Black Votes Matter

Terrance Woodbury & Cornell Belcher

brilliant corners Research and Strategy
September 18, 2015  

With race relations and challenges facing minority communities undoubtedly influencing the race for the 2016 White House, many political observers are attempting to predict the voting behavior of Obama surge voters – young and minority voters who drastically changed the demographics of the traditional Democratic coalition by turning out in historic numbers and propelling Barack Obama to victory in 2008 and 2012. While it is undeniable how essential these voters have become to any Democratic path to victory, it is still very unclear to what extent they will participate in the first Post-Obama presidential election cycle. One thing is very clear, amongst young African Americans, the lion’s share of Obama surge voters, fighting racism is the single most important issue. Not jobs. Not healthcare. Not climate change. For young minorities, fighting racism will be top of mind during this election cycle[1].

That means the increasing influence of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement could reverberate during the course of the 2016 election cycle far beyond interrupting a few political rallies. Representing previously marginalized voices, the BLM movement is bringing attention to issues of racial injustice, police brutality, gross economic inequality, and lack of opportunity for African Americans.  Rejecting the idea that “all boats rise with a rising tide,” the BLM movement is demanding candidates and political parties specifically address the boats in the black community that have been anchored down by generational poverty and oppression. They are not accepting empty promises and are prepared to assertively challenge what they consider inadequate responses. 

When necessary, the BLM movement is even prepared to shut down an entire political program, seize the attention of the media that is present, and even reduce presidential candidates to mere spectators at their own events. Leaders of the BLM movement have even practiced similar tactics toward leaders of the African American community once capturing a stage while Rev. Al Sharpton spoke at an Action Network march against police brutality. It was previously believed that these tactics, often perceived as hostile and inflammatory, were not embraced by other members of the African American community. A recent national survey conducted by brilliant corners Research & Strategies shows quite the contrary. Seventy-four percent of African American parents support the BLM movement and 59 percent even favor the tactics that have been widely criticized by other progressives and the media[2].

This means courting Obama surge voters will require Democrats to carefully and deliberately address very difficult cultural and socio-economic concerns that are being elevated by the BLM movement. Equally as important will be how African American parents and other tacit BLM supporters perceive the Democrat’s public response to the active participants of the movement…are they defensively dismissed from stages or compassionately invited into the policy making process?

The Black Lives Matter movement has become a formidable force to be reckoned with in the 2016 election cycle. They have reminded Democrats, and the African American community, that no political party is entitled to the black vote. The BLM movement has given young people another outlet for political engagement and until compelled to support a particular candidate, issue, or party, could serve as an alternative to electoral participation. Finally, they have managed to attract many supporters, even if not active participants, toward their cause and objectives. Not since the Tea Party could an insurgency have such a resounding effect on the electorate, and we are likely just seeing the tip of what could be a Titanic-sinking iceberg.

Deliberate action must be taken to better understand the concerns represented by the Black Lives Matter movement or they might disengage from the political process, or worse, incite mass disengagement of demographic groups that will be critical in the 2016 election cycle. 

[1] Nationwide survey conducted July 4-8, 2015 of 1,518 African Americans. The margin of error for this poll is +/- 3.0 percent.

[2]Nationwide survey conducted August 12th -17th, 2015 of 600 African Americans Parents of K-12 students who either attend public schools, public charter schools or private or parochial schools using state tuition vouchers. The margin of error for this poll is +/- 4.0 percent.