Millions of White voters are once again showing who they are and – spoiler – it’s not really that great for America, but in particular for Black and brown people.
The miasmic uncertainty hanging over the 2020 presidential election, as hundreds of thousands of legal votes in key battleground states continue to be counted, is damning, even if Democrat Joe Biden ekes out a victory.
For one thing, despite four years of President Donald Trump – that is, of a man who has made White nationalism a central part of his administration and whose abject negligence in the face of a pandemic has contributed to more than 230,000 dead – millions of voters are turning out for him.
White voters, especially. While early exit polls (which, it’s important to underscore, are notoriously mercurial) indicate that Trump may receive slightly more support from voters of color this year than he did in 2016, the more significant story is that his White base seems sturdy.
As the political scientist Melanye Price wrote in October of the Trump campaign’s efforts to court Black men, “Even if Black male Republican support increases in 2020, most of the responsibility for a second Trump victory will be attributable to White voters.”
Indeed, one thing that this week has clarified is the lengths to which many White Americans are willing to go in order to protect their Whiteness, to centralize it, even after a summer that saw unprecedented support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
But that’s only a piece of why the election is so shameful.
That the contest appears as tight as it does speaks to the relative success of the Republican Party, the minority party, at holding on to power via maneuvering such as disenfranchisement, gerrymandering and voter suppression, which disproportionately affect voters of color, who overwhelmingly back the Democratic Party.
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For instance, one state that had pundits on edge was Florida. Many wondered whether it might go into Biden’s column, given the direction of preelection polling. Ultimately, Trump won the state by a few percentage points. His victory, though, was helped by the fact that many people didn’t have access to the ballot box.
After 65% of Floridians voted in 2018 to restore voting rights to former felons, the state’s “Republican-led legislature and governor then decided to overrule the will of the voters by creating new obstacles for former felons to vote, especially paying fees and fines,” Julio Capó Jr. and Melba V. Pearson wrote on Tuesday for The Washington Post, calling the move “a 21st-century version of Jim Crow.” “In many ways, it amounts to a poll tax by a new name. Some estimates indicated 1.4 million Floridians would have received their right to vote back. But as a result of the legislature’s actions, only about 300,000 of them were eligible to register to vote.”
Similarly, the Mississippi Free Press’ Ashton Pittman recently reported that, over the summer, election officials in Madison County “quietly rezoned” 2,000 mostly Black and Hispanic voters out of a majority-White precinct into a cramped majority non-White precinct with few parking spaces, in what many believe was an attempt to make the area solidly Republican.
“My view is that this is being done to discourage minorities from voting,” Carol Mann, a Democratic candidate for District 1 election commissioner, told the Mississippi Free Press. “These streets and these apartment complexes, and I can tell you having gone through all of them and knocking on doors in this area, are vastly majority African American.”
While galling, these two elements of the election – White voters’ buoying of Trump, the jockeying of a minority party to maintain control of a country that increasingly rejects it – aren’t surprising. Arguably, they reveal what America has always been.
Or as the African American studies professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. says in a video that’s been recirculating this week, “It’s easy for us to place it all on Donald Trump’s shoulders. … (But) this is us.”