The 2022 midterm election season promises to be as momentous as the last presidential election, which helped put Joe Biden and Kamala Harris into office.
The Biden/Harris administration entered office in 2020 with 92% of the Black vote—mainly because it promised to move the United States away from former President Donald Trump’s full-throated embrace of white nationalism.
“Biden reported[ly] decided to run for president upon hearing Donald Trump’s failure to admonish white nationalists and white supremacists who held a ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 where they enacted violence and murdered Heather Heyer, a counter-protester and Black Lives Matter supporter,” notes Rashawn Ray in an article for The Brookings Institution.
“…Blacks helped to save American democracy,” Ray contends—as do most other political observers. “They enabled Democrats to overcome the appeals of a GOP leader intent on subverting long-held democratic institutions and ushering in an era of authoritarian rule. A second Trump term likely would have featured more catastrophic attacks on the opposition, including delegitimizing civil society organizations and packing the judiciary with loyalists. Eight years of Trump rule would have destroyed American democracy and altered the future of the country and the world.”
But enthusiasm for the Biden/Harris administration lost momentum as the president struggled to get his progressive Build Back Better plan implemented. Biden wound up whittling down many of the plan’s social programs and efforts to fight climate change because two recalcitrant fellow Democratic Party representatives, West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, would not let the bill pass otherwise. Biden canceled up to $10,000 in student loan debt, but inflation is still weighing heavily on working families and recent Supreme Court decisions are making it look like the U.S. will be governed by laws determined by a conservative, right-wing leaning judicial branch.
Now, with the midterm election season upon us, get-out-the-vote activists want to make sure that Black voters seize another opportunity to flex their political muscles. Black voters can still make a difference at the polls. According to the Pew Research Center, “Black voters could play an important role in determining the outcome of key 2022 midterm races in the United States in November.”
In the state of Michigan, Tameka Ramsey, co-executive director along with Sommer Foster of the nonprofit civic engagement group Michigan Voices, told the AmNews that door-knocking, literature drops, text messaging, phone calls, and events are part of their playbook for keeping Blacks in her state interested in the upcoming midterms.
“But you know this—this is the crazy part,” Ramsey added. “In the city of Detroit, for the first time in 70 years, there will not be a Black person on the ballot for Congress.” Redistricting in Michigan drew new boundaries which took away two majority Black districts—one of which was represented by Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, who is African American, and another which is represented by Rashida Tlaib, who is Palestinian American. Rep. Lawrence has announced that she is retiring and, because of the redistricting, Rep. Tlaib is running in the primary for a new district.
“And so Black people don’t see representation by somebody who looks like them,” explains Tameka Ramsey. “And so that is a fear that we have that people won’t say, ‘Hey this is a Black person, they’re going to be looking out for my best interest. I’m gonna go vote for them.’ And so now, and I know this sounds very weird, now we actually have to focus on values and on platforms and on educating people so that they can understand that sometimes even if it’s a brown person and not a Black person, like they can still represent you in your issues. Rashida Tlaib, the congresswoman, is amazing. Like born and raised in Detroit; like, she is just amazing. And I think that she has been able to talk to the issues of Detroiters because she’s lived here her whole life.”
It’s not unusual for Black voters to be hesitant about voting for politicians of a different race. Too often, non-Black politicians pay little attention to the Black community’s needs.
“I come from a single-mother household, living in subsidized housing. My father was in my life, but he had mental health issues, so he wasn’t always there,” confessed Ramsey. “Both of my parents are from Mississippi, they moved to Michigan at different points in their lives. But what my parents taught me about voting is that it was a survival mechanism for a lot of their family members—that they needed to have people who would be interested in them living or who would fight if there was an injustice to a Black person in the community.
“I think we moved away from that. We have to fight really, really hard in order to get the right people in office for our quality of lives. There were so many people who died during COVID from poor and low-income communities, just because they didn’t have the representation that they needed or they didn’t have the resources or the money or the support that they needed. And so, voting actually is a form of survival for Black and brown people and I think we forgot about that. In order to stay alive, in order for our future generations to be able to thrive and not just survive, like we need to vote and get people in office that will continue to fight and save us.”