Black and brown voters key to the Biden-Harris victory
Black voters often waited on the longest lines in Georgia due to GOP voter suppression methods. | Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP

Political “experts” who get paid a lot of money were saying before the election that it would turn on how people in Trump’s non-existent lily-white suburbs decided to vote.

A major problem with that expectation is that it relied on a world of Leave it to Beaver that no longer exists, a world where Ward Cleaver comes home at the end of the day, calling out “Hi honey I’m home,” his wife emerges, hangs up his hat and jacket and ushers him into the kitchen where sons Wally and “the Beaver” are already seated at a table topped with a nicely prepared dinner.

Instead, the election turned on voters in racially diverse cities and, to the extent that it turned on voters in suburbs, those suburbs too were often largely Black or brown ones in the key states of  Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia.

Stacey Abrams is recognized as the national leader of a successful movement to overcome attempts to suppress the Black vote. | Butch Dill/AP

In addition to clinching the Electoral College, those voters gave Trump the additional honor of being the only president of the United States to lose the popular vote twice, once in his first election and a second time in his defeat.

“The fact that we have matched and topped white voter participation and done that while going through voter suppression in new and old forms every year, we are extraordinary. That’s what I know,”  LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the voter mobilization organization Black Voters Matter told an NBC reporter on Saturday.

Black people make up a bare minimum of 40 percent and often much more of the population in cities like Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, Atlanta, and in many of their suburbs. The first three of those cities are in the “Blue Wall” that Trump won last time and Biden took back last week. Once the mail-in ballots in those cities were counted the writing was on the wall for Trump. He was finished. And he was finished not just in the Blue Wall states but in Georgia too, a deep southern state where he won by about 10,000 or more votes.

Even after the key role of Black voters in handing Biden the Electoral College, and therefore the election itself became clear, some continue the discredited idea that white voters are more important than Black voters. There is talk that if only more work had been done with those white suburbanites or only if there had been less talk of defunding the police and socialism some of the Democratic representatives who lost their seats might have held onto them. The truth is that no one running for reelection among both progressive and conservative Democrats campaigned on either defunding of the police or socialism yet their Republican opponents used those false claims against all of them.

What will it take for so many “experts” to recognize the obvious? It was conservative Democrats who directed their campaigns exclusively at white suburbanites or those who hid their opposition to Trump who lost. “The Squad,” progressive representatives like AOC and Ilhan Omar, grew in size because they appealed to the growing constituencies of working people, particularly people of color in their jurisdictions. Stacey Abrams and LaTosha Brown and the campaigns they led to register hundreds of thousands of Black and brown voters won the swing states and even grew the actual number of swing states.

Expanding the electorate to include more and more Black and brown voters is so obviously the way to go that anyone who pushes for a different strategy is pushing against the wind. Black voter turnout surpassed white voter turnout in many places this time. The result was a big victory for all the American people.

“The fact that we have matched and topped white voter participation and done that while going through voter suppression…is extraordinary,” Brown said. All the talk of “low Black voter turnout” explaining the defeat of Democrats or progressives should be put to rest forever.

In Georgia during the primary season, many Black voters waited eight to 12 hours to vote. The wise decision by Black activists to wage a massive campaign for early and mail voting in Georgia mitigated some of those horrors in the general election. Black leadership and Black voters combined their efforts to defeat the voter suppression efforts engineered by Georgia Republicans.

It was the Rev. Steve Bland of the Liberty Baptist Church who summed it up outside the vote counting location in Philadelphia: “We have gone from picking cotton to picking presidents,” he declared in a clip on national television.

LaTosha Brown, Black Voters Matter

The accuracy of his assessment became more obvious as Election Day became Election Week. Record numbers of voters, it became clear, had risen up to elect the Biden-Harris ticket and oust Trump, with many more Democrats having cast early and mail-in votes than Republicans.

Biden won 87 percent of the Black vote, giving the now President-elect a higher share of their vote than any other group.

And, almost exactly like all other Democratic candidates for president since the 1960s, Biden achieved a little more than 40 percent of the white vote.

