By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
mgray@afro.com

“All politics are local,” is an axiom that signifies what makes voting rights such a hot button topic that Democrats and Republicans disagree on. More often than not, it is a rallying point for local politicians to step onto center stage during midterm elections, where the electorate goes into the voting booth casting ballots for races from state legislatures to city councils and school boards.

While local races are traditionally known for being more about popularity than policy, when there are significant issues that need immediate change outside the homes where voters live, they are compelled to exercise their civic duties. While most gubernatorial, mayoral, state legislative, city and county council races occur in the cycle between presidential elections, the atmosphere surrounding the electoral process is different, though just as important.

The Black vote is key in all elections, including midterm elections, which are important in addressing local and federal issues, such as redistricting, and could ultimately affect results of general elections. (Courtesy Photo)

According to a report, Black candidates may do a better job of speaking to issues that affect Black communities, while advancing existing policies that speak to working class and marginalized Americans. Contrarily, when Black voters believe their interests are not met, they may not vote because of dissimilar interests or as a source of protests for the inequalities embedded in the political process.

The political appeal of a presidential general election is traditionally a rallying point for galvanizing the African-American vote. Record turnouts of Black voters in 2008 and 2012 led to Barack Obama’s two-term presidency and the bloc’s apathy in 2016 swung the election to the direction of Donald Trump.

However, the conservative power base in Congress changed the dynamics of the nation in the 2010 midterm elections. When Republicans gained control of the United State Senate, the battles on Capitol Hill led to massive gridlock and filibustering. These contentious debates led to right-leading policies that set the tone for the climate of the times.

Republicans gained Senate seats, but couldn’t gain a majority in that chamber. In the House of Representatives, Republicans won a net gain of 63 seats, which was the largest shift in seats since the 1948 elections. During state elections, the GOP gained six gubernatorial seats and flipped control of 20 state legislatures, which began the process of redistricting that occurred following the 2010 United States Census.

According to a NAACP report, the Democratic gains in 2018 across the country were attributed to Black voters. That election was seen as a referendum on Trump. Black voters see the 45th President and the current GOP as divisive, racist, and a step back for the nation. Nonetheless, the majority of White voters continued to fall in line and supported Republicans.

“There is one thing unequivocally clear about the data from this recent poll: if America is to become a democracy reflective of its ideals of liberty, opportunity and justice for all, it cannot do so without embracing, engaging and valuing the Black voter and voters of color, particularly Black women,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson stated in the report. “This poll confirms that Black voters and the issues which motivate them can only be ignored at your own peril.”

If there is a window into the soul of the 2020 general election, the 2018 post-midterm statistics reflect the impact of how voters of color have to be galvanized for a return to home by the Democrats in the Oval Office.  A new poll of mid-term voters, conducted by the African American Research Collaborative (in collaboration with Latino Decisions and Asian American Decisions), concluded that it will depend on voters of color, particularly Black voters.

“Black voters and other voters of color have reacted strongly against Trump, but also against the Republican party as it embraces Trumpism,” said Henry Fernandez, Principal, African American Research Collaborative. “This was demonstrated in the 2018 midterms, as a majority of White voters supported Republican candidates, but Democrats won across the country as voters of color turned out in record numbers.”