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Democrats’ focus on White voters, ‘electability’ headed for disaster?

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Aug 6, 2019 - 1:33:05 PM

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From left: Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are introduced before the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN, July 31, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit.

WASHINGTON—Twenty candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination took the stage in Detroit in a two-night CNN-hosted debate.

Panic associated with fear of four more years under President Donald J. Trump may have been on the stage but may not be enough to bring out the voters Democrats need to win on Election Day 2020.

Immigration rights activists abruptly interrupted former Vice President Joe Biden during the second night of the debates, chanting “three million deportations!”— referring to the Obama administration’s deportation of at least three million undocumented people.

Protesters with the group Movimiento Cosecha carried a banner that read “Stop all deportations on day 1.” Earlier according to a published report, 22 activists were arrested for blocking the nearby Detroit-Windsor Tunnel at the U.S.-Canada border protesting the U.S. federal government’s immigration crackdown.

There were other protests at the second night of the debate, as several activists shouted July 31 “Fire Pantaleo!” while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrapped up his opening statement. It was a reference to Daniel Pantaleo, the New York police officer who five years ago choked Eric Garner to death as Mr. Garner gasped “I can’t breathe” 11 times. Mr. Pantaleo has remained on the police force, but there is pressure mounting for his removal after an administrative judge recommended his dismissal.

The front-runners—Mr. Biden, Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), and Corey Booker (N.J.)—and all the candidates, are trying to project their own “electability,” which has been called “White supremacy” in disguise.

“First of all, we have to understand that when they talk about electability or talk about how a candidate appeals to middle America, that is a euphemism for White people, and we know that the Democratic Party’s base and their success depends on Black and minority voters. And so asking candidates to appeal to White voters, it’s not only a little bit contradictory, but it ignores the value of the party and the people who support the party on local levels, on state levels. And on the national level”—Black people, writer Michael Harriot said in an interview.

Surprisingly though, “Black people also sometimes cater to White supremacy,” said Mr. Harriot. “We, more than any other group, know that it is important for candidates who support our agenda to get into office. And so sometimes to get them into office, we will support candidates who are moderate, who appeal to White voters simply because we know that they will appeal to White people. And candidates who are more progressive who address Black issues loudly won’t be supported by those people.”

Meanwhile, led by President Trump, Republican White “nationalists,” “Tribalists,” “supremacists” have become more and more belligerent in their White, racial presidential political demands since the 1964 election when Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater was the GOP nominee. Sen. Goldwater lost badly.

“It was specifically with Goldwater and ‘64 about race,” Dr. Angie Maxwell, associate professor of Southern Studies and Political Science at the University of Arkansas said in an interview, “but over the course of the last 40 years, the GOP leadership and candidates at the top of the ticket have not only continued to play towards that White racial animosity, but they have also added in, an anti-feminist kind of appeal after the equal rights amendment, and then a White Christian evangelical kind of Christian Nationalist appeal in the last two decades.

“So it’s, it’s still about race, but it’s a whole combination too when those Southern White voters really lock it down for the Republican Party. Republicans had to keep figuring out a way to create kind of a White ‘racial state of emergency’ and also how to expand their southern strategy to hit other topics,” said Dr. Maxwell.

Therefore, for Democrats to base their 2020 presidential strategy on winning over White Trump supporters is a fool’s errand, according to Mr. Harriot. “That’s the entire argument,” he said. “So for Democratic candidates, for progressive candidates to be successful, there’s no way, there’s no historical reason, there’s no statistical history that shows that White voters will determine the success of a Democratic candidate.

“What it depends on is the enthusiasm and the turnout of Black and minority voters. So it would seem that the logical conclusion would be you have to send up candidates and you have to put candidates up for election who appeal to the Democratic Party’s base voters, the Black voters. But instead we use this argument of electability to say that that is more important. And that is by definition, White supremacy, that the ideas in between the needs of White people are more important to fit the needs of Black people.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) concurred. She urged Democrats not to act out of fear in the upcoming elections. “We can’t choose a candidate we don’t believe in, just because we’re too scared to do anything else,” she said from the stage on the first day. “And we can’t ask other people to vote for a candidate we don’t believe in. Democrats win when we figure out what is right and we get out there and fight for it.”

In the international arena, scant attention was paid to the Middle East and the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Sen. Sanders and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg did call for an end to the Afghan War.

“What we need is a foreign policy that focuses on diplomacy, ending conflicts by people sitting at a table, not by killing each other,” said Sen. Sanders. “As president of the United States, I will go to the United Nations and not denigrate it.”

But the xenophobic White political appeal is far deeper perhaps, than most Democrats realize. “So I’m not in any way trying to downplay that it is this racialized appeal,” said Dr. Maxwell. “I’m just saying that historically, when the Republican Party was faced with some trying to win those Southern White voters and keep them, they had a southern strategy on some other issues as well.

“And it’s that combination right now, if you express racial resentment as a White person in America or you express what we call modern sexism as a White person in America, man or a woman, or if you express this kind of Christian nationalist spirit among Whites in America, that accounts for 95 percent of Trump’s vote.

“And some people are all three of those things. Some are two of three, some are one of three. But those expressing racial resentment is the biggest piece of that pie,” said Dr. Maxwell. Democrats, she said, will not be able to depend on White women to save them. “You know, this anti-feminist spirit is really held by a high percentage of White women in the South,” Dr. Maxwell said. “Not all, but a high percentage. At least 75 percent of White women did not vote for Stacey Abrams in Georgia (2018 Democratic candidate for governor). So that means that we need to build different coalitions, right? We need to make sure that we are reaching out to non-voters; that we are working against voter suppression; all of those things.”