The truth is that, under the influence of racism, large numbers of white voters abandoned the Democrats shortly after President Lyndon Johnson pushed through the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in response to the massive civil rights and voting rights movements of the day.

President Richard Nixon gathered in white support with his infamous “Southern Strategy,” which only now, as Rev. Barber put it this week, is beginning to crumble because of the work of people like Stacey Abrams, LaTosha Brown and so many others, including millions of Black voters themselves. They have had support from much of labor and its allied movements.

While some Democrats, including Joe Biden, have been able to draw in small numbers of additional white voters many remain out of reach, at least for now. Much work will have to be done to convince millions of them to come out and vote more in their self-interest rather than voting baseless fears grounded in racism. Actually, groups like Our Revolution, which sprang from the Bernie Sanders campaign, were able to do some of this and to make headway with white voters in the Blue Wall states this time around. In these states and elsewhere the labor movement did some of this important work too.

Black voters, however, have proven time and again that they are key to determining election results and that their votes continue to be cast for candidates who best support their concerns and the concerns of the vast majority of the entire working class, white people included.

It is nothing less than outrageous then that some Democrats losing elections blame the loss on “low Black voter turnout.” If and when such “low turnout” happens it should be more than clear by now, especially with what we saw in this election, that it is the candidates and not the Black voters who are to blame.

Over and over and over again about 90 percent of Black voters back Democrats. About two-thirds of Latino and Asian American voters also vote for Democrats.

Another strong message coming out of this election then is that it is incumbent upon Democrats to put forward strong programs and to have the backs of these voters if they want to continue to enjoy their support. It cannot be taken for granted. Biden’s promise to Black voters in his victory speech that he will always have their backs was a significant recognition of this reality.

This year continued police brutality and the pandemic have exacted heavy tolls on Black Americans. It has been compounded by the horrible politics, policy, and rhetoric spewing out of the White House, and all of this combined to spur a historic uprising of Black voters.

Millions were motivated to turn out, essentially to remove Trump from the White House.

It is what brought people who labor all day at tough jobs in cities like Atlanta to bear the long waits they bore at polling places.

Those Black voters who did that at polling places in the Atlanta congressional district of the late great Rep. John Lewis, a longtime member of Congress from Georgia and civil rights leader who was beaten almost to death in Selma, Alabama, made his congressional district the one that put Biden over the top in Georgia.

For those voters, as it would have been for Lewis were he still alive, the Biden-Harris election must have been a particularly sweet victory.

Trump, who has repeatedly said, “Nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have,” refused to even attend memorial services for Lewis, saying the iconic hero was “not impressive.”

The entire nation owes a debt of gratitude to the Black women and men who marched to the polls in that district in Atlanta and everywhere else last week to repudiate the evil inhabiting the White House. Their pivotal role in pulling the nation out of some of its darkest days should be clear to everyone.

One of the best ways to pay that debt would be another national uprising to demand passage of a renewed Voting Rights Act to reverse the Supreme Court’s gutting of the first Voting Rights Act.

If this is to succeed, however, the nation will have to get behind the Black voters of Georgia once again. We’re talking about the Black voters who will be decisive in the next great electoral battle – the Jan. 5 run-off election to keep the Senate out of the control of the self-described Grim Reaper, GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. A victory for two Democrats in that election will save the nation from having to deal with the Grim Reaper after the Biden-Harris inauguration. We know McConnell, if he maintains control of the Senate, will do everything he can to sabotage any and all progressive legislation.

The never-ending story plays out yet again in this coming crucial election. Black voters in Georgia are gearing up to take up what will be another epic battle. This time the entire nation must rise up and have their backs in a battle we all must win if we are to deepen the victory won last week.

Like free stuff? So do we. Here at People’s World, we believe strongly in the mission of keeping the labor and democratic movements informed so they are prepared for the struggle. But we need your help. While our content is free for readers (something we are proud of) it takes money — a lot of it — to produce and cover the stories you see in our pages. Only you, our readers and supporters, can keep us going. Only you can make sure we keep the news that matters free of paywalls and advertisements. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, support our work by becoming a $5 monthly sustainer today.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.