Think you know why older black voters support Biden? I bet you don’t.

PBS NewsHour / YouTube How South Carolina s black voters 1578870994.jpg...
PBS NewsHour / YouTube

I’m not a black voter. I’m a white progressive/liberal/whatever Democrat with a smidge of Cherokee heritage. I don’t go to any church, black or otherwise, and most of the black folks I associate with are at work. (My wife and I are the next best thing to hermits. We don’t associate with anyone on a regular basis. Sue us.) So what the fuck do I know about why so many black Democrats support Biden?

I don’t. But Jason Johnson knows. Now, go read the article before you read the rest of my post, because everything that follows comes from it.

I found this article courtesy of a social media post by my pal Dusty, who introduced it thusly:

It’s a long piece, but far more informative in my opinion than the usual bloviating from rich white pundits trying to explain black voters’ steady and steadfast support for Joe Biden. Spoiler: it’s not because Mayor Pete’s gay.

I don’t much like the personal attacks on Joe Biden, regardless of the fact that I support several Democratic candidates before him in the primary (Warren tops my list, just to provide full disclosure). I really don’t like the attacks on the people who support him. “Soft.” “Short-sighted.” Or, echoing 2016 insults directed towards Clinton voters, “low-information” or just downright “ignorant.”

Really. Well, from my vantage point, the ignorance is displayed by the smug, self-satisfied jackasses who think that if folks like the ones in that photo above would just sit down and think reeeely hard — or even better, shut their cakeholes and listen to said jackasses progsplain why Sanders or Warren or whoever makes much more sense to support than Biden — then they would certainly change their minds and join the Ones Who Know Best.

What bothers me most is the disrespect. These voters are not short-sighted, or poorly informed. They are certainly not benighted idiots just waiting for someone to educate and instruct them. They have their reasons — valid reasons — why they support who they support. They know what those reasons are. And they WILL be respected.

Johnson writes:

[B]lack folks, especially retired black people, can be trusted to do a few things: go to church, consume nighttime dramas on network TV and watch a ton of MSNBC, and I regularly appear at one of those locations. More than any other group of people, older black folks seem to be rabid news consumers and they personally invest in the black anchors and journalists they see on TV. If your 60-year-old auntie recognizes me at Safeway she will inevitably ask me if Trump is going to get impeached, and how are Joy Reid, Elie Mystal, Zerlina Maxwell and Tiffany Cross doing…. Older black folks are watching, they’re engaged and they want Trump out of office by impeachment, election or God’s plan. Any way will work.

I embiggened that one part of the Johnson quote so the progsplainers could see it clearly. These folks are informed. Maybe better than you guys are. Maybe they’re not listening to Thom Hartmann or watching Democracy Now!, (or maybe they are!) but they’re keeping themselves very well informed, and you can be sure they’re not just watching Joy Reid on MSNBC. They have the same access to the internet that you have, and they’re using it.

Johnson and the staff of The Root reached out to a range of older black voters for their weekly summation of what’s going on with the election. Surprise!

Let me tell you up front, American journalists and pundits need to spend more time talking TO black seniors than ABOUT them. All the conventional wisdom out there about older black voters (they only like Biden because of Obama; only young people support Bernie Sanders; they don’t support Mayor Pete because he’s gay) was completely blown out of the water by our committee.

Let me sum up what Johnson found his committee of older black voters thought of some of the candidates, ranked in order of their preferences. (Did you read the article yet? Then turn around and read it first. I’m playing hell with Fair Use guidelines as it is; most of the good stuff won’t get quoted. You need to read it all.)

1. Biden:

Nobody liked him exclusively because of Obama, nobody liked him because they thought he had the best policies. The committee ranked him first this week because he’s the only candidate they thought had the experience and maturity to actually run the government, and serve black people’s interests.

One group member said:

I don’t think Biden will do a damn thing for black people. But he knows he needs black votes to win, so he’ll do what’s necessary for us. That’s better than most.

Johnson summed it up:

Committee members see their relationship with Biden as transactional, not trust and love; he’s the one Democrat that will owe black folks the most if he wins, and thus he’s more likely to deliver when he does.

The word that comes to my mind is “pragmatic.”

(I think Biden probably got more votes from this committee than any other two or three candidates combined, but I don’t see where Johnson provided the numbers. So I’m just guessing.)

2. Warren:

Pragmatism rules again. They generally like her and like her policy ideas, but the majority of them don’t think she can get it done.

First, most committee members don’t believe America will elect a female president against Donald Trump; second, they believe she probably can’t get half the things she’s promising passed.

3. Sanders:

Ooooh, some of you have been waiting for this. Well, it’s not what you may think.

