Looking toward 2020, many Black women, are feeling increasingly unappreciated and overlooked. Black women have always been there to save the day, but there is no certainty that they will continue to vote in lockstep for Democrats, especially if the party is spending all their time catering to the needs of Independent voters, rather than shoring up the base. It is often said that “midterms are base elections”, if that’s so, when are they going to stop taking the votes of their most loyal members for granted? When will Black women be noticed and rewarded for their hard work?
The party has spent a year and a half reaching out to the “white working class” and little to no time reaching out to Black women.
Since the election, the media has spent time focusing on the “white working class”, coal miners, and Trump voters. They focused on what went wrong for Hillary and the Democrats. As always they and the anti-establishment left needed to find a place to put the blame. Both predicted the ultimate demise of the Democratic Party, unless they started paying attention to the white-working class voter. Bernie Sanders went out of his way to focus the attention on who he blamed for Democratic losses. His answer: identity politics.
Now, many of you may not know what identity politics is or means, but what it boils down to is that people team up and use their power to effect political change. Only these people team up based on shared experience; LGBTQ, Feminist, Disabled, Black, Hispanic, and many other minority groups form coalitions to work on issues that affect each other.
It is about groups with little to no power coming together as a collective and gaining the power of numbers.
Sanders denial of identity politics combined with his continued adherence to the class reductionism that tries to transmogrify any and all discussions of race into a class based economic framework has been viewed as dubious at best by Black people. Regardless, it doesn’t seem like Sanders has the ability to listen, evolve, and grow enough to be able to discuss issues of race without steering into problematic stereotypes, or launching into his stump speech. The fact is, Bernie desperately needs Black voters to win, and most of all, he needs to bring Black women into the fold in order to have even a slight chance of success.
Is it any wonder when Bernie’s grass roots organization “Our Revolution” has spent the past year fighting the DNC, attacking Democrats, and nonstop promoting the candidate who lost the 2016 primary as the “future” of the Democratic Party that Black women are not enthusiastic to do the hard work of party building? Do they expect Black women to stand in those long lines in swing states, just to be told that their politics are causing the party to lose. If the rewards for being stalwart liberals and base voters is to be told that “white working class” voters are more important, or that a candidate they rejected is “the future”, perhaps the Bernie wing and the DNC needs a wake-up call.
But does Sanders even have a chance at winning the most reliable members of the Democratic base? Are black women even interested in maintaining their status as the “firewall” when all of the attention in the media is focused on the “white working class”, and Sanders “Progressive Revolution”? This is a question that will earn a myriad of answers depending on who is asked, and while black women are loyal to the party, more and more they are demanding that loyalty returned.
Instead of constantly pitching candidates that Black women solidly reject, like Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders, perhaps it’s time for Our Revolution and the DNC to gather the opinions of the group that is steadfastly Democratic.
Perhaps it is time to recognize that Black women are the Democratic base and Bernie Sanders’ army is not.
It might be time to accept that although we need independent votes, we cannot ignore our own members to kiss the ass of voters who may not vote for our party anyway. Continuing to deride, ignore, or marginalize the base is no way to keep our coalition intact. And it is absolutely imperative that the DNC maintain and build solid ties with the people of color and specifically Black women in order to begin the long process of weeding out the racism and corruption that has festered within our politics in the Trump Era.
Moreover, in light of recent wins for black women candidates we should put more focus on, not only keep black women coming to the polls for Democrats, but getting to the polls to support black women at the ballot box. Stacey Abrams, a black woman running for Governor of Georgia recently won her primary to become the Democratic candidate. This shows that black women are not only powerful when it comes to being the workhorses of the Democratic Party (in organizing, strategizing, and mobilizing black voters), but that black women are also strong leaders.
Abrams, who has spent time as minority leader for the Georgia assembly, has her work cut out for her in the general elections against her opponent, also named Stacey, and she will need the full support from the Democratic Party to succeed. Will the party uplift and support black women like Stacey and the other black women who won their primaries? Or will it continue to fear the black backbone becoming the face of the party?
It remains to be seen how the midterms will turn out for black women, the Democratic Party, or the nation as a whole. But one thing that is obvious and clear is that black women are watching the political machinations of the left and the right, and will continue to carve out a space for themselves. The invisible backbone is what keeps our party upright and moving forward, step by step. If it snaps, we all fall down.