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Follow black women to victory in 2018
Published Tuesday, December 26, 2017
by Melanie L. Campbell, Columnist

"It's a good night to be an African-American woman," said CNN political commentator Symone Sanders. This was her response to the historic Doug Jones victory over Roy Moore in the special Alabama senatorial election. But Democrats and Republicans alike should take heed.

Political pundits can parse words, slice and dice the numbers and call Roy Moore a "terrible choice" as the Republican candidate; but make no mistake about it, the African-American vote was the critical difference between a win and a loss in that election.

In his initial remarks to his followers and the media, Jones unabashedly thanked African- Americans, in particular, for their support. And why not? Exit polls indicated that 98 percent of black women voted for him. In contrast, only 32 percent of white women in Alabama voted in his favor.

The same political pundits tried to report that the women's vote is what brought Democrats historic victories in the 2017 election on Nov. 7 in Virginia and New Jersey. The Nov. 7 exit polls reported that black women voted 91 percent for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Ralph Northam, who was elected Virginia governor. White women voted 51 percent for Republican candidate Ed Gillespie. In New Jersey, black women voted 94 percent for Democratic candidate Phil Murphy, who is governor-elect for New Jersey. Latino women voted 88 percent for Murphy and white women voted 44 percent for Murphy.

To be clear, black women have been the most loyal voters for progressive candidates for decades. In 2016, they women voted 94 percent for Hillary Clinton; white women voted 53 percent for Donald Trump. In 2013, black women were the decisive vote for current Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, voting at 91 percent. White women voted for anti-choice Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli at 54 percent.

In both 2008 and 2012, black women led the way in electing President Barack Obama the first black president of the United States. Black women’s vote, in fact, accounts for the gender gap in support of the Democratic Party as the majority of white women supported Republican candidates in both elections. 

So the question is, will black women continue to be the most loyal voting bloc for Democrats in 2018? I caution the Democratic Party to pay close attention to the recent Black Women's Roundtable/ESSENCE "Power of the Sister Vote" Poll released in September that gauged black women's political attitudes. 

The poll revealed an 11 percent drop in the "belief that the Democratic Party best represents the interest of black women, dropping from 85 percent to 74 percent over the past year. In fact, more black women think that none of the political parties represents them well, up to 21percent from 13 percent in 2016." 

The poll also showed black female millennials identifying as independents continues to rise. The poll further disclosed black women have a significant interest in running for political office on a local level. The 2017 election results appear to confirm that growing interest, with several black women making history in key local and statewide races.

These changing political attitudes and trends provide an opportunity for the Democrats if they fully embrace and respect black women's leadership. It is also an opportunity for the Republican Party, if they choose to reverse course from being the party of the white nationalists and white supremacists. Otherwise, black women, especially millennials, will likely expand their options as independents or members of third parties in the future.

So, for those progressives who want to win in 2018, remember black women are the "secret sauce" to victory. Follow black women.


Melanie L. Campbell is the president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the convener of the Black Women's Roundtable.




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