‘Tis the season! Every four years as we head into a presidential election cycle, it’s the gift that keeps on giving: the political narrative that always asks, “What are Black voters going to do? Will they show up for Democrats?”
Headed into 2024, the narrative is no different. While Black voters — and particularly Black women — are still likely to be the Democratic Party’s most loyal and consistent base in November, there are signs that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are facing headwinds on the path to reelection. Among the challenges the campaign faces is not just whether Black voters will turn out for them, but whether some of them will turn out at all.
And it’s not just Black voters; Democrats are generally worried about voter enthusiasm and apathy, and polling suggests some of the hand-wringing may be warranted. The stakes could not be higher, with the future of democracy hanging in the balance as former President Donald Trump — who said earlier this month that he would be a “dictator on Day One” if reelected — remains the front-runner for the GOP nomination next year.
The Biden-Harris administration has had mixed results on key priorities for Black voters, coming up short on passing federal legislation on voting rights, gun reform and criminal justice, but securing record funding for historically Black colleges, record low unemployment and the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. In the years since he has been out of office, Trump has continued to claim the 2020 election was stolen, largely by voters of color in battleground states. He also faces criminal charges for his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, a move to attempt to overturn the election results to preserve Trump’s presidency.
The former president has already signaled his plans to subvert how government and our democracy works if reelected, making the 2024 contest feel existential.
To win, Democrats will need to reach voters early, including the Black voters who often complain candidates show up too late, focused on their output and not their input. Presidential and other campaigns have to do this work, but it’s an organizing model that is getting a new member. The new Renegade Collective is focused on the South — where most Black Americans live and vote — both for 2024 and for the longer term. It’s made up of a group of political strategists who helped Stacey Abrams build the winning coalition that flipped Georgia from red to blue in 2020 and 2022 — and brought Abrams within striking distance of becoming the first Black woman to be elected governor in 2018 and 2022.
Now, they’re betting they can replicate that success outside of Georgia.
“There was a feeling after the election that there’s still work to be done, that our democracy is still under attack and we had put together a formula that helped increase voter participation in a way that hadn’t been seen … in terms of really thinking about folks who don’t typically engage in the process and really finding ways of making them feel like they were a part of the conversation, that they were relevant and they mattered,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams’ former campaign manager and member of the new Renegade Collective.
Organizers with the Abrams team were among those who bucked the traditional turnout-focused campaign strategy of chasing more reliable voters who could be counted on to show up on Election Day. Instead, they looked to expand the electorate by focusing on “low-propensity” voters, people who didn’t participate regularly in the electoral process and who were mostly seen by campaigns as not worth the effort or outreach.
This included Black voters who were previously unregistered or otherwise less engaged, but it was also about putting together a coalition that was multiracial, intergenerational, both rural and urban, and largely disaffected. An approach that centered their priorities — and not the candidates — was the persuasion argument that helped deliver seismic political victories for Democrats in Georgia in 2020 and 2022. The coalition was the culmination of a decade of work that helped turn Georgia blue for the first time in a generation, electing Biden and Harris, and two history-making Democratic U.S. senators.
This column first appeared in The Amendment, a new biweekly newsletter by Errin Haines, The 19th’s editor-at-large. Subscribe today to get early access to future analysis