Sean Yoes

By Sean Yoes
AFRO Senior Reporter
syoes@afro.com

Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of Americans were literally dancing in the streets after Joe Biden was declared President-Elect of the United States on Nov. 7, and many of those people were Black.

Honestly, I believe the fountains of elation spilling onto the streets of the nation (most deliciously thousands partied with abandon in front of the White House within eyeshot and earshot of Donald John Trump) was less about Biden’s ascension and more about Trump’s demise. But, the bottom line is none of those people would have been celebrating if Black people had not delivered the White House to Biden and the Democrats.

Facts.

It has been laid out in this column previously, but is worth repeating. Black people in Philadelphia delivered Pennsylvania for Biden and Black Atlantans delivered Georgia. Black Detroit overwhelmingly pushed Biden over the top in Michigan and Black residents in Milwaukee helped Biden and the Dems restore the so-called “Blue Wall” with the win in Wisconsin.

Further, the campaign of Joe Biden for president was on life support and he was on his way to his third Democratic Presidential Primary defeat, until South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the house majority whip put his arm firmly around Biden’s shoulder in February. Clyburn’s endorsement catapulted Biden to a massive victory in the South Carolina Primary and the former Vice President’s campaign never looked back.

“I know Joe. We know Joe. But most importantly, Joe knows us,” said Clyburn on that fateful day in February prior to the primary election.

But, Clyburn’s heroics represent only one episode (albeit a transformative one) in a myriad of them in the ongoing narrative of Black people saving the Democratic Party’s collective behinds at the ballot box over the decades.

Unfortunately, Black America’s seemingly unconditional love for the Dems has all too often been unreciprocated many would argue, beyond a lot of flowery words and symbolic policy prescriptions.

To make it plain, the Dems have run up a big bill with Black people and it is time for them to pay up. No more extensions. However, perhaps the muddy history of Black Americans and the Democratic Party should help inform the plausibility of any “promissory note” to borrow a phrase from Dr. King, being ratified.

For a large swath of the 20th Century, the Republican Party, “the Party of Lincoln” was the Party of Black America and the Democratic Party was the home of the Southern cracker, Segregationists and Dixiecrats. It was the Party that gave shelter to George Wallace, Strom Thurmond and Lester Maddox. But, that all changed almost overnight in 1964.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson was struggling to wrangle the votes in the Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In a nutshell, the Republican Party was really responsible for getting Johnson and the Civil Rights community, led by Dr. King to the finish line on the landmark legislation. The bill had 61% support from House Democrats, versus 80% support by Republicans. In the Senate it was Republicans who joined with Northern Democrats to break a filibuster by Segregationist Democrats in June 1964. When Johnson signed the measure into law on July 2, 1964, he allegedly told an aide, “We (Democrats) have lost the South for a generation.”

Fast forward to the “Southern Strategy” which welcomed disenfranchised Segregationists Democrats into the Republican Party implemented by Richard Nixon as he ascended to the White House in 1968. Any so-called Black agenda within the Republican Party was unceremoniously abandoned and died in the wake of Nixon’s victory. To oversimplify, most Black people fled to the Democratic Party by default and the vast majority have stayed out of necessity.

Black people are unquestionably an indispensable component of the Biden coalition and the Party that once embraced the Ku Klux Klan. And they have never had more leverage and political capital within it as the man whose political obituary was being written before Clyburn re-wrote the script in South Carolina, is now poised to occupy the Oval  Office.

Now is the time for Black Democrats to finally act accordingly.

Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Senior Reporter and author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor