As many prognosticators begin to coalesce around the prediction that Democrats will lose the Senate in the midterm elections, experts now believe that the future of the Senate may lie in the hands of the African-American community.
With its eyes on the fate of the Senate, the Congressional Black Caucus has launched a registration drive it is calling “Freedom Sundays,” modeled after the legendary — and bloody — Freedom Summer registration drive that took place in Mississippi 50 years ago during the Civil Rights Movement. The CBC is partnering with more than 3,000 Black churches across the country to register African-American voters.
Democrats are hoping the prediction models that show Republicans winning enough seats to take the Senate are not adequately counting the turnout of Black voters — just as many experts cited polls in 2012 predicting Republican challenger Mitt Romney would beat President Barack Obama because they undercounted the Black turnout.
As pointed out by Al Jazeera America, there are five battleground states that have significant Black populations that could shift the outcome of the election. They include Georgia and North Carolina, states with sizable Black populations where Democrats believe just a slight bump in Black voters could put them over the top. Though Obama lost Georgia by about 7 percentage points in 2012, which was a difference of about 300,000 votes, there has been such a steady influx of Blacks and Hispanics into Georgia that non-whites now make up almost 45 percent of the population.
Most of the electoral attention in Georgia has focused on Democrats Jason Carter, former President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, running for governor, and Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, running for U.S. Senator. If Democrats can increase their registration rolls by 3 percent, experts predict that the Democrats have a chance of beating their Republican opponents.
“Let me put it another way. … If just 50 Democratic voters per precinct who didn’t vote in 2010 get out and vote this November — just 50 per precinct — then Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter will win,” the Washington Post quoted first lady Michelle Obama saying at a recent voter registration rally in Georgia.
The Black population is 22 percent in North Carolina, where experts believe just an additional 1 percent of the Black vote would assuredly send incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan back to the Senate.
“The reality is, African-Americans and Black and brown folks have an opportunity to represent their interests in this election cycle,” Tristan Wilkerson, lead strategist and co-founder of Black and Brown People Vote, told Al Jazeera America.
The conventional wisdom has long been that African-Americans don’t turn out for midterm elections. The pattern was repeated again in 2010, which had a lower Black turnout after overwhelming numbers in 2008. The Black turnout was actually a higher percentage than the white turnout in 2012.
With the Freedom Sundays initiative, the Black churches will urge congregants to register before the Nov. 4 midterms.
“To be denied our voting rights is slavery imposed by others. To refuse to vote is self-imposed slavery,” Dr. Otis Moss Jr. of Faith Partnerships and pastor emeritus of Olivet Baptist Church, two participants in the Freedom Sunday initiative, wrote in a statement. “Our democracy is threatened by voter suppression and voter apathy. We face in the twenty-first century an ugly slavery by a new name.”
But as has happened over and over when Democrats come to the Black community with hat in hand, the question will remain: Will the Black community see any direct benefits when it hands its allegiance once again to the Democratic Party?