By Charles Robinson
(BALTIMORE – August 30, 2020) – Under normal circumstances, I would be counting my mileage points and getting the oil changed in my car. However, this year’s politics have left me homebound. People who I would have engaged with at the political conventions are homebound, like me.
When I began this blog, it was a way to channel my love of Black Politics and the ever-evolving genre. It put me on the map with Presidential Politics I and II. (Let me suggest you go back and read them) Our world is sometimes “upside down,” but I like to try and make sense of it. I forecasted the coming of Barack Obama, but he’s in my political rearview mirror.
My friends who’ve been with me on this journey have blown-up (like I knew they would). While I may have been the lone voice in 2004, there are many new players, which I follow and you should too. The astute observations of these and others will give you pause. So, with this moment I want to point you to what we saw on our TV screens the last two weeks.
The desperate parts of the Democratic Party have decided it is time to coalesce around the idea of the bigger picture of defeating Donald Trump. They pulled out the “big guns” to make the point. “Donald Trump is not up to the job,” according to former President Barack Obama. While often elegant, they came with a vitriol which laid bare their contempt and a plan to implement. “We need to get back to normal,” exclaimed a number of speakers.
I was in Philadelphia when the Senator Bernie Saunders supporters revolted with the selection of Hillary Clinton. It was spontaneous and showed they were “not gonna take it anymore.” While they were argumentative at the Philly convention, a number of them “held their noises, to spike their faces,” to throw their lot with Clinton. It wasn’t enough of them in the long run. Grievance is a great motivator but it needs “meat on the bone,” to change minds.
It was this little sliver which the Trump campaign exploited. It came with targeted ads to African-American men, who are some of the most marginalized people on the plant. “Illegal immigrants are taking your jobs.” “What do you have to lose?” There was also foreign interference through social media which sowed distrust by suggesting by voting for Democrats wasn’t in your interest or “Bernie Saunders was robbed of the Democratic nomination.”
Here’s a conversation I had with Bret Schafer during a Council of Foreign Affairs Webinar on Disinformation and Election 2020, August 6, 2020. He is Fellow for Media and Digital Disinformation – Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund.
Charles Robinson: Last go around we had a lot of African actors… telling people that you don’t want to vote for Hillary or they were Bernie supporters or whatever. And then later, we found that they weren’t.
Bret Schafer: I wrote a paper for the Urban League last year about this. Some great research has been done by Kate Starbird at the University of Washington, who actually had mapped out before we knew about the internet research agencies targeting had mapped out the conversation on Twitter of Black Lives Matter activists and blue lives matter activists. And she’d sort of figured out the community who the influencers were the patterns of conversation. And once we had the list of accounts that were being used, you know, determined to be internet research agency accounts, she went back in and sort of colored in those dots in the network diagram. And they were dead center in the conversation on both sides, and we’re oftentimes the most polarizing voices. So, while there was obviously you know, legitimate sort of movement on both sides, you had the bad actors who were coming in just poisoning it just enough to move the needle a bit in one direction or the other. So that’s the concern.
There is also another aspect to this election season which isn’t being discussed that is down ballot races. Obama found out the hard way if you don’t have a majority in both chambers (Senate and the House) your agenda can become bogged down. Even if you win, the other party (these days), sees it as an opportunity to jam up the system – filibuster/investigations/
The selection of (D) Senator Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s Vice President puts the California representative on a trajectory we will all watch. Not since Shirley Chisolm, the only Black women to run for President, did another Black woman take the dare. Harris, “the Black girl from Oakland,” joined the initial race and soon flamed out. Harris, who is Black, has Indian and Jamaican parents (dumb to begin the question of who is Black) was selected to break that glass ceiling for being the first woman of color to be selected as a Vice Presidential nominee.
Black women are the mobilizers in the Democratic party. Her Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority roots and by extension the “Dive Nine,” and Howard University degree (HBCU) will serve her well. These untapped resources give hope and motivation to individuals who are members.
Black women will be the Democrats secret weapon. They made the difference in the Alabama US Senate race for Doug Jones. In the Pennsylvania, during the 2018 Mid-Term elections pollsters noted that only 1% of this group supported for Donald Trump (I’d like to know who they were). African-Americans got what they wanted in Kamala Harris. They will need to “turn up and turn out” if they are to be effective. One thing is for certain, they get “underneath the President’s skin.” He has shamed them, but they are resilient.
Shhh! There is a separate conversation going on for those who are “in the know,” engaged in Black conspiracy theories, and are susceptible to “things I heard on the internet.” There is a sense of being an “outsider” from Black folk who fall into these categories. Can Kamala Harris help an aging white man (77 yrs. – will be the oldest President if elected)? During the last election cycle nearly 94% African-Americans voted for Hillary Clinton. During the Obama years the number was nearly 98%. This four percentage has both the Democrats and the Republicans trying to create models of this silver of an electorate…it’s an older Black man.
Tyrone Martin is a 64-year-old Black man, he lives in Baltimore and is self-employed. Martin had few options after high school so he joined the military. He is a veteran of the first Gulf War and is emblematic of the group I call “The Other.”
This older Black male voter isn’t invited to swanky-parties. Some in his generation signed up join the service when there were few opportunities. You’ll see individuals like him employed as police officers, firefighters, and security officers. Many learned a trade and parlayed that into a business. They have a smart phone, but they don’t use in the way most millennials do (social media). They watched relatives face the indignities of “Jim Crow.” Martin and others have families and sent their children to college and are proud. You know them as Uncle, my sister’s crazy Brother, and “Junior/Pokey and dem.”
Watkins has watched the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. He shakes his head when I ask him, “Are they effective? “They have no idea what the rest of the world thinks about them.” He reminds me, “I always stand for the Star-Spangled Banner,” he wonders if those in the street would. The connections would seem obvious, but the divisions between BLM this older generation are being exploited and he knows it.
While he is not trapped in the inner city he is well aware others have few options. They get by because, “that’s what they know.” These are god fearing men…and that is the key. Wrapping politics with god has been difficult for the Democratic Party to break through. They are small in number, but through their eyes, they are seen as the other. Republicans love them, when no one else will.