Black women play an essential role in determining our country’s next leader. This is far from a new concept; their voices have always mattered, not just during the current election. There has not been a Democratic presidential nominee in over 40 years that has won the White House without Black women’s leadership and vote—including President Barack Obama, President Bill Clinton, and President Jimmy Carter. In fact, we can’t even have a conversation about how we can win the White House unless black women are included.
There are currently 16 million Black women who are eligible to vote this year. Their vote is key to a 2020 Democratic victory. They won’t just determine who will preside within White House; they will also shape Congress and state governments. Black women are the Democratic party’s most loyal demographic, and their voices must be recognized. We are key in igniting Black voters across all demographics to show up in record numbers. When we are engaged, we bring our families, our networks, and our communities with us.
Sure, the importance of black women has been recognized in the past. However, it’s high time we move beyond being referred to as the “backbone” of our party. We are so much more than that; we’re leaders—in our party, communities, and country. Our leadership, and our votes, are crucial.
In 2016, we witnessed how even a small difference in the Black vote means the difference between winning and losing. We can’t assume that Black people will automatically turn out to vote, or that we’ll see a victory on par with Obama’s. We’re currently facing unprecedented challenges including the COVID pandemic and the most organized voter suppression effort we’ve seen yet.
For example, in 2016 Black voter turnout for a presidential election declined for the first time in two decades. It went from 66.6%in 2012 to 59.6% in 2016. Between 2012 and 2016, however, the white vote went from 64.1% to 65.3%.
In Wisconsin, Black voter turnout decreased 19% from 2012 to 2016, according to a November 2017 report by the Center for American Progress. A Wisconsin State Journal study also found that, while Trump received about 2,700 fewer votes than 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Clinton received almost 239,000 fewer votes than President Obama, a large portion of which came from Milwaukee County where Clinton garnered 43,452 fewer votes than Obama did in 2012. According to a Center for American Progress report, turnout among eligible Black women decreased to 66% in 2016, down from 74% in 2012 and 75% in 2008.
Votes for democratic candidates are declining, and we can’t afford for the pattern to remain during the next election. Without a better Black voter turnout, we risk achieving a Democratic victory.
Raising these numbers, encouraging more Black women to vote, and weaponizing our voices for the sake of democracy will be key in securing a democratic victory. Black women will play a positively crucial role in a 2020 democratic victory. Our vote matters more now than ever before, and we must stand together.