Biden’s failed remarks could deprive him of support for young African-Americans

By | August 8, 2020
Biden's failed remarks could deprive him of support for young African-Americans

Former vice president deemed ‘too moderate’ politician among young black voters

Joe Biden’s controversial remarks made by the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee this week may alienate young black voters who have a negative view of President Donald Trump but are also “not inspired” by his Democratic rival.

Asked by CBS News if he had undergone cognitive testing, Biden said the question was akin to asking an African-American reporter if he would take a drug test to see if he was using them. “Are you taking cocaine or not? … Are you a drug addict?” asked a CBS correspondent apparently exasperated Joe Biden.

In another interview with National Public Radio, Biden drew a distinction between black and Hispanic populations in the United States: “Unlike the African-American community, with notable exceptions, the Hispanic community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly different views on things,” he said in an interview.

Black voters generally backed Biden’s victory in the Democratic primaries, securing a decisive victory in South Carolina that saved his first failed campaign from failure. But that success largely depended on older black voters. In the general election, when Democrats say voting for a party’s nominee cannot be taken for granted, young activists have begun to say that Biden’s mistakes could harm his candidacy.

“Trump is terrible, and he’s a racist, and we need to get a racist out of the White House. But here and Biden keeps saying racist things,” said Mariah Parker, 28, and elected administrator for Athens County in Georgia.

Most black voters see Trump as a man who escalates racial tensions and is unlikely to support his campaign en masse. But those who do not participate in the presidential elections can influence the outcome of the elections in the states, where there is a tough fight between the two parties.

AP VoteCast data illustrates the intergenerational divide that Biden has faced. In the 17 states where AP VoteCast conducted a poll of Democratic voters during the primaries, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders Sanders scored a total of 60% among voters under 30, compared with 19% for Biden. And while African-American voters generally strongly support Biden, most black voters under the age of 30 sympathize with Sanders (44%) rather than Biden (38%).

Activist Christine Fulvili Thomas said part of the problem for Biden is that young black voters think he’s too “moderate” to act on issues that matter to them. The 31-year-old managing director of Equal Ground, an Orlando-based group working to increase black voter turnout across Florida, said she hears that concern from people in her community and voters across the state.

“I’m watching and hearing among young black voters that Biden wasn’t their first choice, so people aren’t very happy to vote for him in November,” she said.

With each gaffe, Biden is finding it increasingly difficult to inspire voters.

Michigan Rep. Jewell Jones, who at 21 became Michigan’s youngest elected official, said he had seen a number of Biden’s comments about black voters, as well as the support he had in the past about the 1994 crime bill that promoted the mass incarceration of black Americans.

“Today, young people want to know if politicians’ hearts are in the right place?” he said.

The mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, Randall Woodfin, who supports Biden, said this week that he saw no problem in Biden’s comments. He noted that Biden, unlike Trump, later clarified his words.

Biden has put forward a series of proposals aimed at the economic mobility of blacks, which include promises to direct federal money and tax breaks to small businesses and economic development programs for minority-owned firms and for disadvantaged areas.

On criminal justice reform, Biden called for a ban on police use of suffocating techniques, the introduction of national standards of police use, mandatory collection of data from local law enforcement agencies, and the creation of a new commission to oversee federal police. He also supported some progressive proposals that could appeal to younger voters, such as writing off some student loan debts and offering free college tuition.

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