African-American voter turnout reached an all-time high of 66 percent in the 2012 presidential elections, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Although this number reflects substantial participation from a group historically hindered from contributing to the election process, Americans will have to wait to see if the trend continues in the presidential election this November.
David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report attributes the 2012 presidential election turnout to a historical candidate with a mission to educate and register African-Americans to vote. He says that campaigns for the 2016 election have largely lacked a similar focus.
Ripon College’s Black Student Union (BSU) gathered to have a discussion about which presidential candidates had the black vote. The term “the black vote” was employed by BSU members to describe the literal vote from someone of color and the broader approval of the black community.
Scott Clement, polling manager for The Washington Post, reports that the black vote in the 2016 presidential elections has a chance to be as large and significant as it was in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections if Democrats can increase their current favorability among black voters from 85 percent to President Obama’s 93 percent in 2012– a 2.8 million net voter increase.
“The black vote is very important,” says Clinton Glover, president of BSU. “When we get down to the nitty-gritty of it, what is this election about? Voting someone into office to represent the people. Only reason this would come into question is because there have been laws, you know, tactics to reduce the vote of black and brown people. I feel that, while black people historically vote with Democrats, no one has really talked about it.”
Other BSU members agree with Glover and feel that as campaigns continue to avoid discussing the pressing issues facing African-Americans, the 2016 elections could be marked by a significant decrease in participation of black voters.
“I actually think that the black vote will disappear in this upcoming election because, of course, our standing president is black and that definitely rallied a whole bunch of people out of the shadows,” explains sophomore Alana Green. “For there not to be anyone that, of course, looks like us but more so represents us pretty well, I think there will be a definite decrease in numbers of black votes.”
When asked which candidate seemed to be the most vested in the African-American community, BSU members were hesitant to mention even the more liberal candidates.
“I kind of view Bernie [Sanders] as the only person who comes close to, sort of, even trying to bridge that gap of racial injustice in the political system, partly because he’s publicly making steps to try and bridge those gaps through meeting with the leaders of the Black Lives Matter organization,” remarks senior Rachel Steiner.
Steiner adds that the current election is devoid of a diversity of opinion and personality due to the polarizing views of the front-runners of the Republican and Democrat parties.
“Everything from gender to race to sexual orientation is just same old, same old, basically,” says Steiner.