Why Democrats Need to Stop Blaming Black People for Election Losses

Georgia is one of the nation’s most diverse and politically divided states. With a Black population of 31 percent that was instrumental in the campaign to turn Georgia blue in the 2020 presidential election, Democrats were committed to increasing Black voter turnout for the 2022 midterm elections. While Democrat Stacey Abrams fell to Republican incumbent Brian Kemp in the bid for governor, this loss is not the fault of Black voters. Rather, it is the fault of the Democratic Party on two accounts: firstly, for using Black voters merely as pawns in their bid for political power, and secondly, for failing to address the lack of support from white women, a demographic which ultimately lost Abrams the election. 

Prior to the election, Democrats were anxious about Black voter turnout in contested states. According to a poll conducted by Politico in Nov. 2022, only 25 percent of registered Black voters were “extremely enthusiastic” about voting in the midterm elections. Georgia Democrats were also concerned about the voting behavior of Black men in the race for governor, which was primarily due to the belief that said demographic would not support Abrams’ less restrictive abortion policy. 

According to CNN, Abrams stated that abortion was an issue of healthcare and women’s autonomy that cannot be contested. Incumbent Kemp, on the other hand, backed Georgia’s six-week abortion ban that took effect after the reversal of Roe v. Wade. This ban is among the most restrictive abortion policies in the U.S., making reproductive rights a hot-button issue in Georgia. 

Democrats feared that abortion rights, and the election as a whole, would be jeopardized due to low Black voter turnout and unfavorable voting behavior. In fact, according to an interview conducted by NPR on Oct. 7, the fundamental criticism of Abrams’ campaign was her alleged failure to appeal to Black men, despite several policy initiatives that focused on Black Georgians specifically. 

Although Democrats assumed the election would be contingent on Black voters and, in particular, Black men, statistics prove that Abrams’ loss cannot be blamed on Black Georgians. According to NBC’s exit polls for the Georgia governor race, Black people constituted 28 percent of the voting population, which is nearly proportional to the Black population in Georgia. Furthermore, despite concerns that were perpetually voiced in the media, 84 percent of Black men voted for Abrams, just shy of the 93 percent of Black women who did the same. In contrast, only 27 percent of white women voted for Abrams. 

While the Democratic Party was not nearly as critical of white women’s voting patterns as they were of Black men’s, it was the former demographic that cost Abrams the election. 

In the race for Georgia governor, Democrats made two critical mistakes. The party could have taken the opportunity to combat voting ambivalence by emphasizing the importance of representing Black voices within government. Instead, Democrats fixated on the necessity to claim victory for the party as a whole, rather than for the historically disenfranchised Black vote.

By using this tactic, Democrats proved that they are only interested in Black voices in order to secure the midterms. They failed to emphasize Abrams’ policies that would improve the lives of Black Georgians, and they neglected to promise future candidates who would similarly represent and respect disenfranchised voters.

Prioritizing ignorant and dismissive political strategies over human rights and fair representation is not going to increase Black voters’ enthusiasm for voting. If anything, it is more likely to have the opposite effect: voter turnout could decrease in the future due to a general sentiment of frustration among Black voters in Georgia.

Additionally, the Democrats’ fixation on Black voter turnout resulted in a failure to appeal to the white women of Georgia, who ultimately decided the election. In spite of Democrats’ general assumption that women would be more likely to vote for a female candidate in support of abortion rights, an overwhelming majority of white, female voters were not swayed by the Democratic candidate.

To improve their odds in future elections, Democrats need to rid themselves of demographic stereotypes and focus on convincing the general public that their candidate is better than the alternative. The party must shift its attention to White, suburban women in historically Conservative states who have the potential to vote for a candidate that supports women’s rights, yet are choosing to vote red. Similarly, Democrats must cease to assume that Black people won’t vote, and instead encourage a high voter turnout by providing a candidate that genuinely resonates with voters. 

The race for governor in Georgia was a disappointing loss for reproductive rights and the Democratic Party. However, if Democrats want to remediate future races in politically divided states, they must eradicate demographically-based assumptions about voting behavior.