Young Black Voters Lack Enthusiasm for Presidential Candidates

Elections & Politics Policy Brief #124 | By: Abigail Hunt | February 22, 2024
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Four years ago, voting records show, people of color (POC), particularly Black voters, used their voices to help elect President Joe Biden. In the years since, those voters have grown disillusioned. No one is excited about a match between two zombies, and that is what we’re facing with our 2024 presidential candidates. A rematch between two white walkers – Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

In an editorial by NPR, the Black voters, “under 35,” with whom they spoke said of the issues most concerning to them, primary among them was the cost of, and access to, education, including funding for historically Black colleges (HBCU), student loan forgiveness, and whether or not a candidate supports socialist programs and workers’ unions.

In 2016, Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders galvanized younger generations with his unwavering socialist spirit and whip-crack wit and intellect. In contrast, Trump and Biden are stodgy and wooden, with declining cognitive function. Tens of thousands of people turned out to see Bernie speak. People were excited to believe in someone. Then the Democratic National Convention got involved and forced Bernie out to get Hillary Clinton in – she won, but Trump took office anyway, and yet again, Democrats showed voters how little fight they had in them.

The two-party systems’ dogged dedication to preserving the status quo may have been a nail in its own coffin. The young Black voters who spoke with NPR say no one they know wants to vote. Voters too young to have been disillusioned by Bernie’s blackballing are old enough to remember Trump as President. For some of them, this election is exciting because it is the first in which they are old enough to vote. What 18-year-old gets excited about an elderly man who stumbles and fumbles his way through speeches and across stages?  It is embarrassing on an international level that the two “best” options we have for President have a greater likelihood of dying in office just by existing – not because they’ll be in danger from assassins, but because they simply continue to grow older at an age when any wrong move could result in a spill that spells the end.

In late February, the New York case Trump faced came to conclusion, saddling Trump with a $355 million fine. Right after, Trump launched his own sneaker brand, where supporters can pre-order gold sneakers emblazoned with the American flag. I wish I was joking. The sneakers sold out immediately, which sounds impressive. However, any information can be manipulated. If only 10 pair were produced, selling out is far less impressive in actual numbers. The premise of exclusivity is seductive for people, and the “sold out” aspect is likely to lure some into purchasing. Trump never seems to concern himself too much with what voters actually need. When he made an appearance at Philadelphia’s Sneaker Con to launch the shoe line, he was greeted with boos.

While a shoe show might at first seem an odd choice of location for Trump to make an appearance, Sneaker Con, like Trump, brands itself the greatest, specifically “The Greatest Sneaker Show on Earth.” There seems to be a harmony of self-aggrandizement, at least. It may be that Ye is his new political advisor; politicians have made worse choices (remember George W. Bush and Ted Haggard?). The choice of a sneaker line is a bit out of left field – is this Trump’s way of appealing to a younger demographic? Or, more likely, would it be an attempt to pay that hefty New York fine? The U.S. sneaker industry generated $22.3 billion in 2023.

If Biden wants to win over younger generations and bring them to the ballot box, he needs to give them something better than a gaudy gold shoe. Perhaps he needs them to have hope. Barack Obama campaigned on hope, and he won. Bernie was someone to believe in, a champion of the people. Biden’s promises to forgive student loan debt have only partially come to pass. Federal legalization of marijuana never manifested. The Democratic signpost arguments for universal healthcare and free college, so passionate and prevalent among Presidential candidates during the last election cycle, faded away. Maybe the best thing Biden and Trump could do for their parties is just that – fade back and give way to the voices of a younger generation.

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