audiotapes of Donald Trump making vulgar remarks and boasting about sexually groping women. Though at least 12 women have now come forth accusing Trump of having groped or kissed them without permission, he has called them all “liars” and threatened to sue them while describing his foul language as “locker room” talk.
Then, last week, only 10 days before the election, the Clinton campaign was hit by an announcement from FBI Director James Comey, saying the FBI is now investigating newly discovered emails that may or may not affect their closed investigation into whether Clinton sent classified emails from a personal computer server. The new emails are not Clinton’s. They apparently belong to her former aide and longtime confidant Huma Abedin, the wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who is under FBI investigation for allegedly sexting with an underage girl.
The Clinton campaign has fired back, accusing the FBI of a “double standard” for not also announcing its probes into alleged connections between the Trump campaign and Russia among other possibly Trump-related investigations. Meanwhile Clinton insists the new investigation will find “nothing criminal.” Abedin says she is not aware of her emails being on her now estranged husband’s lap top.
President Obama says he stands by Comey’s integrity. But, Comey, a registered Republican first appointed by President George W. Bush, has been criticized by both Republicans and Democrats for not giving more details when he released the Clinton announcement.
More than 20 million already voted
With both controversies raging, more than 22 million people have already cast their ballots in early voting, according to the New York Times on Monday. All eyes are especially on the 11 so-called “battleground states” states that have historically swung between Republican and Democratic. They are Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Joint Center has documented high enthusiasm among Black voters
There is no method by which to scientifically document the number of Black voters who have cast their ballots, The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies has given an indicator of Black participation by conducting a recent “Poll on Black Voter Enthusiasm”.
The poll results range from Black voter enthusiasm as high as 90 percent in the midwest to the lowest of 75 percent in the West – still relatively high.
A Joint Center description of the poll says the “survey intentionally oversampled black voters, which made it possible to identify trends among African Americans of different incomes, ages, and other demographic factors.”
The following are the Joint Center findings:
• Most voters said they intended to vote, regardless of their race or ethnicity.
• An overwhelming majority of Black men and women said they saw the 2016 race as a high-stakes election.
• Among voters planning to cast their ballots for the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, African- Americans were more likely than Whites or Latinos to describe their choice as a vote for Hillary Clinton, rather than as a vote against Donald Trump.
• Among Black voters who intended to support the Democratic nominee, a majority of older voters described their choice as a vote for Clinton. Younger Black voters were more likely to describe their choice as a vote against Trump.
Black millennial turn out still a question
Despite her observation of high voter turnout, Campbell says she remains concerned about Black millennials, many of whom strongly supported the Democratic candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders is campaigning strongly for Clinton this week, but millennial voters, even according to the Joint Center survey, still appear sluggish in their enthusiasm for Clinton.Some question whether they vote at all.
“We still have a concern whether the millennials will turn out and vote in the numbers that they have. But a lot of millennial groups are working hard,” Campbell said.
Those groups include Black Youth Vote among other youth organizing groups. Color of Change, an online national activist organization is also doing special outreach to Black youth.
Though the economy and jobs run high among the issues that concern older Black voters, criminal justice issues are foremost on the minds of young voters with affordable education close behind. The Black Lives Matter movement has raised the issue of disparate police killings of Black people to the level of a presidential political issue.
Black leaders push for turnout
In 2008 and 2012, with the nation’s first Black president on the ballot, Black turnout was well above 90 percent in both elections. But with Clinton being the first woman president, it is not clear whether the historicity will transfer to Black voters. But, where the historicity will not transfer, Black leaders believe the issues will.
In a Clinton campaign media conference call with Black Democratic leaders, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) quoted former President Bill Clinton in his response to Donald Trump’s motto, “Make America Great Again.”
Butterfield said, “He spends so much time talking about how he wants to ‘make America great again.’ Well President Bill Clinton was in my district yesterday and I think he said it best. He said, ‘I’m a White southerner. I know what makes America great again. It means all of you of a certain age know what it means. I didn’t fall off the truck yesterday. I’ve heard this song for a long time. It means first, I will give you the economy you had 50 years ago. It means second, I’ll give you the society you had 50 years ago. I’ll move you up and move someone else down.’ That is precisely what ‘’Make America Great Again” really means,” Butterfield said.
Clinton win predicted
Polls in the last week before the election showed Clinton still leading Trump by at least five points nationally. Butterfield predicts a Clinton win on Tuesday Nov. 8.
“It’s going to be a struggle. But we’re going to win this election and we’re going to show America that we’re not going back. Our nation has made great strides under President Obama. And no one under their right minds would even question that,” Butterfield said.
U. S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the assistant Democratic leader was also on the phone. He said African-Americans know the importance of all elections. But particularly this one has far-reaching consequences.
“I believe this election, this year, is probably the most consequential, at least, of my lifetime,” he said. “Are we going to elect leaders who will embrace our nation’s diversity and offer concrete solutions to make sure all Americans are able to succeed irrespective of their backgrounds? Or are we going to turn against one another, assigning blame and acting out in anger instead of finding solutions to our greatest challenges?
Clyburn concluded, “It wasn’t too long ago that we made history – about eight years to be exact – by nominating and electing and re-electing our nation’s first African-American President. Those were historical accomplishments for the Democratic Party. This past summer, we made history again by nominating the first woman to contend for the presidency by any major party. But, just because we made that history, we must not rest upon our laurels. We have to work as hard as we can…to make sure that nomination will not be in vain. This is going to be a very tight race and if we are successful on Nov. 8, we will smash through the remaining, ultimate glass ceiling by electing a woman to become president of this great country of ours.”