Want to beat Trump in 2020? These are the voters you need and I can get them, Booker says.

Posted Sep 2, 2019

WASHINGTON — Sure, Donald Trump became president after capturing three states a Republican hadn’t carried in two decades, thanks in part to white working class voters who backed Barack Obama four years earlier.

But Cory Booker says that’s not why Trump won in 2016, and for the Democrats to pick the 2020 presidential candidate they believe has the best shot to win back those voters would be a mistake.

Instead, says Booker, who trails the early frontrunners in opinion polls, Democrats need to find a nominee who can get more blacks to cast ballots. Thats what electability means, he says.

“Most of the time, when somebody is asking about electability, they’re not asking about the African American voters who make up the most reliable constituency of the Democratic Party," Booker told the National Urban League at its Indianapolis conference in July. “The truth we need to understand is that we cannot beat Donald Trump unless we have a large turnout in the black community.”

South Carolina Democratic political consultant Antjuan Seawright said Booker’s strategy is to redefine what it means to electable.

“What Cory’s trying to do is remind people that electability looks different for different people," Seawright said. “Electability is subject to whatever people think electability looks like. There’s no broad definition. We have to inspire, we have to engage and we have to give people a reason to turn out.”

Four years ago, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton got 89 percent of the black vote, according to network exit polls reported by CNN.

But fewer African Americans went to the polls in 2016 than four years earlier, when Obama was re-elected with a majority of the vote. Black turnout dropped to 59.6 percent after a record-high 66.6 percent in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center.

“The pathway to defeating Donald Trump must include energizing Democratic voters who stayed home because of lack of motivation, Republican suppression, or Russian interference efforts in 2016," campaign spokesman Tom Pietrykoski said.

"Cory’s record and strengths as a candidate make him uniquely able to inspire these voters to turn out and vote in 2020, particularly African-Americans and young voters in key swing states.”

Booker never fails to remind audiences that he lives in an inner-city neighborhood in Newark. His fight for overhauling criminal justice laws is rooted in the fact that minorities are more likely to wind up in prison. He has offered detailed proposals to help lift people out of poverty, such as “baby bonds,” in which every child would get a $1,000 bond at birth and lower-income children would get additional payments every year, and offering tax breaks for low-income renters.

Booker’s effort to reframe the argument over electability is designed to draw another contrast with former Vice President Joe Biden, who is considered more moderate than many of the other Democrats in the presidential race and therefore more likely to appeal to Obama-Trump voters.

There were three million white working class voters who supported Obama in 2012 and then Trump in 2016, according to an analysis of Cooperative Congressional Election Survey data.

The survey, conducted out of Harvard University, was analyzed by Ali Valenzuela, a professor of politics at Princeton University; Loren Collingwood, a political science professor at the University of California, Riverside; and Tyler Reny, a doctoral candidate in the Political Science Department at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The question still to be answered is how many of those voters can be convinced to return to the Democratic fold by Biden or anyone else.

“There may not be enough Democratic white working class voters to be meaningful," said Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University and author of a book that focused on the 2002 Newark mayoral race between Booker and incumbent Sharpe James. “Meanwhile, you have this whole other group. You don’t mobilize them enough. It would make more sense to try to meet those voters where they are because they are more likely to be Democratic voters.”

Democrats, though, continue to consider Biden the most electable. In an August CNN poll, 54 percent of Democratic voters and those leaning Democratic said nominating someone to beat Trump was their top priority, and 35 percent of them picked Biden, more than any other candidate.

Biden has built his lead partially on the strength of black voter support, ahead of both Booker and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California.

In a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday, Biden was backed by 46 percent of black Democrats. Harris and Booker polled 7 percent and 3 percent respectively.

Booker has tried to peel off some of that support by challenging Biden’s role in passing the 1994 crime bill, which critics said helped fill prisons with minorities convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.

Harris also has talked about redefining electability.

“The conversation too often suggests certain voters will only vote for certain candidates regardless of whether their ideas will lift up all our families," Harris told the Detroit chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in May. “We cannot let ourselves be drawn into thinking in those boxes or falling into those assumptions. We cannot get dragged into simplistic narratives or yesterday’s politics.”

Matthew Hale, a political science professor at Seton Hall University, said Booker’s stronger claim is that he can attract voters from all over.

“Booker’s better argument is that he can improve turnout in the black community and appeal to white suburban and white working class voters,” Hale said. “Booker can do that because he is not as liberal as others in the race.”

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment