Winning with Black women voters is essential for any candidate to win the Democratic nomination for president. That is why all eyes were on South Carolina, where Black voters were expected to make up to two-thirds of the electorate in the state’s Democratic primary last Saturday.
Plenty of assumptions were made about which candidate Black women will choose. But, for many of us, this election simply comes down to how we win when we aren’t enthusiastic about any of our choices.
Last week Higher Heights, the leading national organization exclusively dedicated to advancing Black women’s political power by ensuring they have the tools to engage, advocate and lead in their personal and professional communities launched #BlackWomenVote 2020, as a way to engage with Black women across the country to understand what’s most important to them and provide the necessary tools and information to get out the vote. Overwhelmingly, Black women have expressed a readiness for change and a sense of urgency about the upcoming election—in order to have an impact on the issues facing our families and communities, not because they feel passionate about the candidates.
Last week, we organized Black women for a family style dinner and conversation in Las Vegas, in partnership with Make it Work Nevada. We also teamed up with Essence and co-hosted a Sunday brunch in Charleston ahead of the South Carolina and Super Tuesday primaries.
Like our mothers and grandmothers have always done, we gathered around tables with diverse groups of women, including seniors, young voters, hairdressers, nail salon technicians, businesswomen, educators and activists for a candid conversation. We heard frustration: that our preferred candidates are no longer in the race, that the remaining candidates have not made enough of an effort to reach out to us, that we want better options. The excitement that brought us to the polls in record numbers in 2008 and 2012 is no longer present. Black women know that this election is too important to sit out. That’s why we are committed to organizing, volunteering and spreading the word about why this election matters. But we are also looking for stable leadership that understands our needs and is committed to helping us create economically thriving, healthy and safe communities.
Among the top issues Black women want addressed are healthcare, jobs, education, affordable housing and criminal justice reform. During last week’s debate in Charleston, the seven candidates on stage spent more time fighting for airtime and taking down each other than addressing these issues. Sure, there was mention of racial justice, Black maternal mortality rates and gun violence in a debate right before a primary contest where the Black vote is at stake. But we haven’t heard nearly enough of this talk in previous debates or on the campaign trail. Black women deserve a return on our voting investment. Candidates cannot afford to take our votes for granted, especially when so many of us are undecided. Many of us are still shopping for a candidate that we can believe in and rally behind and looking to understand how a given candidate will be the best choice to govern, protect and expand our livelihoods.
Though many of us may be uninspired by what we’ve seen so far, Black women remain anxious for change and excited about moving the country forward. Our well-being depends on it. That’s why we plan to vote and mobilize others to vote as well. In 2020, we’ll be motivated, not by any one candidate, but by care and concern for our own self-interest and for the people and communities around us.
Glynda C. Carr is President and CEO of Higher Heights, the only national organization providing Black women with a political home exclusively dedicated to harnessing their power to expand Black women’s elected representation and voting participation, and advance progressive policies.