The One About Iowa, Black Voters and Barack Obama

Some Democratic presidential candidates have viewed an Obama-like Iowa victory as the key to helping them with black voters in other states. But the Obama campaign did a lot more than just win Iowa.

Comments: 44

  1. Now is the time for Bernie to take Iowa. His supporters are legion there, going back four years. And they have the energy to win.

  2. @Mike C. A 78 year old heart attack victim labeled as a socialist with multi trillion social engineering plans that no one supports is supposed to win a national election? Dream on........

  3. @Mike C. Give it up, Bernie is not going to be president.

  4. My God if there was any year in my lifetime where I'd expect the media and top political names to come together and reinforce the image of black voters as an inscrutable hive mind, and yes, this article is included, even if it claims to do otherwise (who knows, maybe there are some black voters who are "waiting for white people to tell them what to do". We're all different), I wouldn't have guessed it be the beginning of the third decade of the new millennium.

  5. I've always thought the take-away from Iowa in 2008 was strange. It did seem paternalistic, but also focused that paternalism on the wrong voters. In point of fact, I think it needs to be viewed through a lens that considers white voters' racism, or more accurately white voters' estimations of other white voters' racism. When Obama won in Iowa, I think it was a permission slip for white voters to vote for the guy they actually liked - Obama. It was like, "Oh good - everyone isn't as racist as I thought they were."

  6. "In a new national poll released by ABC News and The Washington Post, 51 percent of black voters were behind Mr. Biden" It's interesting to note that Biden was recently given an "F" by the Center for Urban and Racial Equity on their Racial Justice Presidential Scorecard, while Warren and Buttigieg, who are struggling to gain traction with black support, were given an A- and a B+ respectively.

  7. @Jennifer And Bernie got a B+. Which I'm not sure how anyone would forget Bernie, but this IS the NYT...

  8. Black voters are spoken about in the media as though they are a single, monolithic entity. They are not. Forget Iowa. This election is about getting rid of Trump. None of the people on the debate stage will do that. He is far too strong and powerful for any of them. Biden is considered the least distasteful of all the Dems on the stage. I cringe when I watch him speak. Way past expiration date and not the old fighting Joe; now he is a rerun. Mike Bloomberg is the only one who can unite all of us and get the job done. He is now fourth in national polls and second in Florida after Biden. We need to win Pa, NC, Wisc. Michigan and Florida. Mike will do that handily. He is now campaigning nationally to get rid of Trump. All on his own dime. Beholden to no one but all of us. A real patriot and leader. Just want we need.

  9. @Simon Sez I think you mean "beholden to no one but himself."

  10. @Simon Sez Stop-and-frisk Mike? He may be a plus for whites, for blacks not so much. Bloomberg is another Trump.

  11. @Lynn in DC No he is not.

  12. Here is an open secret in the Black American community: Michelle Obama won the black community for her husband. That’s it. The dynamics of this race are very different. Learn whatever you can certainly but the one who wins Iowa will not go on to receive blanket support from Black Americans.

  13. First there really are very few African Americans in Iowa, and second, they face different challenges than their peers in the South. So, I think this analysis is of limited relevancy.

  14. Tell me again, how many black folks live in Iowa? Enough already with the crystal-ball gazing about Black Americans and how and why WE vote. There are approximately 42 Million of us. This one has been voting 46 years and every 4, there are too-many-to-count articles just like this one: How can candidates *appeal* to the Black-Vote. Candidates scrambling to Black Churches, diners,NAACP one city or another...and writers posing the same questions.... Stop already and just allow us to vote like everyone else. does.

  15. @Candlewick Well said.

  16. It's 'racist, racial paternalism' to suggest that electability is an issue of particular importance to black voters? Here's the fact: we have a white nationalist authoritarian in the White House. He treats blacks (among others) as less-than. I find that unacceptable, even though I'm privileged by it. I will vote for whomever the Democrats nominate. In the primary, I'll vote for whatever candidate I view most likely to succeed in the general election. That's my PRIMARY criteria. So I'm watching Iowa (and other things) for clues as to who can most likely succeed in November. The suggestion that black people aren't primarily concerned with replacing the white nationalist authoritarian with someone, anyone else is what's racist. We're to presume that black people are shopping for a candidate who caters to their particular concerns? That's racist. First, it implies that blacks are too dumb to see the elephant in the room - the white nationalist. Second, it implies that beyond racism, there are some 'particular concerns' of black people that aren't shared by white people. Exactly what are those concerns that have nothing to do with racism? I'll be the first to agree that in 2008, black voters were likely not primarily motivated by which candidate seemed most electable. But in 2008, we weren't looking at the re-election campaign of a white nationalist.

  17. "Another recent poll of black voters from The Washington Post and Ipsos, showed Mr. Biden ahead by 60 percentage points with black voters aged 65 and older." Biden has tried to cut Social Security for 40 years and now says he will increase it. I wonder if the Blacks supporting him believe what he is now espousing? He has also said he would work with Republicans to get things done and Republicans would love to cut Social Security. In fact, Trump's new budget proposal has a cut in Social Security of 25 Billion over the next 10 years.

