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Black America is turning away from the Democrats

Are the Democrats still the party of working Americans? Credit: Getty

December 21, 2023 - 10:00am

It is being widely reported that President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party may have trouble with the various minority blocs that constitute a crucial slice of its voting base.  Many Arab Americans and Muslim American voters, who could be crucial in a swing state like Michigan in 2024, feel alienated by the Biden administration’s almost unwavering support for Israel in its bombardment of Gaza. But more crucially, according to recent polls, the support of black Americans is starting to dissipate, too. In January 2021, black support for Biden was 86%; currently, it is at a record low of 60%. 

Since the 1960s, black Americans have been a solid and reliable voting constituency for the Democrats, the “progressive” liberal party, consistently voting in large majorities across multiple elections. This is despite many having traditional and socially conservative beliefs. But the recent polls demonstrate that this support is not absolute. 

Ethnic minority discontent with Biden is partially to do with the economy and inflation (which is hitting black communities the hardest). But there is something deeper at work. Cynicism and apathy have developed from the impression of being continuously mobilised by the Democrats and “official” black leaders based on racial communalism. They are told that voting for the party is in their interest, only to later see little personal benefit. Black voters are called into action to be the rearguard of the movement against Donald Trump, not on the basis of a proactive and wider social vision for America in which their condition is ameliorated. 

The October gubernatorial election in Louisiana won by Republican Jeff Landry is a preview of what could occur in 2024. His victory was secured in part due to low black voter turnout, especially in parishes with high black populations. When this is broken down by gender, one can see that a significant portion of black men are more approving of Trump (though the majority still vote Democrat). They don’t take accusations of tyranny against the former president seriously: given the current poverty and discrimination faced by African Americans, they figure Trump can’t be much worse. Many loathe “wokeness” and associated movements such as Black Lives Matter because they see it as the new “official” ideology, and inherently antagonistic to their interests as traditional men. 

An interesting trend is that since 2020, gun ownership and purchases among black Americans, especially black women, have soared, which flies in the face of the Democrats’ usual tub-thumping on gun control. Implicit here is a lack of trust in the police and the state, currently run by the Democrats, both due to police brutality and ineptitude at solving murders in poor black communities. If order can’t be maintained and black communities aren’t seriously protected from predatory criminality, which disproportionately harms them, armed self-defence begins to feel like the next best insurance policy. 

The polls could well change. Closer to election day, with the possibility of Trump returning to the White House, discontented black Americans may vote Democrat out of habit, or out of a fear which is then exploited by the party. 

In any case, black Americans, especially those who are working-class, are in a politically awkward place. They are needed by the Democrats, but have no leverage over the party to extract serious policies that would substantially improve their condition, both socially and materially. The political establishment has proven for decades that it can’t benefit the great mass of black America. Yet many African Americans want an alternative to the stale status quo — not just as black people, but as American citizens. When that alternative will arise is an open question. Perhaps we’re witnessing its beginning.


Ralph Leonard is a British-Nigerian writer on international politics, religion, culture and humanism.

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Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
5 months ago

Maybe some in the black community are beginning to understand that white liberals are not their friends and asking in what way they are going to benefit from open borders, defunding of the police, investment in China and the ongoing destruction of the family by the woke idiocies of white university professors

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

That’s why they never voted Republican in the first place. Black voters haven’t changed, the parties have. And the idiots at the top of the Democrats have been left holding the neoliberal bag.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The closest most white liberals want to get to actual black people is the ‘Black Lives Matter’ lawn sign in front of their white shingled New England house, next to their late model Subaru with the Biden/Harris bumper sticker.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

There was an interesting study in 2018 about white liberals changing their language when interacting with black people.

https://apnews.com/article/5c5ea75b9e5ebba82fc923669b8db39a

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I take it you’re not American. Young black men likely remember that they could find employment under Trump and can’t under “Bidenomics” (lowest unemployment rate was registered under pre-COVID Trump, in the 50 years that such records ).

It soared starting with Biden – as the author suggests, poor and working class people, especially blacks, are the most affected by inflation and all these green give-aways to rich investors- many working class jobs were regulated away under Biden.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
5 months ago

Same as Labour constantly banging on about being pro minority; yet it was never them with a female or non-white leader. You can only get away with this for so long. And which party is it that female MPs state has a problem with women ?

