Black Leaders Organizing for Communities is seeking to reconnect with Black voters in Wisconsin to improve voter turnout and to connect constituents and representatives.
In 2016, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump were both campaigning to become the next president of the United States. Clinton felt as though she had already secured Wisconsin as a win. As a result, she didn’t visit the state once while campaigning — or even begin advertising her campaign in the state until two weeks before the election.
This crucial mistake cost her the state of Wisconsin and, ultimately, the 2016 election. Clinton underperformed in Wisconsin — specifically among Black voters — who are usually the backbone of support for the Democratic Party. The Black vote has long been overlooked across the country, largely because Black people have historically voted for Democrats, and their support has become taken for granted by politicians.
Many Black voters felt as though Clinton simply expected their votes and didn’t care about fighting for their needs or engaging with them as a distinct community. In response to the 2016 election, Angela Lang launched BLOC, based in southeastern Wisconsin.
BLOC is a civic engagement group that aims to educate Black voters and fortify their political organization. The lack of civic engagement by the Clinton campaign is what many believe caused the downturn in voter turnout for racial and ethnic minorities during the 2016 presidential election.
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BLOC currently has over 50 ambassadors — employees who go door-to-door — to speak with Black residents of southeastern Wisconsin about the issues on the ballot. The goal is to engage with Black constituents so they can connect politicians to important issues and mobilize Black voters on Election Day.
Democrats simply have come to expect the Black vote and have stopped working for it, which is what Clinton did in the 2016 election. Political realignment of Black voters from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party began in the United States during the late 1920s. During this time, Republicans refused to advocate for civil rights, while northern Democrats did advocate for civil rights for Black people — on a limited basis.
Since then, Black voters have been a political force for the Democratic Party. As of 2016, 87% of registered Black voters identify as Democrats, compared to 7% who identify as Republicans, according to Pew Research Center.
With the lengthy history of oppression and discrimination that Black Americans have faced in the United States, it is vital that politicians listen to this group of constituents and advocate for their wants and needs. Black Americans need to feel connected to politicians and be sure that their elected officials will fight to implement policies that will benefit them. In recent years , however, Black voters have felt a growing disconnect from politicians — and it showed in the 2016 election.
Since 2000, Black voter turnout in Wisconsin had been steadily climbing for more than a decade. In 2012, Black voter turnout was just under 70%, an impressive figure. In the 2016 election, however, it dropped down to 60%. Such a staggering decrease in turnout can be attributed to a complete lack of engagement by Clinton and the Democratic Party.
There are two solutions to the issues surrounding the Black vote. First, Democrats need to stop taking this group of voters for granted and reach out to their constituents to hear what their wants and needs are. By doing so, politicians would be able to better understand and advocate for policies that are beneficial for Black Americans. This will also help Black voters feel more connected to politics, giving them incentive to vote. Joe Biden did a much better job of this while campaigning for the 2020 presidency.
Despite pandemic conditions, Biden still visited Wisconsin multiple times while campaigning, with one of the visits being Kenosha after the tragic death of Jacob Blake. Biden also spent tens of millions of dollars on ads to inform Wisconsinites on his platform.
The Democratic Party can help engage Black voters with issues that matter to them through visiting their states, holding rallies, meeting with local politicians and community leaders to discuss policy and sending out surveys in order to hear directly from the people. There is no better way to understand the wants and needs of your constituents than by going directly to them.
The Democratic Party needs to stop neglecting this sect of their supporters. By ignoring Black voters, Democrats are ignoring the wants and needs of these voters and marginalizing the Black vote.
The second solution is the establishment of more organizations like BLOC. Knowledge is power, and BLOC is productively empowering citizens with the resources they need to become informed voters. By connecting with communities, BLOC is helping Black Americans learn more about the politicians that are representing them.
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BLOC’s agenda, which is broken into 10 different sections, helps contextualize different policies with Black voters in mind. By illustrating these different subjects and highlighting important policies, it becomes easier for voters to understand complicated agendas and think critically about candidates. BLOC regularly updates their agenda to reflect policies that best represent the Black community.
By neglecting Black voters, Clinton made voters feel as if their vote did not matter and this resulted in a dramatic downturn in Black voter turnout in Wisconsin. Politicians not connecting to Black voters will make them less likely to vote, and this in turn will lead to a lack of the representation of their wants and needs in policy. Democrats need to listen to the concerns and questions of this group and work to pass legislation that will actually benefit them.
As emphasized in BLOC’s agenda, strategic political organization presents the opportunity to unite Black voters around issues that matter to them and to solidify their political power in American elections.
Politicians have a responsibility to act on the faith their constituents place in them. Addressing the concerns of Black voters should not be an added challenge for Democrats but merely the bare minimum to retain the backing of the party’s most loyal voters.
Josh Standal ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in history.