Black voters say President Biden has abandoned his pledge to “always have” their backs and are threatening to withhold their support in 2024 with some even drifting toward former President Trump.
The lack of enthusiasm for Mr. Biden among Black voters could prove fatal to his reelection chances. They formed the core of Mr. Biden’s base in 2020 and a dip, even in just one or two battleground states such as Georgia or Michigan, would likely determine next year’s election.
“I talk with many, many African Americans who are disappointed in the things Biden is doing,” said Raleigh Washington, who leads a religious organization aimed at helping the Black community. “He said an awful lot of things about helping African Americans, but his actions have not reflected those promises, and what he has done doesn’t really encourage or support me as an African African.”
David Dix, a Democratic strategist, argues that Mr. Biden has delivered on his promises to help lift the Black community, but said the president hasn’t promoted these efforts because the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine are taking up so much of his bandwidth.
“Once he starts to connect his policies to improving the lives of African Americans you will see that slippage slow down a bit,” he said. “Focusing on international affairs in Israel and Ukraine and less about how his programs are helping will cause slippage.”
A poll by The New York Times/Siena College revealed that 22% of Black voters across six key battleground states would support Mr. Trump while 71% would back Mr. Biden in a theoretical rematch in 2024.
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At first blush, those numbers don’t seem significant, but it shows Mr. Biden’s support in Black communities is waning. Mr. Biden captured 92% of the Black vote in 2020, compared to only 8% who turned out for Mr. Trump, according to Pew Research.
Just days after Mr. Biden won the 2020 election, he acknowledged the debt he owed the Black community for his victory, thanked them for “having his back” and vowed to always have theirs.
A Republican presidential candidate hasn’t won more than 12% of the Black vote since Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.
Mr. Biden has moved to shore up support from minority voters.
Ahead of Mr. Biden’s Thanksgiving break, he taped three interviews with Black and Latino radio shows, including Get Up! Mornings with Erica Campbell and The Rickey Smiley Morning Show. During the interviews, Mr. Biden Biden talked about how his economic agenda is benefiting the Black and Latino communities.
There is no one reason for the erosion of Black support for Mr. Biden, according to Black community leaders. However, many are quick to point to soaring grocery, gas and housing prices. Black families were hit particularly hard when inflation hit a 40-year-high in 2022 because they trail their White counterparts in income, wealth, financial savings and home ownership.
“We are still feeling the pains of the economic reset,” said Stephen Broden, a Black conservative who founded Ebony Berean to fight the culture wars in Black communities.
“A nosebleed in the White community is a hemorrhage in the Black community,” he said. “The investment that Biden promised is not evident and there has been a gross failure here that has awakened our community to the fact that the Democratic party has exploited our community for votes and given us nothing in return.”
Wage gains have cooled more dramatically for Black workers compared to other Americans. The median weekly earnings for full-time employed Black workers when Mr. Biden took office in January 2021 was $304. It was $299 in the third quarter of this year, according to the most recent Labor Department statistics.
For all other communities, it was $365 per week.
The unemployment rate for Black workers fell to a record-low 4.7% in April but rose to 5.8% in October. That outpaced the increase for American workers overall.
Mr. Broden said Black America’s economic woes have been exacerbated by the Biden administration’s immigration policies, which have led to record levels of migrants crossing the border.
“There is a seething that is happening in our community when they look at what is happening at the border and allowing people to come in and take jobs at the lower part of the economic spectrum, which are jobs taken by the Black community,” he said.
The administration disputes claims it hasn’t helped the African American community, pointing to money spent in Mr. Biden’s legislative victories such as his tax and climate law, infrastructure programs and COVID-19 relief.
Steve Benjamin, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, said the president has kept his word to America’s minority communities.
“Since Day One, the President has taken a whole-of-government approach to advancing racial equity and enhancing the lives of Black families across the nation. He’s kept his word by increasing investment and economic opportunity in Black communities, improving health outcomes, providing historic support for [Historically Black Colleges and Universities], and taking action to reform our criminal justice system, just to name a few,” he said in a statement to The Washington Times.
For example, the tax and climate law — dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act — commits at least 40% of certain federal investments to Black and underserved communities. The White House also said that households can save as much as 30% with tax credits for environmentally friendly home renovations. Those tax credits apply to everyone, not just the Black community.
The COVID-19 stimulus, known as the American Rescue Plan, included provisions to expand the Child Tax Credit, which it claims has helped lower poverty rates for Black children and provided $39 billion to help childcare providers stay open amid the economic chaos. One in five childcare providers are Black, according to data from the administration.
The president’s infrastructure bill also includes provisions aimed at repairing Black neighborhoods that are separated from larger communities by highways, thus limiting their connection to economic opportunities.
Mr. Biden has set a goal of increasing the share of federal contracting funds to Black and minority-owned businesses to 50% by 2025, up from its current level of 10%.
“I think you’ll see these polls as a legitimate pivot point for the president to recognize how important that voting block is and just how much attention he is paying to them,” Mr. Dix said. “When that happens you’ll see Black voters coming back.”
Mr. Washington, meanwhile, said those investments have done little to improve the lives of African Americans, noting that they are still higher prices for groceries, including $5 for eggs.
In recent weeks, Mr. Biden’s reelection campaign has ramped up its message to Black voters spending $25 million on television ads in Phoenix, Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia and other areas. The campaign also launched a program targeting predominantly Black neighborhoods in Milwaukee among other areas.
The ads, which brag that Mr Biden “is putting in the work for black America,” are part of the largest and earliest pre-election ad splurge any campaign has ever placed in African American media outlets.
In another sign that the Biden campaign is worried about Black voters, the campaign dispatched Vice President Kamala Harris to tour historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to encourage students to vote.
The administration says its commitment isn’t just limited to economic investments, pointing out that Mr. Biden has confirmed a record number of Black judges, including Black women. Among those is the appointment of Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
Mr. Broden dismisses the judicial appointments.
“It is tokenism at its best,” he said. “If you look at the economic conditions of the community, our kids are lagging far behind. So what you appointed Black judges? What does that have to do with my ability to put food on the table,” he said.
Issues like abortion, which helped deliver Democrats some surprising victories on Election Day earlier this month, won’t go as far with Black voters, who tend to be more religious and conservative on social issues than urban Whites.
Polls also suggest that young Black voters have soured on Mr. Biden, compared to older Blacks. A study released in late September by the American Enterprise Institute found that only 57.9% of Blacks aged 18-49 approve of Mr. Biden’s handling of the presidency, compared to 78.9% of Blacks aged 50 and older. The same poll found that only 36.3% of Blacks aged 18-49 believe Mr. Biden has accomplished “a good or great deal,” while 72% of the counterparts over 50 agree.
The bigger concern for Democrats is not that Black voters flock to Mr. Trump but that they opt to stay home. There is already some evidence that this is happening.
Voters in Louisiana last month elected the first Republican governor in nearly a decade. Only about 36% of the state’s 3 million registered voters went to the polls, but the drop appears to be even stronger in the Black community.
In all 15 of the Louisiana parishes where at least 40% of the residents are Black, the turnout was below the state average of 36% in 10 of them, including the parishes where the state’s two largest cities are, according to data from the Louisiana Secretary of State.
Mr. Biden’s tepid response from the Black community is impacting his reelection at the local level. An EPIC-MRA poll released Saturday found that only 62% of Black respondents would back Mr. Biden for a second term. Of those who didn’t support the president 17% said they would vote for Mr. Trump and 17% remained undecided.