So far, Joe Biden holds the lead among black Democratic
voters, but there are signs that members of the demographic, which makes up a
large share of Democratic primary voters, are not thrilled with the candidacy of
Barack Obama’s vice president. However, the several minority candidates in the
Democratic field have nonetheless failed to catch fire with voters.
In a recent ABC
News/Washington Post poll, 39 percent of black Democrats favored Biden.
Elizabeth Warren, another white candidate, ran a distant second in the poll at
22 percent. The other candidates, including Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg
as well as the minority candidates, all polled at less than 10 percent.
Still, there are concerns about Biden, especially regarding
his propensity for gaffes. For example, in last week’s debate, Biden
claimed, “I come out of the black community in terms of my support” and
said that he had the support of “the only black African American woman who had
ever been elected to the United States Senate,” referring to Carol Mosely
That was news to Kamala Harris, who laughed back, “Nope.
That’s not true. The other one is here.”
Biden quickly corrected himself, saying, “I said the first.”
Another source of uncertainty surrounding Biden is his age. The
76-year-old candidate is viewed as healthy by almost as many voters (74 percent)
as the 70-year-old Warren (80 percent) and more than Bernie Sanders (48 percent),
age 78 and the victim of a recent heart attack. That doesn’t mean that voters
are not concerned, however.
“Well, I was sort of leaning toward Joe Biden,”
said Elsie Just-Buddy, member of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in downtown
Atlanta when asked by ABC
News about her candidate preference. When asked about her hesitation, the
member of the church once pastored by Martin Luther King, Jr. cited Biden’s
ABC reported that, after interviewing dozens of congregants
at Ebenezer, black voters trusted and liked Biden due to familiarity with him
from his years in the Obama Administration but weren’t very excited about his candidacy.
They were open to a more exciting candidate, but, so far, that candidate has
Another member of Ebenezer, Ernest Fry, said, “I think that
he’d be a good candidate as well as the rest of them. But, you know, I don’t
think anyone got it locked unless you got a good program for the people.”
Nevertheless, Elizabeth Warren, once renowned for her plans
and currently smarting from a health plan so unrealistic that it was even mocked
by Democrats, fares much worse than Biden. The very white woman from
Massachusetts pleaded her case to minority voters in the
Atlanta debate, saying, “As a white woman, I will never fully understand
the discrimination, pain, and harm that black Americans have experienced just
because of the color of their skin. When I am president of the United States,
the lessons of black history will not be lost.”
Black Democratic candidates Corey Booker and Kamala Harris were
critical of the fact that white Democrats top the polls. Both glossed over their
own dearth of support from black voters when they made their complaints, however.
warned that black voters are “p-ss-d off because the only time our issues
seem to be really paid attention to by politicians is when people are looking
for their vote. And they’re worried because, in the Democratic Party, we don’t
want to see people miss this opportunity and lose because we are nominating
someone that … isn’t trusted, doesn’t have authentic connection.”
In a speech
to the NAACP in Detroit last May, Harris complained that the notion of
electability to Midwest voters led to prejudice against minority candidates,
saying, “Too often, the definition of the Midwest leaves people out.” However,
during Harris’ brief flirtation with frontrunner status, it was white voters
and not blacks who rallied behind her.
Black support for Biden also comes as a surprise to many on
the right who predicted that the Democratic Party would rally behind an intersectional
candidate rather than another old white man. The fact that the top two choices
of black voters are a white man and a white woman, even though there are
prominent black candidates in the running, has exploded stereotypes on both
For all the uneasiness and lack of excitement surrounding
his campaign, Steady Joe Biden remains the candidate to beat. While others,
including Kamala Harris, have flashed in the pan and quickly burned out, Biden’s
position atop the polls with the support of a quarter to a third of Democratic
voters has been very consistent since he entered the race.
Elizabeth Warren, who is currently plummeting in the polls,
is the only other candidate with any significant support in the black community,
and other potential frontrunners such as Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg have
shown almost no minority appeal. Due to the lack of exciting alternatives, it
seems almost certain that, barring a major gaffe or health problem, Joe Biden
will emerge as the Democratic candidate at the end of the day. If so, he will
have black voters to thank.