Biden famously berated a Black voter at a rally ‘You ain’t Black if you don’t vote Democrat’. The arrogance and entitlement of the old goat is breathtaking.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
5 months ago

Considering the fact that it was the Democrats who seceded from the United States and went to war to keep their hideous slavery, lost and created a terrorist organization called the Ku Klux Klan, enacted into law racial segregation, and fought against voting rights for black citizens, I will be forever mystified why black Americans ever supported the party that abused them, and continues to do so to this very day.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago

Because Dems became the party of free $h!t and liberals cast themselves as literal white knights who would make up for centuries’ worth of oppression by paying women to have kids but only if the father was not around. There is a natural progression in how this works: 1) when help is offered, it eventually becomes expected. 2) That help creates dependency, because the recipients have been stripped of agency. 3) The dependency becomes entitlement; people come to believe they are owed this largesse. 4) In some cases, entitlement turns into resentment because the recipient knows he’s been played.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
5 months ago

Ah! Finally the voice of Reason and facts!!

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago

To be fair, the parties have basically flipped in the past century. The Democrats were the party of rural America, unions, whites, nativism, religiosity, and isolationism. The Republicans were the party of big business, international engagement, military power, the affluent, and minorities. All those things are basically reversed now. The Democrats of 1900 became the Republicans of today, and vice versa. It happened incrementally over the years through various shifts in policy and changes brought about by popular leaders of both parties. It’s basically like the parties are basically two huge buses, one red and one blue. The buses themselves are basically no different except for the color and whoever happens to be on the bus. Over the past hundred years, most everybody that used to be on the red bus has moved to the blue and everybody on the blue bus has moved to the red. Which bus drove where a hundred fifty years ago when it was the opposite people on board ultimately doesn’t mean much.

Thor Albro
Thor Albro
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

That’s basically the official Democrat history, but I think the reality is more complex. I recently listened to a debate between LBJ and Goldwater from 1964 and it is striking how similar to now the political sentiments were 60 years ago.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

Well by that point the process was already well under way. The Civil Rights movement marked a major turning point as President Truman’s decision in 1948 to desegregate the military and support the Civil Rights movement alienated southern Democrats, prompting them to walk out of the convention and nominate an alternative candidate, Strom Thurmond. Dubbed the “Dixiecrats,” they carried many southern states in the election. It was widely believed this party split would cost Truman the election (hence the famous Dewey defeats Truman headline). The southern Democrats remained with the Democratic party and many southern states remained staunchly Democratic single party systems for a long time, but the local parties and their policies began to diverge significantly from the national party. By the time I was old enough to understand any of this in the early 90s, they were called ‘yellow dog’ Democrats because it was said that some districts and states would elect a yellow dog if there was a D next to the name. Their policies have still not changed much, and they’d still elect a yellow dog in many districts, but they’d find the R instead of the D these days. The culture wars of the 90’s started to shift the Republicans towards filling this void left by the Democrats turn toward urban minorities and identity politics. Trump and populism have, arguably, completed the transition of the Republican party to being primarily a rural, traditional, anti-immigration, culturally conservative, and moved towards being a blue collar party as well.

Chipoko
Chipoko
5 months ago

Great post!

Kat L
Kat L
4 months ago

Someone has to bring out this old banger in every discussion. Attitudes from both parties were completely different 150 years ago. Trying to present history through todays value system is less than helpful in explaining anything.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago

I listen to a lot of rap music (or rather used to) and it always struck me how Conservative a lot of it is.
It has changed slightly now with its entry into the mainstream but it has always generally embodied the Conservative American values of working hard, getting money, looking after close/loved ones, competing for position and improvement, massively Christian. It was just that Nixon’s southern strategy “exploited racial divisions” – to use the euphemism – and made the party anathema to black voters.
“Woke” was originally an urban black movement that was actually the opposite to all the values it represents today. It was exclusionary, it called to black people’s roots, it was traditional (though open minded) and most importantly believed in a kind of black supremacy.
Modern “woke” is actually a distortion of pro-capital neoliberalism which aimed to erase/ignore boundaries, culture and race to render human capital more efficient to deploy. Too much of it now has little to do with black politics.
Even the average American voter is smart enough to Kamala Harris is just tacked on as a token non-white woman to try and make the old white guy more appealing to the black voter base. It’s just not going to work. Especially now when the Republicans are starting to look more multiracial.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

You listen to a lot of (c)rap music?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago

Yeah. It’s good. I listen to other stuff too and, as I said, less rap nowadays as I’m in the wrong half of 30 and living in rural England.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago

