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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

It’s Time for Dems to Tend Their Pivotal Base Constituency

Democratic strategists and candidates should take the time to read — and think about — Lauren Victoria Burke’s “As Democrats Keep Chasing Trump Voter Waterfalls, Will They Ever Listen to Their Actual Base: Black People?” at theroot.com. Burke sheds some much-needed light on a Democratic blind spot:

…Does it really take a genius to figure out that if a group votes for you 90 percent of the time you should do what it takes to make sure that group is at the polling place on election day?

…The hard fact is that the Democratic party has no history of taking the strategic advice of African-American elected officials, leaders or consultants and applying substantial financial backing to black voter outreach. Will new DNC Deputy Chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) be listened to? Who knows.

If past is prologue, everyone knows what happens next: Senior black officials asking the party for field help will be ignored and, instead, Democrats will stage a few visits to black churches two Sundays before Election Day, followed by that crash panic of activity days before Election Day.

 It was white women who gave 53 percent support to Donald Trump. It was Hispanic voters who gave Trump 29 percent of their support. African Americans voted for Hillary at 93 percent. You’d think lots of energy to get that group out would be common sense after black women were number one in turnout percentage of any voting group…Black turnout dove to 2004 levels in 2016 after Democrats decided that the record numbers seen in 2008 and 2012 would magically persist without President Obama on the ticket.
Then Burke gets down to a very recent case:
There were over 130,000 African Americans in South Carolina’s 5th congressional district. Did the Democratic Party attempt to make a vigorous effort to turn them out? No. African American voters vote for the Democratic Party over 90 percent. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) asked for $200,000 to get out that vote. The answer was no.
It’s entirely possible Democrats could have picked up that seat with a small fraction of what was spent on the Ossoff campaign. It’s not like they weren’t informed about it. Compounding the mistake, Democrats ignored the good advice of one of their most loyal and experienced African American congressmen. As Burke notes,
On June 22, The Root asked Clyburn if he could remember a time when the Democratic Party has listened to blacks on strategy.

“I haven’t really thought about that,” said Clyburn, with a smile in a ornate lobby off of the House floor. “But they didn’t this time,” he added.

Clyburn will turn 77 next month and has been in Congress since 1993. If Democrats in charge of strategic decisions aren’t listing to him when it comes to black voter outreach, who are they listening to? Speaking with several other senior black Democrats reveals the same scenario.

Further, asks Burke, “Where’s the DNC’s anti-suppression campaign? Where’s the get out the vote effort target to black voters? Where’s the census strategy?”

Damn good questions.

Democratic leaders should certainly make an effort to get more votes from the white working-class. But even if they succeeed in gettting a larger share of that constituency, it won’t mean much if they underperform with African American voters. It’s time to take a sobering look at how they allocate GOTV resources to insure that the only constituency that votes Democratic 9-1 receives the attention it merits. This they should do, not only because it makes practical sense, but also because it is the right thing to do.

“Democrats are proving cycle after cycle that you can have all the money in the world,” concludes Burke, “but if you’re a loser on messaging and vote targeting it’s a waste.”

Choosing between pouring resources into white working-class GOTV and African American voter turnout is essentially a false choice. Neglecting either constituency is a ticket to defeat. Democrats have got to do both — if they really want to win.

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