Juan Williams: Black votes matter

Juan Williams: Black votes matter
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Black votes matter — at least this week, as the Democratic presidential primary approaches in South Carolina.

Here’s why:

Democrats of all races agree on the need to pick a candidate who can prevent another four years of President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Esper: Military personnel could help treat coronavirus patients 'if push comes to shove' Schumer calls for military official to act as medical equipment czar MORE.


But in Iowa, New Hampshire and even Nevada, the majority of Democrats voting were white. And the biggest share of the white Democratic vote went to Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Judge slams Wisconsin governor, lawmakers for not delaying election amid coronavirus outbreak The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden offers to talk coronavirus response with Trump MORE (I-Vt.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pence defends response, says Trump never 'belittled' virus threat Reuters poll finds Sanders cutting Biden national lead to single digits Biden says he'll adopt plans from Sanders, Warren MORE (D).

Neither of them has a history of success with black Democrats.

Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Overnight Health Care: Trump resists pressure for nationwide stay-at-home order | Trump open to speaking to Biden about virus response | Fauci gets security detail | Outbreak creates emergency in nursing homes 16 things to know today about coronavirus outbreak MORE, the former vice president, has been the strong preference of black voters in national polls for months. But in the wake of his poor showing among white Democrats, Biden is now losing support among blacks who desperately want to beat Trump.

Of course, if South Carolina and other southern states with large black populations had been the first to vote, Biden would have a large lead.

The failure of white voters to take into account Biden’s strong support from black voters — the base of the party’s vote in presidential elections — has the potential to lower black turnout in November. It is puncturing any happy talk about a party unified across racial lines to defeat Trump.

The key to understanding the split among black and white Democrats is that black Democrats have more at stake in preventing four more years of Trump.

Yes, a majority of Democrats of all races agree Trump is a racist.

But 65 percent of black Americans say it is a “bad time” to be black in the United States, according to a January Washington Post-Ipos poll.

Those same black Americans told the pollsters they think it is a “good time” to be white and a majority added that white Americans — of all political stripes — somehow “don’t understand” what it means to be black in Trump’s America.

White Democrats regularly point to Biden’s role as vice president to the first black man in the White House, President Obama, to explain the black voter preference for Biden.

That is patronizing.

The biggest factor, according to months of polls, is that Biden to this day consistently beats Trump. He wins against Trump, especially among working-class white voters in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan.

That is why blacks so far have been reluctant to take a risk on a far-left candidate, Sanders, or a newcomer with the added electoral challenge of seeking to become the first openly gay president, Buttigieg.

The same risk-averse impulse among black voters led them to withhold support from the main black candidates seeking the nomination, Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden confirms he's considering Whitmer for VP Democratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus Lawmakers, labor leaders ramp up calls to use Defense Production Act Democratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men MORE (D-N.J.), both of whom have now dropped out.

Black voters want a sure shot to end a very personal threat.

How personal?

Step outside the distorting political lens of the battle for the nomination and listen to Jay Tabb, chief of the FBI national security operation.

Tabb last month put it this way: The United States is experiencing a “significant increase in racially motivated violent extremism.” He added that the racial violence has come with a rise in white supremacist and white nationalist movements across the nation in recent years.

That gives black voters a pragmatic reason to be very anxious about the possibility of four more years of Trump.

Another source of alarm among black voters is that the Congressional GOP leadership has stopped all efforts during the Trump era to renew the Voting Rights Act. Instead, they have trumpeted the lie that there is widespread voter fraud and called for more voter identification requirements.

And then there is the economy.

Trump often cites low black unemployment as evidence of how good he is for black America.


But 77 percent of black Americans, according to the Post-Ipos poll, said Trump’s efforts deserve “only some,” or “hardly any” credit for the current low rate of black unemployment while he is working to cut the social safety net, from ObamaCare to Medicaid and food stamps.

Trump has tried to distract attention from the racial impact of those harsh policies.

During the Super Bowl, his campaign ran an ad about his commutation of the sentence for a black woman, Alice Marie Johnson, who had been in jail 21 years for her non-violent role in cocaine trafficking.

Then during the State of the Union address he pointed to a 100-year-old former Tuskegee Airman in the House gallery. Trump noted he gave the man, Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, an honorary promotion.

It was quite a show for whites, especially suburban white women who voted for Trump in 2016. They have been turned off by Trump’s behavior, including his racism, and voted heavily against Trump and the GOP in the 2018 midterms.

Meanwhile, white Democrats in the early primary contests are looking away from black racial angst, showing a preference for an exciting nominee even if their favored candidates are not the choice of black Democrats and do not poll the best against Trump.

A Democratic nominee who excites white Democrats but not black Democrats may lead to a repeat of 2016 when black voter turnout was down from 2012.

Trump’s 2020 campaign is very interested in peeling even a few percentage points off black turnout in order to win again in the swing states.

South Carolina’s results will say a lot about the depth of the split between black and white Democrats.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.