I’ve never been a fan or rap myself. Just wasn’t my style. However, I do respect it. At least that music is organic, speaks to people about real issues, and doesn’t shy away from controversy or censor itself for the sake of dollars or to get airplay. At least those things used to be true. That’s better by far than what passes for pop music these days. A lot of saccharine, inoffensive, corporate approved generic junk that is calculated to have the broadest possible appeal and therefore generate the most revenue. Utter rubbish.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

If you do not take exception to the malignant lyrics and attitude.
They play a lot of it down they gym.
I am rather sick of ho’s, bit’chs and pantomime hard man talk.
It reminds me of a lot of 10 year olds trying to outdo each other with naughty words.
As to authentic and real issues, I believe a lot of the practitioners are from middle class backgrounds

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

And often sung by men in frocks

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Wow – there he goes again: reciting left wing lies as tropes. LBJ, Jimmy Carter and Clinton and Obama all handily won the South. The democrats first brought us slavery, then Jim Crow, then Welfare which helped destroy the black family.

Nixon knew that most people who supported the War in Vietnam were poor Southern whites who died in numbers disproportionate to the population. Blacks died in numbers roughly proportional to the population.

I’ll stop here and leave the hay to make.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard Pearse

I like how you dismissed my pretty well documented southern strategy thing as a left-wing trope then hit us with the “welfare helped destroy the black family”.
Not really sure what point you’re trying to make by saying democrats have won the south before? The fact that there are other methods to win votes there does not invalidate the claim that another party used another method to win votes.

Aidan A
Aidan A
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Not sure what you all listen across the pond. Or what you all think conservative values are. In the US one can characterize rap music in many ways. But, hardly as the one espousing conservative values.

Kat L
Kat L
4 months ago
Reply to  Aidan A

A lot of popular modern music is crap and but I used to wait tables at a club 20+ years ago and never heard a conservative theme in a rap song.

Kat L
Kat L
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

How long ago are you talking about with rap? Surely not in the last 25-30 years…and there’s a reason why the dems are in a pickle, they can’t possibly chuck her and they know it. That is why Biden is still president because they know who will be alienated if they scrap the whole ticket.

Wyatt W
Wyatt W
5 months ago

Black families were 9% fatherless in the 50s, 55% now. Absolutely tragic. Great job welfare state.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago

That’s what happens when people figure out that their kids are habitually consigned to the lousiest schools in any district and that the criminals are elevated above the law-abiding. A lot of black folks see themselves in the current wave of lawfare being used against Trump. And before he won office, no one was accusing him of racism or supremacy or whatever else. The black vote was simply tribal and Dems expected it.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

And it’s almost always Dems that oppose school choice.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago

If you’re a Democrat, this is very bad news. They’ve already lost much of the working class white vote and most of rural America. Without the black vote to prop up their coalition of establishment stooges, fearful suburbanites, academic wonks, and social justice warriors, they’re going to be hurting for votes. Democrats always assumed that demographics was working in their favor, that the declining proportion of white voters would remain divided while minorities would all flock to their banner. The real world is never that simple.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
5 months ago

“Ethnic minority discontent with Biden is partially to do with the economy and inflation (which is hitting black communities the hardest)“
I didn’t realize inflation was racist too?

Alan B
Alan B
5 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Inflation is effectively similar to a regressive tax. Surely you can connect the dots from there

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago

Minorities supported Dems because it used to be the working class party, and most minorities were working class. That isn’t the case any longer. As the Dems shift priorities to the upper midddle class voter, working class people of all races will eventually shift their voting patterns. The Dems have slowed this shift by labeling their opponents as rac!sts, but this strategy can only work for so long.

Aidan A
Aidan A
5 months ago

My understanding of the data is the shift is primarily with black male voters. Started before Trump. Accelerated with Trump. Reasons are probably many. My guess is as good as anybody’s.

Peter B
Peter B
5 months ago

Sounds almost like the “Red Wall” in the UK in 2019. Surely there can’t be some sort of pattern here ? If only Sleepy Joe were a little more alert and paying attention …

Last edited 5 months ago by Peter B
John Pade
John Pade
5 months ago

I’m even less sure about what Republicans offer than Republicans are themselves. They’re going to repeal Obamacare, build the wall, school choice for all, a military the world will fear.
The only thing they seem able to agree on, every place and all the time, is cutting taxes. Because the rich pay almost all the taxes, they get almost all the tax cuts.
As far as what blacks want, I have even weaker clues. Jurisdictions where blacks have ascended to power offer little help: it is hard to believe that Oakland, New Orleans and Baltimore represent what blacks want. Even less do larger entities, Haiti and the Congo for instance.
But the ultimate incoherence, seemingly anyway, between what blacks and Republicans want make them unlikely political partners, in my opinion. Even if it might not be good for them to go different ways, it might be unavoidable.