  18. The main problem I have with this story about the voting intentions of blacks in South Carolina: Not until the very end does it bother to quote actual black people in South Carolina. The piece is mainly a series of guesstimations by the DC political consulting class who lost Democrats the last election -- when the opponent was a reality TV star. I know that people like Valerie Jarrett are prominent establishment voices, but they are the spokespeople for a class of Democrats that many people are no longer interested in being led by, and increasing numbers of black Americans, as they become more politically informed this time around (thank you, Internet; thank you black political shows on YouTube), are pulling back the wool from their eyes regarding the Democratic party establishment.

  19. Maybe if certain Democratic candidates stopped condescending to black (and other nonwhite) voters, they wouldn’t be sliding in the polls. Sanders 2020

  20. The establishment might get caught off guard at how well Sanders does with blacks in SC and across the country. While the establishment candidates follow their consultants' advice and sit for the "obligatory" black-church photo-ops, the Sanders campaign has been focusing on black barber shops and salons. As a black person, I can assure you: not all black people go to church, but nearly all black people go to a black salon or barber. And it's proving to be effective. Biden is still polling well with black grandparents, but do not underestimate the influence that their progressive black grandchildren can have on them before they go to the polls.

  21. @dcbcn Great comment.

  22. @dcbcn Agreed. From my experience, black, albeit primarily younger, voters are some of the most progressive people I have met. Bernie does not receive credit for how diverse his campaign staff is and for how diverse his voting coalition is.

  23. @dcbcn I want a candidate to do more than show up at the church or barbershop every few years, discuss sneakers with Desus and Mero, and nail polish with Cardi B. These actions are called pandering and mean nothing to voters.

  24. This is simply wishful thinking and wrong. If Obama got nowhere in Iowa (because the state is so white or whatever) he would have SURELY done much worse in South Carolina. The author does not seem to appreciate how skeptical blacks were of Obama going into the race. He doesn't seem to know about the challenges Obama's faced in Chicago, the south side, appealing to black communities. (I grew up there.) Rebranding and mainly "redistricting" there (supported by machine politics) is what finally gave Obama a victory to allow him to go downstate and then onto Washington, where his nationwide marketability (mainly among whites) put him in the political pipeline. Obama was trounced by Bobby Rush in that all-telling district race. Danny Davis knew what Obama needed do to get past skeptical blacks into greener (or whiter) pastures. Obama surely feels nothing but love toward Iowans today... though he did need to promise a huge Farm Bill and whole lot of corn/bioethanol production to get there.

  25. “Black voters aren’t waiting for white people to tell them what to do,” Mr. Belcher said. “It’s racist. It’s racial paternalism.” Pretty funny. All these white folks desperately trying to figure out how to connect with black voters. Maybe they should have shown some interest in issues that matter to black voters before now? Maybe the should actually care now? And not just troll for votes?

  26. The vast majority of African Americans vote Democratic regardless, so its unlikely that it will matter come the general election. With regards to the primary, Biden’s lead among African American primary-goers appears insurmountable. If Sanders can mobilize his base, it’ll be a drawn-out nomination battle; but my money is on the older African American demographic that supports Biden, and turns out to vote more regularly

  27. Black voters are focused less on who is "electable" and more on which politicians offers policies to meet their needs as the South Carolinians noted in the article. Elections are a two-way street. Democrats want to take the black vote and then give a whole host of benefits to illegal aliens at the expense of black people. There is zero reason for black voters to support that. Trump has few black supporters but the Democrats have given us no reason to support them either.

  28. @Lynn in DC First of all, immigrants are not aliens. That's your first insult and secondly, Democrats do not want to give a host of benefits to illegals at the expense of black folks. Sounds like you've been watching fox.

  29. Good job parroting the divide and rule lies of the ruling rich, and their twin parties. Immigrants are not to blame for Main Street and Wall Street racism against Black workers. Working people, Black, white, Latinos, etc. need our own party to fight for our own interests. Democrats and Republicans are nothing more than millionaires who serve billionaires. Obama, Bush, Trump and Clinton, all millionaires, have more in common than they do with any workers. Until we do have our own party the vast majority of workers will continue to abstain from the electoral farce. Makes no difference to us who they pick to be our executioner.

  30. @J. Faye Harding An alien is a person who is not a citizen of a host country. If that person is in a host country illegally, he/she is an illegal alien, not an insult but a fact. I don't have to watch Fox, all I have to do is listen to what the Democratic candidates say and they have said it is all about the immigrants. Well, let the immigrants vote for them then.

  31. All the emphasis, time, energy, and money spent, on Iowa, with only a trivial 0.9% of American population, not a representative sample of America, is a corruption, disenfranchisers the rest of us.

