Black Democratic defectors: Trump or Trend?

by J. Pharoah Doss
For New Pittsburgh Courier

During the presidential campaign season, Democratic nominee Joe Biden made a distinction between the Hispanic community and the Black community. Biden stated the Hispanic community was “incredibly diverse” unlike the Black community.

Biden explained, there’s a range of conflicting priorities among Hispanics from Florida to Arizona, and he had to sell his agenda to individual Hispanics to get their vote. Meanwhile, polls showed President Trump had record-high Black support, but Biden felt he didn’t have to sell anything to individual Blacks. Biden was convinced the Black community, i.e., “the Black vote,” single-mindedly prioritized “getting the White supremist” out of the oval office, and with that in mind Biden told a popular Black radio host, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump then you ain’t Black.”

Biden’s comments revealed he conceptualized the Hispanic community as one individual, one vote, and saw the Black community as one identity, one vote.

Biden was smacked on the wrist for his remarks and was told to repeat after the pundits: The Black community is not a monolith. But the Democratic Party has had a monopoly on the “Black vote” since 1964. That’s a monolith to both political parties going into general elections. Even New York Times reporter Nikole Hanna-Jones confirmed Biden’s distinction when she said, “There is a difference between being politically Black and racially Black … We all know this and should stop pretending that we don’t.”

If Hanna-Jones is correct, then we all know “politically Black” means allegiance to the Democratic Party and we should stop pretending that defectors are not penalized. (Biden was playing the ostracism card when he suggested if you’re for Trump you ain’t Black.) Earlier, in the 2020 Democratic primary the ousting of state Rep. John DeBerry (Memphis) demonstrated this conundrum.

Rep. DeBerry was in office for 26 years, but the state Democratic Party voted 41-18 to take him off the primary ballot because of DeBerry’s support for school vouchers and his opposition to abortion. A representative of the Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee stated it was 2020 and DeBerry’s political positions were from the 1990s. He also said, “This is a fundamentally different Democratic Party and we need to realize that.” Rep. DeBerry said, “My district elected me 13 times. Not because I’m John DeBerry or I’m a Democrat. But because they agreed with what I fought for and what I stood for,” but “The Tennessee Democratic Party decided that I was no longer a Democrat—so I’m not.”

After the presidential election Democrats were alarmed when exit polls revealed President Trump’s Black vote count actually increased from 2016. As expected, these voters were vilified. Congresswoman Maxine Waters didn’t accuse them of being anti-Black, but insisted she will never forgive them. One Black writer said, “Voting for Donald Trump while Black is a race crime.” A writer for Vox online magazine said Trump made inroads with the Black voters due to disinformation and empty economic promises. (Their polite way of calling these Black voters stupid.) But the rest of the experts are still trying to figure out how Trump accomplished this feat.

Trump can take credit for the accomplishment, but he wasn’t the catalyst. These Black voters discovered or were forced to face the fact, like DeBerry, that the Democratic Party is fundamentally different in 2020, and they voted in the opposite direction. The question for the experts is whether or not this is a trend.

Ronald Reagan was once asked, why he left the liberals? Reagan replied, he didn’t leave the liberals, the liberals left him, and these Black voters would say they didn’t defect from the Democrats; the Democrats deserted them.


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