USA: Democrats: Generational divide in Wakanda has potential to dethrone King Joe Biden – By Mohamed Hamaludin

In U.S. Democratic presidential campaign, generational divide in Wakanda has potential to dethrone King Joe Biden

By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

Joe Biden is the overwhelming choice among African American voters for the Democratic presidential nomination but with the nominating convention still 10 months away, that may change. News reports have indicated that they are focused on electability, especially older voters, but that some younger ones are looking for other reasons to support a candidate and a “primary within the primary” is taking place, as Errin Haines of the Associated Press put it.

African Americans are about 13 percent of the population but nearly 24 percent of Democratic primary voters, compared to about 40 percent of whites. When they stay home, they affect the outcome of the primary and the general election.         

Washington Post writer Paul Waldman has noted that, in the 2016 presidential election, their turnout dropped from 65.3 percent for then candidate Barack Obama in 2008 to 59.6 percent for Hillary Clinton in 2016. “Had black voters turned out in higher numbers, Clinton would be president right now,” Waldman said.

Right now, though, the concern is over picking a candidate to confront President Donald Trump and Biden is heavily favored because of his connection to the first African American president. CNN’s Harry Enten reported in mid-August that Biden was the choice of 44 percent among African Americans, overall, with California Senator Kamala Harris, who has Jamaican and Indian parentage, a distant second at 14 percent. The results of three polls showed Biden with 51 percent support among those 50 and older, with a high of 60 percent among those 70 and older, compared to 36 percent among younger voters.

Because of Biden’s link to Obama, older voters are willing to overlook troubling aspects in his resume, including one-time opposition to school busing, dismissive treatment of Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings, his role in passing the 1994 anti-crime bill which is believed to have started mass incarceration, and his former relationship with white supremacist Senators.

Biden himself says that his appeal can be put in two words: “Barack Obama.” But the AP’s Haines reported that, at a meeting with journalists, Biden said African American support goes back half a century, to his early days as a Senator from Delaware. “All this time, they think they have a sense of what my character is and who I am, warts and all,” he said.

With most Democrats saying ousting Trump is their top priority, electability is an overriding concern. That translates to picking a candidate who can win white voters, because, of course, African American support alone will not be enough for victory. The young, however, want more, including, Haines reported, dealing with “criminal justice reform, reparations, maternal mortality among black women, voter suppression and systemic racism.” Herndon reported that they also want to hear about solutions to “racial inequality, global warming and gun violence.” Some of them are trying to spring their elders out of the Biden lock.

 “Me and my dad have the debate all the time,” Samantha Williams, 19, a Texas Southern University sophomore, told  Herndon. “We want a candidate that reflects us and what the world is going to look like when we run. But he says what we call ‘woke’ is really just sensitive.”

Atlanta activist Leah Daughtrey told Haines, “It comes down to a strategy decision that campaigns have to make. Do they believe that the way to win the White House is to win white voters or do they believe that the way to the White House is to mobilize voters of color?”

She continued: “Is there a strategy that allows you to do that? Perhaps. But one is a sure bet: If you get us to the polls, we are most likely to vote Democrat. If you get white folks to the polls, you don’t know what they’re going to do.”

LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of Black Voters Matter, put it this way to Haines: “Black folks are looking to figure out who white voters are going to align with but I don’t think that’s the driver that it has been in the past. Black voters, like white voters, are increasingly frustrated with the process. No longer is it good enough to choose between the devil or the witch.”

The New York Times’ Astead Herndon likened the challenge being posed by younger voters to the “Black Panther” movie’s Killmonger’s asking the people of Wakanda: “Is this your king?”

However progressive or moderate a candidate’s policies are, it seems, at least for the primary, that what will determine the choice is not just electability based on political moderation aimed at winning the white vote. That would work in the general election. For the primary, victory will probably go to the candidate who ends up winning over the people of “Wakanda” — and there is still time for other candidates to dethrone the “king.”

If the eventual nominee is one who also appeals to whites, then that will be a bonus. But it will be foolhardy to assume that the path to the nomination lies in Iowa and the “heartland” alone, while ignoring places such as Liberty City.

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who  worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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Comments

  • Wally  On September 26, 2019 at 11:12 am

    They’re forgetting the Hispanic votes. Most recent survey showed Hispanics to be a higher percentage than African Americans and I doubt very much they will vote for Trump.

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