Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said she believes if Black men in the state vote for her in the upcoming election, she would secure a win, while experts say Abrams’ victory lies within a broader base, Black male votes have not always been a guarantee for Democratic candidates in the state.
While recent polls show that Abrams is 10 percent below the ideal 90 percent of the Black vote she needs to topple her Republican opponent, political scientist Tammy Greer said there were 2.5 million voters who didn’t cast ballots in 2018 when Abrams first competed against incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp that are up for grabs.
Just 900,000 of those registered voters were Black, Greer said, and most of them were not necessarily Black men.
“There are a plethora of votes that are left on the table, not just with Black men,” Greer, a political science professor at Clark Atlanta University, told Atlanta Black Star.
Voter turnout in 2018 among Black women was 56 percent and 44 percent among Black men. Abrams was about 17,000 votes short of defeating Kemp. Reports show 97 percent of Black women voted for Abrams. However, exit polls showed 8 percent to 11 percent of Black men voted for Kemp in 2018. Current polls show she is less favorable among all likely male voters, 57 percent to 33 percent, with 10 percent undecided.
Abrams is committed to outreach to Georgia’s diverse voting demographic in her campaign, meeting with various groups to pitch her plan for the state face to face. On July 31, Abrams spoke to a room full of over 100 Black men about her experience, plans to curb violent crime, public safety, criminal justice and economic opportunity, Yahoo News reported. She also answered questions, opening the discussion to the audience’s chosen topics.
“If Black men vote for me, I will win Georgia,” Abrams said at the “Stacey and the Fellas” event at Forks & Flavors, a Black-owned eatery in Cobb County.
Georgia Black voters tend to vote within the Democratic line, consistent with the typical Black vote in the country. State election data show that Black people account for 29 percent of Georgia voters. In addition, Census data show the state added over a million new residents over the past decade, most of whom are non-white. Still, Black people are not monolithic.
Black men voted for former Republican President Donald Trump in the double digits in 2020.
Greer said some candidates make the mistake of limiting Black voters to “issues that stem from negativity” such as criminal justice, assuming they could be a “catch-all” for the voting bloc. However, without solutions, Greer said it revives trauma and reinforces apathy or distrust in the voting system.
Recent Morehouse College graduate Jordan Tune said he is committed to voting Democrat because the party aligns with his current principles.
“I vote for and champion those that are fighting for equality, that are fighting for an equal chance for all the people that they cover, and that’s why I tend to vote Democrat,” Tune told Atlanta Black Star.
As the prospective first Black female governor in the country, Abrams has a unique platform to approach Black men. Tune believes Abrams likely understands issues more than her opponent because she is the same race. Tune said outside of abortion rights, maternal care and equal pay, Black women and Black men have the same policy concerns.
“I think we’re all facing a lot of the same issues with taxes, inflation, and things like that,” Tune said. “We all need a solution that doesn’t try to separate us but can really bring us together to overcome them.”
Professor Levar Smith is Morehouse’s academic program director of political science and urban studies. He said Black Americans have largely seen the Democratic Party as a party of opportunities, especially small business owners. As for Abrams, Smith believes she has to overcome the urban-rural divide, directly targeting younger Black male voters in the urban areas that are undecided, who are looking for jobs and pursuing entrepreneurship.
Smith told Atlanta Black Star Abrams could “curry favor with African-American men” by collaborating with members of the clergy and 100 Black America of Atlanta and other similar groups.
There is also a sector of Black male conservatives that don’t agree with an enhancement of power among Black women and that it stifles the growth of Black men. According to Greer, the concept hinges on the 1965 Moynihan Report that concludes that a rise in Black single motherhood stunts economic progress in Black families.
“That has been revisited in whispering campaigns on social media in some spaces between and among Black men,” she said. “So, there has to be an understanding of what that does, particularly if that targeted group of Black men is looking at their own individual situation and circumstances and who are, who may be susceptible to that language.”
Candidates should also avoid overpromising on the campaign trail, Greer added. While an optimistic view could increase voter turnout, promising a specific piece of legislation could be a slippery slope for any Democratic state candidate in Georgia because of the Republican-led Legislature. Smith is optistimic that Abrams can build the right relationships to address some of the changes Democrats have pushed during the current administration, including higher teacher pay, more K-12 education funding, public safety and employment.
Morehouse political science professor Adrienne Jones said that Black women have been pivotal to Democratic races. They have not only been loyal to the party, but they also mobilize others to vote.
“Whereas, over the last decade, I have never heard that Black men are doing that. It’s very similar to the civil rights movement,” Jones told Atlanta Black Star. “You’ve got Black male leadership, but the on the ground, the grunt stuff, the bulk of the stuff that’s happening underwater is women.”
Experts agree that Abrams needs Georgians from every voting demographic to secure a win. Still, Smith said Abrams’ statement puts Black men in a tough position — “in this juxtaposition that if you do not vote for Stacey Abrams, then you’re against Black women.”