The 2020 Democratic nomination will run through the heart of black America

Turnout versus persuasion. It is the ultimate inside baseball talk for how many political operatives think about how to strategically approach a voting population. Persuasion suggests that more work is required to win over the support of a voting bloc. Turnout suggests that these voters are already committed to your thinking and the only job is to deliver them to polling locations for early vote and on Election Day.

For a long time, Democrats have viewed African-American voters as a turnout population. While on the outset it can seem offensive, it makes practical sense. Republicans have rarely netted more than 10 percent of the African-American vote nationally in a good year. Despite President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE’s protestations, he only netted 8 percent of the African-American vote in 2016. Given that reality, it tactically has made sense for Democrats to bank on African-American votes and to spend less energy trying to persuade them and more energy trying to turn them out.

ADVERTISEMENT
Here’s the problem: being boxed in as a turnout universe tends to shortcut the vote courting process. Less focus from candidates and their campaigns on the issues that matter to you. While not a complete cold shoulder, it reprioritizes your voting bloc and respective interests behind other blocs that are perceived to be “up for grabs” to swing the election. No group of voters suffers this fate more than African-Americans.

As we jump head first into the 2020 primary season for Democrats, the path to the Democratic nomination appears to be taking a decidedly more diverse turn. California and Texas are openly discussing plans to accelerate their primary voting schedule to have voting begin in those two states in line with traditional states like Iowa and New Hampshire, less diverse states with populations over 90 percent white.

Previously, those type of delegate-rich, more diverse states were later in the primary calendar sequencing. In this previous version of the primary calendar, a candidate could essentially “shotgun” their way to an inevitable nomination through a strong start in Iowa or New Hampshire without significant appeals to minority voters in urban areas after the narrative for the nominating process has already been well established.

Realigning the primary schedule could theoretically mean that candidates and their campaigns would need to spend as much time persuading voters in Oakland, Houston and Los Angeles as they do in Des Moines, Waterloo and Manchester in the lead up to early 2020 primary and caucus contests. This would radically transform the retail politicking we have become accustomed to during the primary season.  

Rebalancing the primary season in this way also alters the types of issues that candidates need to engage on. Economic redevelopment of low-income urban areas and social issues like racial profiling and police-involved shootings would likely become just as topical and influential for 2020 hopefuls as ethanol, rural agriculture policy and the meth crisis in rural and suburban communities.

This new reality would also have the potential to elevate a different type of candidate for Democrats going into 2020. Over the last two weeks, as Beto O’Rourke has begun the public process of considering a run for the White House, he’s met with Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden to debate for first time as front-runner John Kerry: Play based on Mueller report is 'an act of public service' Obama photographed alongside Clooney on boat in Italy MORE, America’s first African-American president, Andrew Gillum, a rising star and leading African-American progressive and Al Sharpton, well-known African-American civil rights advocate. Notice a trend?

O’Rourke and undoubtedly others like Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenAbigail Disney: 'We're creating a super-class' of rich people Is Big Tech biased? The Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations Biden to debate for first time as front-runner Rules for first Democratic primary debates announced MORE (D-Calif.) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations Biden to debate for first time as front-runner Rules for first Democratic primary debates announced MORE, will be compelled to ensure that African-Americans are a prime constituency that must be treated as both a persuasion and turnout population this time around.

One could argue that the road to the 2020 Democratic nomination runs right through the heart of Black America with African-Americans now positioned as the key voting bloc to decide the next Democratic nominee for president. The 2020 primary season is lining up to be the most diverse courting process we have ever seen for a modern presidential candidate.

Joel Payne is a former Hillary for America senior aide and vice president of Corporate communications, MWWPR, which is a public relations firm.