The New York Times published two articles this weekend that I’m going to attempt to mash into a single story because together they do a great job of explaining the importance and complexity of the Black male vote.
It’s no surprise Biden has a huge lead among black male voters but Trump knows that if he can get just a few more black men to vote for him, particularly in the battle ground states, he can win again. Mr. Trump won roughly 13 percent of Black male voters in 2016, according to exit polls; some Trump advisers are aiming to get closer to 20 percent next week.
As a Black man, it’s one of the first times I’ve seen anyone pay any attention to Black men and consider us a difference maker, especially in politics where Black women are known to vote in greater numbers than us and have made the decisive difference in some big elections across America. There’s been all kinds of campaigns to woo Black women, but now, all of a sudden, Black men have become important.
On the ground and in TV ads, the candidates are in an intense and surprising battle for Black male voters. They worry that not enough Black men will cast ballots
Among some Black men, there is a belief that Mr. Biden carries similar baggage to Mrs. Clinton: a policy history that includes helping pass legislation that contributed to large increases in Black prison populations. What’s always missing from that statement is the timing of that legislation which happened to occur at the same time the streets were being flooded with drugs and guns. A lot of Black men involved themselves in the lucrative, dangerous, and criminal drug enterprise and were arrested in large numbers. Sadly, many other Black people including girlfriends, junkies, low level drug merchants and users were arrested and still sit in jails across America 25-years later. For that, Black folks have a right to be distrustful of the Bidens and Clintons of the world. Yet, those arrests also got some bad people off the streets and helped clean up some war torn neighborhoods.
But, many Black communities across America have yet to rebound and there are some Black folks who feel Democratic candidates are more concerned with winning Black voters than improving the conditions of Black communities.
“We’ve been voting for Democrats for 50 and 60 years and no progress”
Mr. Trump’s efforts — whether it’s showcasing Black speakers at the Republican National Convention, highlighting endorsements from Black rappers like Lil Wayne and Ice Cube, or emphasizing his support for historically Black colleges and universities — are attempts to cut into Mr. Biden’s share of Black voters.
People keep telling me Biden keeps coming to Chester. I learned from this article that Sharif Street, who is vice chair of the state Democratic Party, canvassed recently in Chester with John Kane, a white plumber running for State Senate, on a block that had low turnout in the last election. To Mr. Street, the battle was less about convincing Black voters in this city to vote for Democrats. It was simply convincing them to turn out.
Most of the people I talk to weren’t aware of Biden’s visit (I hear there was one today in Chester somewhere). How’d they miss including this Chester community journalist and other Chester social media influencers to cover their visits makes me wonder how well they know this community or how effective they intend to connect to this community.
Politics aside, Black men describe voting rationales as a complex web of race, gender and socioeconomic status, which is why this other article is so important.
The Democrats are the more feminine party: They’re willing to tax more and have bigger government because they’re willing to care for people. Republicans are more about rugged individualism, being independent and fending for yourself.
That quote couldn’t be more accurate when you consider the personality of the two candidates. One version of masculinity stresses toughness and the other a duty to protect the weak.
President Trump, in his personality and policies, has presented himself as hypermasculine: tough, plain-spoken, the patriarch who is unafraid to offend and unapologetic when he does. Joe Biden has emphasized family, empathy and caring for others — the loving, supportive and protective father.
There are Black men who like Trump because he appears to be tough and no nonsense, despite what appears to many other Black men as pure nonsense. Mr. Trump’s approach can be seen as a throwback to a time when men’s main role was to provide for and lead their family. Mr. Trump prioritizes strength and patriarchy.
There are a lot of Biden tropes that link up with masculinity — protecting, serving, sacrificing, being the rock that the family can depend on, yet, Trump has commercials with Mr. Biden embracing his son Hunter, and asked, “Does this look like an appropriate father/son interaction to you?” To counter that, Mr. Biden’s campaign suggests that not only can men express love for their family members, admit when they’re wrong and tear up in public — but that it’s also manly to do so.
Men, and Black men in particular, have strong views on masculinity and they fall everywhere on the scale between Biden and Trump. Many Black boys did not have a father figure in the home to emulate as they became men themselves. Some had fathers like Trump who don’t show any outward affection, are always right even when they’re wrong, can not take constructive criticism and feel keeping a roof over your head and food on your table is enough. Others had fathers like Biden who do show affection, care and concern, while going to great lengths to understand and relate to their sons while also providing for the family.
What it comes down to for some Black men who are voting for Trump is they believe ‘He’s a real man’ bases on their narrow view of manhood. The issues, insults, and ineffectiveness don’t matter. He just seems tough like them and that’s what they want to see in a president.
For the current candidates, their views of manhood are reflected in their policies and politics. Mr. Trump has continued to lead Mr. Biden with male voters. Now, in the final days of the campaign, both sides are trying to appeal to voters’ sense of what a man should be.
My favorite line from both articles is this…
…the candidates that voters are choosing between are both straight white men in their 70s, and versions of traditional men and fathers. No matter the outcome, it will be at least four more years before America is asked to consider any version of a leader that breaks that mold.
Black Men. Where do you fall on a scale between Biden and Trump?