Democrats, You Must Engage and Persuade Minority VotersDecember 7, 2019
We do not have to spend our time telling you about the significance of the 2020 election because you already know how high the stakes are up and down the ballot all across the country. You – Democratic political officeholders and candidates -- already know that health care, education, infrastructure, the environment, wages, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, redistricting, justice, character, decency, and normalcy will all be on the ballot next year.
As a black man, I do not have to tell you what this election will mean for communities that look like mine and the generational impact the results will carry. So I won’t waste my time or yours talking about what you already know. Instead, I’ll remind you that you can’t govern if you don’t win and you can’t win -- we can’t win --unless you engage us, persuade us, and don’t forget about us.
First, let’s understand something. When we say “us,” we’re not excluding anyone. If 2016 taught us anything, it is that we can’t afford to disregard any votes. But let’s be honest, if we don’t make sure key demographic constituencies fall under the big beautiful diverse tent called the Democratic Party, no one will.
Ignoring African American, Asian, Latino, or immigrant communities could prove fatal to the Democrats’ cause in 2020. The old grip-and-grin photo ops won’t cut it anymore. African Americans have proven themselves time and again to be the most loyal and dependable voting bloc in the Democratic Party. But that’s led entirely too many candidates to take this community for granted, believing they don’t need to court our votes because we’re a forgone conclusion.
Unfortunately, when that happens, black voters don’t suddenly start casting Republican ballots…we just stay home.
Understand this: In a community that has seen as many broken promises as ours has, voter apathy is not a hypothetical danger. Moreover, in an age of stricter ballot box ID requirements and registration roll purges, voter suppression is real. From working multiple jobs that don’t give you time off on Election Day to lacking reliable transportation to the polls to the myriad threats that show up that first week of November, the obstacles between us and the ballot box are real. So you have to give us a reason to face them.
The same is true for Latino voters, widely considered to be the fastest growing and, increasingly, most decisive constituency group.
Explain to me, when Republican are doubling down on family separation, draconian detention and “building the wall,” every single Democratic candidate isn’t courting the Hispanic community with every breath? Explain to me why every pamphlet, mailer and meme isn’t produced in Spanish as well in English? Explain to me why only one candidate has a Latino coordinator in Nevada, South Carolina, and California?
Look, the truth is that the GOP has long feared losing the “sleeping giant” that is the Hispanic vote in America -- and with good reason. Imagine flipping 38 electoral votes in Texas, 29 in Florida and 11 in Arizona. Imagine picking up Senate seats in Arizona and Colorado. Imagine sweeping governor’s races across the Southwest.
But bringing this vision to fruition takes more than the casual mention of immigration reform or demonstrating some high school Spanish on the debate stage. It takes actual commitment and real investment -- not just to penetrate a community that lives under constant treat, but to activate them, register them, and mobilize them on Election Day.
So, we can pretend all we want, but if the Democratic Party wants to be the party of diversity, then it can’t take us for granted. Despite hand-wringing about the diminishing diversity of the 2020 Democratic presidential field, it would be a mistake to assume that a candidate must be from a community of color to represent that community’s interests. History is littered with examples that prove just the opposite.
But understanding our challenges doesn’t come by accident. You have to come with honest intent, genuine appreciation and, above all, respect. You have to bring real solutions. You have to try and you can’t fake it even a little bit.
If you want to win, then, minority communities votes matter. So engage us, persuade us, and don’t forget about us.