You can practically hear the hands wringing all the way from Washington as Democratic Party strategists assess the latest round of poll data showing that Biden is in trouble with what has been his staunchest, most reliable base of support: Black voters. An October New York Times poll of registered voters in six battleground states showed Trump gaining strength among Black voters, with 22% saying they planned to vote for Trump. This is a big increase from the 8% of Black voters who voted for Trump in 2020, and a major cause for concern for the Democrats with a Trump-Biden rematch the most likely scenario in November 2024.
Possibly even more of a problem for Biden than the minority of Black voters who are considering Trump is a more generalized lack of enthusiasm for the incumbent. Ominously for the Democrats, Black voter turnout dropped by 10% in the 2022 midterms compared to 2018. News articles and podcasts are full of reports from focus groups of Black voters expressing frustration that they are being forced to choose between Biden and Trump. Young people in general are indicating that they are less likely to vote in 2024 than in 2020, according to a Harvard Institute of Politics poll. 38% of Black young people are indicating that they are likely to vote compared to 50% in the same poll taken in the fall of 2019.
For all the ink that’s been spilled on why Black voters are cooling on Biden, the answers, for the most part, aren’t that surprising nor are they all that different from why voters in general are unhappy with Biden. While it’s true that Bidenomics has been marked by high employment, it’s also true that the economy stinks for most ordinary people, and no amount of insisting otherwise by the Biden campaign can change that. Inflation has cut into buying power, credit card debt is at record levels, and the crisis of affordable housing continues unabated.
Pandemic stimulus checks, which Trump made sure bore his signature, and the expanded child tax credit that Biden passed in 2021 helped push poverty among Black families to record lows. Expectations were raised that the government could take real action to help working people. But it was under Biden that all the checks stopped coming, and the rest of the pandemic protections like eviction moratoriums and the student loan payment pause ended. Most Black people are probably under no illusions about Trump’s interest in helping working people. However, it’s Biden who’s most exposed himself as being unwilling to fight for the economic measures that ordinary people need and instead oversaw the unraveling of pandemic protections that made a real difference in people’s lives.
Biden hasn’t fixed student debt, passed a federal $15 minimum wage, or even tried to codify Roe v. Wade – all of which were campaign promises. Undoubtedly, the Republicans in Congress are unified in their opposition to Democratic Party efforts to pass any progressive legislation, but it’s also clear that the Biden administration has taken a timid and defeatist approach even when polls show big majorities are in favor of student debt relief, a federal $15/hr minimum wage, and legal abortion access.
Despite being elected on the heels of the biggest mass movement in US history, the uprising against the murder of George Floyd, Biden has no real record on reforming police violence. Biden failed to get even the minimal reforms passed on racist police violence and can only point to a few toothless measures in an executive order he signed. The Democrats offer nothing to working people impacted by the overall crime rate, which has been higher since the pandemic, and their policies leave massive economic inequality untouched which is what drives a lot of crime. Democratic mayors have hired more cops, but there’s no clear evidence that this actually reduces crime, though it contributes to increased repression of young black people in particular.
Biden’s push for funding for not one, but now two foreign wars, is not likely to win him much support among the Black community. It is not lost on Black voters that Biden is going to bat for billions for the Israeli regime while Black communities are starved of funding for essential resources like education, housing, infrastructure, including, in some places, the most basic services like clean water.
Meanwhile, Trump is positioning himself as the main candidate opposing the Ukraine war, arguing against further funding for Ukraine, and claiming, absurdly, that he would end the war in one day. Once upon a time, there were big swaths of Americans who believed that their best interests individually were wrapped up with the best interests of US imperialism, but that time has passed. It’s a sign of the disastrously weak position of the left that Trump is taking space opposing war funding for Ukraine instead of a genuinely anti-imperialist, anti-war candidate.
Both parties of capitalism as well as their leading candidates, Trump and Biden, support the Israeli regime’s murderous war of revenge in Gaza and oppose a ceasefire. This contrasts sharply with Black voters’ opinions as expressed in polls: 77% support a ceasefire and the same number oppose the prioritization of further military funding for the Israeli regime.
Historically, the Democratic Party has been seen as the party for working people in the Black community, but that perception is fading fast particularly among younger voters. The Democratic Party is increasingly seen for what it is by working people in general: a party for the billionaire class and a party staunchly in support of US imperialism and militarism. The approaching presidential election represents a crisis for millions of Black voters who are rightfully angry about the prospect of another four years of Biden’s gaslighting on the economy and blaming Republicans for why he can’t get anything done except send billions to pay for overseas wars.
Black working class people and working class people in general need a new political party that rejects Trump’s viciously bigoted rightwing politics and the pro-capitalist policies of both major parties. Building a new party for and of the working class that will be a potent political weapon for a pro-worker, anti-oppression and anti-imperialist program is no small task, but it’s a necessary one for Black people to effectively and decisively fight back against the American capitalist system that is racist to its core.