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Monday, November 23, 2020

In praise of Black voters

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Once again, Black people have played a crucial role in saving America from … America. Of course, I’m referring to last week’s presidential election — one in which we overwhelmingly voted for President-elect Joseph R. Biden. Biden prevailed despite the fact that President Donald Trump managed to perform better among African Americans and Hispanics than he did four years ago. (That’s a subject for another column.) 

Of course, African Americans came to Biden’s political aid several months ago by securing a pivotal victory for him in South Carolina’s presidential primary. We did so even though it’s not certain that Biden would have been our strongest advocate in the White House. We are a pragmatic people. (That is, we instinctively understood that, among the Democratic nominees, Biden had the best chance to beat Trump in a general election.) We have also demonstrated remarkable selflessness over the years. We often act in the nation’s best interest — even when it is potentially to the detriment of our own. In fact, we understand what millions of white Americans don’t: What is best for Black America is best for all of America.  

Black people know a threat when we see one. As I have written previously, many of the actions that President Trump has taken — and has threatened to take — are familiar to those of us who recognize authoritarian “leaders.” Not only has Trump repeatedly demonstrated an affinity for despots, including Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin; his behavior leads to the inevitable conclusion that he wants to join their ranks.

To this end, Trump’s actions and threats include: requiring “loyalty pledges” from his government staff, openly advocating state-run media, blasting the judiciary, verbally attacking his political enemies (real and perceived), verbally attacking his political allies, using the military for illegitimate purposes, attempting to govern by fiat, flouting all manner of presidential norms, promoting fear and hatred against anyone who opposes him, referring to legitimate investigations as “witch hunts” and (perhaps most dangerously) destroying the line between fact and fiction.

Of course, Trump’s fact-less, ego-driven challenge to our free and fair election is the latest example of his proto-fascist tendencies. (To be fair, he did repeatedly warn us that he would engage in these shenanigans were the election not to turn out in his favor. Sadly, he kept his word.) The fact that most Republicans, elected and otherwise, continue to enable his actions speaks to a political party that has thoroughly lost its way.

Trump and his allies are bolstered by the fact that challenges to election results have become increasingly common in the last several years. Republicans and Democrats deploy armies of lawyers across the country — especially in so-called “battleground states” — in anticipation of disputed results. However, in this instance, Trump’s attorneys are there solely to create chaos, controversy and confusion where none should exist. Thus, Americans of goodwill must continue to fight for the values for which America says it stands. That’s where Black folks come in.

By overwhelmingly voting for President-elect Biden, we sent a clear message that democracy still matters. We sent a clear message that racial divisiveness is unacceptable. We sent a clear message that science is real. We sent a clear message that women should hold positions of extraordinary power. (This is all the more important because Biden has strongly hinted that he won’t seek reelection.)

To be clear, Biden earned the vote of millions of white Americans. However, according to early exit polls, Trump received roughly 58% of white Americans’ votes. That falls in line with the average of Republican presidential candidates going back at least to 1976. (Ronald Reagan was the high point at 66% in 1984. His vice president, George H.W. Bush, was at the other end with only 41% of the white vote in 1992 — but there were three major candidates in that race.) In short, no Democrat can win the presidency without the astoundingly disproportionate support of Black people. 

As we have done in the past, Black folks have forced America to do right when she so desperately wanted to do wrong. Our children and grandchildren will understand that it was crucial to vote in favor of changing the course of this nation. 

Well done, my fellow (Black) Americans.

Larry Smith is a community leader. Contact him at larry@leaf-llc.com.

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