Presumptive Democratic nominee Sec. Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Monday acknowledged a gap in enthusiasm among young and older Black voters heading into the general election. But at a briefing at the top of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, campaign spokesperson and senior communications advisor Karen Finney said their goal going into the convention is to galvanize support.
“We’re not taking the Black vote for granted,” said Finney. “We have no qualms about the fact that this will be a hard-fought race.”
Clinton campaign advisors were insistent that they have the clear advantage in the choice facing African-American voters, given the Trump family’s history of discriminatory housing practices in 1970s New York and some of the candidates more unsavory comments about other communities of color. What’s more, advisors argued Clinton’s understanding of key issues including voting rights and criminal justice reform would give Clinton a boost among black voters.
“Donald Trump doesn’t even know our community. He’s going to be learning,” Finney said Monday. “The fact that Hillary understands these issues and has worked on these issues throughout her career. That makes a difference.”
Yet tense moments throughout the primary season made clear that there is a disconnect in the level of trust young voters have for Clinton, given her support for crime laws signed by former President Bill Clinton. Millennials were at the forefront of protests throughout the campaign season that called Sec. Clinton out for her husband’s missteps on the campaign trail. Trust is also an issue among voters, something advisors acknowledged during Monday’s press briefing.
“Trust is earned. That is the point of the campaign. That is the point of the week,” said Finney.
Senior Policy Advisor Maya Harris said the campaign will be deploying Millennials as well as Sec. Clinton to meet voters where they are and hopefully shore up support. Advisors also said they wouldn’t be surprised if Sen. Bernie Sanders, who many Millennials backed, also worked toward garnering enthusiasm for Clinton.
That’s not to say Clinton doesn’t have a clear leg up against her opponent Donald Trump. A late June Public Policy Polling survey found Clinton clinching the overwhelming majority of Black voter support. A Washington Post poll in June showed Trump had a 94 percent unfavorability rating among Black voters. But a failure to galvanize support among young voters could have a significant impact on the election. A Washington Post analysis found that a drop from the 93 percent support voters threw behind Obama to 85 percent, the average level of support Blacks have given to Democrats, could cost the party about 2.8 million votes. Such a drop is unlikely given recent trends in voting, but Monday’s briefing made clear the Clinton campaign is working to keep it from happening.
“We’re not trying to go backwards. We’re talking about marching forward,” said Harris. “And we’re the only campaign talking about doing so.”
WANT MORE FROM ESSENCE? Subscribe to our daily newsletter for the latest in hair, beauty, style and celebrity news.