  32. It is foolish to continually rely on Iowa and New Hampshire as first-in-the-nation litmus tests for presidential candidate support. They are not the least bit representative of the USA. The whole campaign season is too long. We should have either one national primary day or 4 regional primaries. Definitely should have ranked ordered preferences. This will hopefully provide a more accurate reflection of voter preferences, eliminate the influence of the lunatic fringe on the right and left, and move us away from the endless campaigning. Although good for voters, it probably would be challenged by consultants and talking heads.

  33. Mr Obama resonated with black voters because, first and foremost, he was black. It's really that simple. Being a really good public speaker helps as well. Democrat's segmentation of the electorate into aggrieved groups has a side effect of creating single issue voter blocks. And in a very crowded primary like the current one the outcome can be anything but certain.

  34. @Mark How condescending. Mr. Obama resonated with black voters because he was well educated, young, positive, hopeful and spoke to peoples' concerns. You must have voted for Trump because he's white. Stop insulting black people like we aren't educated enough or smart enough to look at the same issues that matter to you and others who aren't black.

  35. We're talking about Black voters in SC because the primary is coming up. But honestly, I am more interested in the Black voters of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, all of which vote after Super Tuesday. These are the voters that will decide whether we elect a Democrat. SC is a deep red state with only 9 electoral votes. None of our current candidates are going to get elected out of SC. Wisc, Mich and Penn have 46 electoral votes that are very much in play. And there are tons more Black people in those states than in SC. Stay focused folks.

  36. @Cousy Absolutely. I’m dead tired of reading about Iowa and New Hampshire. So they’re first. Big Deal. They mean about as much as Kansas. And about as exciting.

  37. Black voters are not a monolith.

  38. Despite the usual dose of race baiting by Mr. Cornell Belcher, the fact is that in 2008 most Blacks and people in general were dubious as to the feasibility of a Black candidate being elected by most whites. That was based on over 100 years of history, not the opinions of some election hucksters. When Obama won Iowa and that sea of white faces cheered him on then the possibility that a Black candidate could actually win became real. That galvanized many in the Black community who had been dubious. That's not paternalism, or racism. That is simply what happened. Today none of the Democrat candidates have any chance of igniting support among Black working people. Not because they are not Black but because they have no program that addresses the real problems faced by all working people and in particular Blacks. The vast majority of working people, Black and white, will again abstain in this coming election seeing no difference between the two parties of millionaires that serve billionaires.

  39. @AR As a black woman I’ve tried , unconvincingly, explaining how I left Hillary and became an Obama supporter after he won Iowa. I just had a hard time putting the feelings into words that led me to support Obama eventually. Many other black friends of mine felt exactly like I did before Obama won Iowa. And came to support his candidacy with fervor afterward. You’ve done a great job of putting it all into words that capture the movement and metamorphoses of Obama’s eventual black support. thank you!

  40. Bernie and Elizabeth Warren, allegedly so democratic, spend a huge amount of time, money, and energy, on an essentially unrepresentative State, under representing urban and minority voters, 0.8% of the American population. Extremely undemocratic.

  41. The topic I always find interesting and ignored is how Republicans are*connecting* with Black voters? Could it be, they simply have no interest in connecting...except in the most specious manner. Please do (someone?)- write about the "GOP Outreach Express" for the hearts & minds of America's 40 million Black Americans.

  42. This article makes a very good point, but I think it comes up short on two fronts: 1) By treating Sanders's press secretary as the face of the argument the article is trying to debunk, and then transitioning directly to a section about how organizing and appealing directly to black voters in SC is important, the connection one might naturally draw is that the Sanders campaign is not undertaking such an organizing effort. This is flatly false: Sanders has worked hard over the last four years, and especially the last few months, to broaden his appeal, and has spent significant resources on meeting voters where they are. This has included sending campaign staff and surrogates (Nina Turner, Philip Agnew) to South Carolina, winning many more endorsements from leaders this time around, and working hard on his policy agenda on this front as well. This isn't to say that it will (or should) necessarily work, but the contrast set up in the article is incomplete at best. 2) Black voters are not monolithic. Sanders now leads among black voters in recent polls in California, where the campaign has also worked hard to make inroads among activists and leaders.

  43. “Black voters aren’t waiting for white people to tell them what to do.” I would have thought that black people weren’t waiting for white people to tell them what NOT to do as well. I say that as a black person who expected an immediate pushback over what was transparently a narrative being constructed by white people on behalf of their preferred candidates that not only depended on blacks being a monolithic bloc, but also especially susceptible to racial innuendo of nebulous substance. It was such an open level of contempt for black agency that I assumed would be as viscerally offensive to others as it was to me. Unfortunately it seems I was wrong so far.

  44. Why do 60% of black voters over 65 endorse Biden. Over 50% of black voters on Social Security depend on Social Security for 90% of their income. Warren and Sanders have Social Security expansion plans that would significantly help them, in effect at least addressing the legacy of racism because elderly blacks livelihoods were more damaged by racism. Biden has suggested in the past halting Social Security increases temporarily, raising the eligibility age,and recalculating the COLA to the detriment of SS beneficiaries. So why is this paradox not addressed, and could reflect the inadequacy of political coverage of actual issues effecting the lives of people