Kat L
Kat L
4 months ago
Reply to  John Pade

You are describing the people we want to oust. They are yesterday’s news but remnants are still hanging on. Nikki Haley represents them.

S Smith
S Smith
5 months ago

I understand a lot of the grievances of black Americans at this juncture in time; it’s just that white liberals really don’t know what those are, and I think they are far more closely tied to class and lack of upward mobility than anything that woke DEI can penetrate at your local white collar job.
I can honestly say, as someone who is white but utterly disillusioned with the Democratic Party but still loosely associated with the left–most people will just sit on their hands because neither party represents Americans.

Kat L
Kat L
4 months ago

Polls mean nothing. Whatever ills are happening the cure is unpalatable. The community has gotten a lot of benefit from voting democrat, just not the ones that really help in the long run.

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
4 months ago

The Democrat party if becoming more and more the party of single white and Black college educated women. The Republican party offers an avenue for Black men to express their views. Like him or hate him, former President Trump is attracting support from Black men.

Juan Manuel Pérez Porrúa
Juan Manuel Pérez Porrúa
4 months ago

I’m skeptical. The two most solidly Democratic voting blocs in the United States are Black Americans and Jewish Americans, and this has been so since at least the 1920s in the case of Jewish Americans (that is since the Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover administrations) and since the 1960s for Black Americans (since the Kennedy and Johnson administrations). Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.”
Putting it bluntly, Black and Jewish voters, as voting blocs, are more “solid” than the so-called “Solud South” ever was, and it is precisely because of this that the Democrats can afford, in political terms, to take them for granted — because, for all intents and purposes, they are, no matter what policies Democratic elected officials pursue, nor what Republicans do or don’t do to attract or to alienate these voters.
Of course, the Republican Party has done very little, if anything, to pursue Black voters, but decades-long efforts to attract Jewish voters to the Republican Party, some by very clever, prominent, and very committed Jewish Conservatives and Jewish Republicans, have so far all failed to change the situation, again no matter what policies the Democrats choose to adopt with regard to anything. And every election one reads or hears pundits saying and writing how this time around the Democrats will “finally” lose the “Jewish vote”, just like Mr. Leonard’s piece here, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t happen. I imagine something similar happens with Black voters, although to a much lesser extent.
Podhoretz, Norman. Why are Jews Liberals?. Vintage, 2009.

John Pade
John Pade
5 months ago

This is the tiredest election fantasy of all time. Every four years Republicans talk themselves into believing that more than a rounding error of blacks will vote for them. Every four years blacks vote for Democrats as monolithically as Russians voted for Communists.
Republicans are not the natural destiny of black voters. Black voters want something Republicans don’t and can’t offer without contradicting their fundamental beliefs. Better for each to write each other off.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
5 months ago
Reply to  John Pade

“Black voters want something Republicans don’t and can’t offer without contradicting their fundamental beliefs”
I assume you mean something for nothing

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago

whilst most Republicans long for the days when they gave nothing for something.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Would you care to be a little more explicit about that

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
5 months ago
Reply to  John Pade

Black voters actually did quite well during the Trump administration – record low unemployment, prosperity zones, prison reform – having been largely ignored by Obama.

Now that the Democratic party has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street you might see some surprising change.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago
Reply to  John Pade

What is this thing black voters want that Repubs can’t or don’t offer? It can’t be being treated like pets because Dems do plenty of that, so what is it?

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
5 months ago
Reply to  John Pade

What are those fundamental beliefs you believe Republicans have?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
5 months ago

Just like ole Joe said, “they wanna put y’all back in chains!”

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
5 months ago
Reply to  John Pade

Except this author is no shill for the republicans. Quite the opposite.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago
Reply to  John Pade

What is it that black voters want that Republicans can’t deliver?

Aidan A
Aidan A
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

This is easy.
Single payer healthcare.
No cuts to welfare state including medicaid, SS and medicare.
Higher taxation of the rich.
Affirmative action, DEI.
And the list goes on.
You can derive this from the polling data, policies advocated by the black institutions, party platforms, political discourse.

Aidan A
Aidan A
5 months ago
Reply to  John Pade

Agreed. My guess is that this shift, with primarily black male voters, is associated with Trump, liberal and feminist war on masculinity, and gender fluidity ideas. After Trump the things will revert back to normal.

Last edited 5 months ago by Aidan A