Monday, January 20, 2020

The Democrat, For Now

We've heard something similar throughout the Democratic primary campaign and on January 11, 2020 we learned that a Washington Post-Ipsos national poll found

48 percent of Democratic-leaning black voters back Biden as their choice for president, citing his time as former President Barack Obama’s vice president among reasons for their support.

Sen. Bernie Sanders came in second with 20 percent of support and led the field among black voters aged under 35.

In a group which includes four candidates with roughly equal support among non-blacks, 48% of the black vote for any one- white- candidate is truly extraordinary.

The most obvious, and probably most dominant, reason is that Joe Biden served eight years as vice-president (and a very loyal and warm one) to the first black President. And maybe voting for Biden is an affirmation that Obama was a great and successful President.

Consequently, Matt Stoller believes "One possible reason older black voters dislike Warren/Bernie is their candidacy is an implicit rebuke to Obama."

It's not surprising that Biden doesn't do as well among young blacks as among those middle-aged and older. That's not only because Bernard Sanders is particularly popular among young people across-the-board but also because there has been a continuing effort by Democratic politicians (and to a much lesser extent, pundits) to portray Joe Biden as the pragmatic, safe choice most likely to deliver a Democratic victory over Trump. The threat posed by this President, which never has been posed by any president of the USA, is perceived less by youth than by older people, who have more of a frame of reference. And black voters are very likely more terrified of Trump than are others.

Pragmatism- in this case, the "fierce urgency of now" to rid the nation of the scourge of the evil from Queens/Manhattan- dovetails with the the presence of more moderate or centrist African-Americans in the south than elsewhere (video below from 11/19).

Nonetheless, there is a completely unexplored reason that Biden has done particularly well with blacks. Conventional wisdom has it that among blacks, Senator Barack Obama overtook Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democrat primary campaign once Obama demonstrated that he had a viable path to the nomination. However, there probably is more to it than that because as reported by Reuters In early 2007

polls show he lags well behind Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York among black voters, the most loyal Democratic voting bloc, and his candidacy has been greeted cautiously by some veteran black leaders uncertain about his experience and views.

The wary approach is not surprising given Obama is a relative newcomer on the national stage and, unlike many established black leaders, did not build his reputation during the civil-rights struggles of the 1960s, analysts said.

“People don’t know who he is. Outside of Illinois, black voters and everybody else are asking, ‘Who is this guy?’” said Ron Walters, a former adviser to civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and head of the African-American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland.

“They don’t know his record, they don’t know his background or where he came from, so they are asking very understandable questions

The key phrases are "relative newcomer," "don't know his background or where he came from," and "the most loyal Democratic voting bloc."

As the first two phrases indicate, Obama was relatively unknown to most black voters (and a lot of others). As he became better known, he began to fit like a glove, or as whatever your favorite applicable cliche is. He no longer was the candidate challenging the establishment Democrat. Joe Biden has been around a long time and is well known to African-Americans, who probably feel reasonably comfortable around him.  

But the significance of being "the most loyal Democratic voting bloc" typically is ignored.  With fewer members of organized labor than in decades past and working class voters (whites, but not only) gradually growing more disaffected with the Democratic Party over the same time period, blacks constitute the popular base of the Democratic Party.

That prompts a preference- all else being equal for the candidate who best represents the Establishment of the Democratic Party. Further, it conveys a special interest in contributing to the victory of the nominee of the Party in which they have a stake.

A Democratic office-holder since 1969, a vice-president for eight years, and the leader from the beginning among likely primary voters, Joe Biden most clearly represents the Democratic establishment. He is Establishment.  

He also is being sold in part as the individual most likely to win an election against a President deeply unpopular in the black community. He probably is not, but that case is a difficult one to make until and unless Joseph R. Biden loses an early primary or caucus, and a caucus might not be enough.

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