[O]n our committee, Sanders comes in third, and he’s pretty popular with our black senior committee…

Really? Really. Their problem with Sanders is similar to their problem with Warren: they don’t think he can get elected, and they don’t think he can do what he says he wants done. Two committee members said:

Bernie would do more for black people than Biden, but he’s totally unelectable. Middle-class white people are not going for all that free shit. They say they will, but they don’t want to share with black folks or Latinos, so they always back out at the polls. They just won’t do it. Rich liberal white people like his plans in theory, but they won’t vote for a socialist.

Let’s say Bernie gets the nomination, the Democrats will have put up a black man, a white woman and a Jewish socialist, and that’s supposed to win back conservative working-class white men in the Midwest? Like his policies but he’s arrogant and not a winner.

Pragmatism again… (By the way, Johnson had a lot to say about the young black voters who are supposedly storming the gates on behalf of Sanders.)

By the way, this right here:

Middle-class white people are not going for all that free shit. They say they will, but they don’t want to share with black folks or Latinos, so they always back out at the polls.

is one of the most accurate and trenchant observations I’ve ever heard.

4. Steyer:

He’s surging with this crowd, too. Johnson writes about Steyer’s recent success in the South Carolina polls:

[I]f Steyer can come in, flash some cash and snatch your prom date that easily, maybe she just wasn’t that into you.


Several committee members ranked Steyer very high due to him putting his money where his politics are before getting into politics. This includes his work on climate change, impeachment, and especially his Beneficial State Bank Program to help black folks secure loans for housing. The committee believes that a white man who’d spend his own money to improve the lives of black people might actually do the same when it’s actually his JOB as president. Imagine that?

We’re gonna see about Steyer. Flash in the pan or One to Watch? I dunno yet. (Sidebar: My wife, who is half Jewish, half Cherokee, and half Klingon, supports him. I’ve learned that she is damn near clairvoyant and almost always right, so if she likes him, he’s likely going places.)

5. Yang:

He isn’t getting much love from this crowd. According to Johnson, Yang has not spent much time at all reaching out to voters of color, and this committee noticed. They don’t hate him, but they don’t spend much time thinking about him, either.

6. Booker:

You’d think he’d do better, wouldn’t you? Well, that’s your assumptions at work. Booker isn’t well liked or trusted by the committee. They know about him and Big Pharma, and they know about him as Mayor of Newark.

7. Klobuchar:

The committee is better informed than you may think, and they’re watching Klobuchar’s minor surge in the polls with suspicion.

[L]et’s remember that Klobuchar was just as aggressive a prosecutor as black folks claimed that Harris was and had just as bad if not a worse record when it comes to prosecuting corrupt cops and investigating shootings of unarmed black people.

It took Klobuchar a year to return the $1000 donation she received from Linda Fairstein. The committee noticed. She isn’t getting much traction here. Personally, I think the committee believes she’s working the same side of the aisle as Biden, and given the choice of the two of them, they’d much prefer Uncle Joe.

8. Bloomberg:

Johnson was surprised Bloomberg ranked this high. He believes it’s mostly because of the truckloads of money he’s spending on campaign ads. Johnson doubts Mayor Mike will get much more traction as time goes on.

9. Buttigieg: 

Ouch, Jason:

Old black people can be homophobic, old black people can be prejudiced; old black people can be sexist, and old black people can most definitely be judgmental as hell. But you know one thing black people most assuredly are not? Stupid. They know a kid who’s in over his head when the see one, and that’s what most of them thought of Mayor Pete. Lack of experience, no passion and most of them didn’t know what he stood for.

When the committee thinks of Mayor Pete, many of them think of police brutality. Not a winning look for the young feller.

The last one in the top ten list is Tulsi Gabbard. She doesn’t get a bold heading because I don’t wanna. They don’t like her much, but apparently her foreign policy chops put her higher than, say, Deval Patrick. Johnson spends what little time he has for her mocking the hell out of her. I would have, too.

I don’t know what you learned from this, but I learned, or had emphasized, the following:

These voters are smart.

These voters are well-informed.

These voters are cynical and hopeful all at once.

These voters are pragmatic.

Let me say that again. These voters are pragmatic.

So the next time you, dear reader, feel the need to disparage black voters, old or young, who support a more moderate candidate, step back, shut your cakeholes, and remember that the people you think just need an earnest talking-to from the likes of you…don’t. They know as much or more than you do. They’ve made a well-considered decision, and while you don’t have to agree with it, you should damn well respect it.

This applies to white, Latino, Asian and Native voters who like Biden et al, too. But you should already know that.

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2 Comments on "Think you know why older black voters support Biden? I bet you don’t."

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chris whitley
chris whitley

Yeah, Biden probably will at least acknowledge black peoples problems and assign someone to research it. I would hope that happens. I am from another minority, the disabled. When one minority gets help it helps others. And I do believe that black people are overdue for some real, substantial help.


Yes and growing up during the civil rights era we recognize a racist, lying, Pitiful leader. We call it like we see it.