African-Americans are a solid base of the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party has relied on black voters to get politicians elected in local, state and federal races for the past fifty years. There are growing criticisms that once elected, Democrats neglect the very black voters they court.
This Presidential cycle, unlike the past, we’re seeing more Democratic candidates develop specific agendas and proposals for the African American community. Most recently, South Bend Mayor, Pete Buttigieg released his Douglas Plan for Black America. The plan features investing $25 billion in HBCUS (historically black colleges and universities.) The Douglas Plan also creates funding for minority businesses and loan deferments. Last week, Senator Kamala Harris proposed a $100 billion dollar program to increase black home ownership. Her plan gives up to $25,000 in HUD grants for down payment and closing cost assistance for blacks. Also, Senator Bernie Sanders draws support from his policies of free tuition, free healthcare and automatic voter registration. These plans sound exciting for most African Americans, but do these proposals cover crucial issues for black voters?
To answer this question, I talked to a broad section of about one hundred likely black voters in Atlanta. We discussed the campaign, the candidates and issues. About 80% of those in my survey appreciate the more progressive-leaning discussions; however, they say the candidates continue side-stepping crucial issues of gentrification, affordable housing, police accountability and lack of economic opportunity. Again, many are encouraged by recent discussions of reparations, closing the wage gap, health care and civil rights.
75% of blue collar workers I spoke with believe they are being overlooked by employers because of their citizenship status. They insist, they support immigrants, but many corporate employers choose to hire undocumented immigrants for a cheaper labor force. Additionally, many black entrepreneurs whose businesses center around blue color work such as construction, say they are seeing fewer contracts because companies who hire undocumented workers have underbid them because the immigrants work for significantly less pay.
98% support the candidates’ ideas concerning free healthcare and Medicare for all. Although there was 10% in the survey, who was concerned about the quality of services, if only government-run healthcare was available.
Poverty breeds crime. And 90% want the candidates to hear more about crime prevention and gun violence. Some in my survey pointed out that politicians usually address crime through incarceration instead of increasing economic opportunities for blacks. Many I spoke with say, black neighborhoods have long suffered from a lack of quality investments that bring good paying jobs. This continued lack of opportunity is a breeding ground that allows gangs to tempt the youth with lucrative and criminal ways to make money.
60% want to hear more about improving the quality of education in schools in black neighborhoods. In many urban areas, these schools lag behind their white counterparts. Some in the poll, complained that too many schools in black neighborhoods do not offer advanced course pathways such as engineering and advanced biology.
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