The 2020 Democratic primary season has officially started with today’s Iowa caucuses. The field of contenders is far less diverse than originally promised: Not one African American candidate will be participating in the high-stakes contest even though late presidential entrant Deval Patrick, former Massachusetts governor and the second African American ever to be elected to a statehouse, remains in the race.
In the weeks to come, however, all Democratic contenders will vigorously court the black vote in order to gain the nomination and a shot at unseating President Donald Trump, whose impeachment trial is expected to come to a close this week. The Dems’ election calendar includes the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29 and Super Tuesday on March 3 in which 14 states are up for grabs.
Tonight’s caucuses are vital to the candidates’ electoral fortunes since the last four Democratic nominees have all won the Hawkeye State. After roughly 12 months of campaigning and a reported $50 million spent in the state by the candidates, the race is still marked by great uncertainty. According to NPR, the four top contenders—former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg—each has connected with large crowds. Liberal-leaning Sanders and moderate Biden, each representing two different poles of the Democratic Party, currently lead the pack as voters make their final decisions.
Even as candidates promoted their electability in Iowa, a state in which African Americans represent a little more than 3% of the state’s population, the lack of appeal among black voters still remains evident with most campaigns. Take Buttigieg: As reported by BuzzFeed News, a recent Washington Post poll showed that the mayor was at 2% last month despite his promotion of his Douglass Plan, an expansive agenda to address the myriad economic and social concerns of African Americans, several months ago. Criticized for his actions in his mayoral role, Buttigieg, however, recently gained the endorsement of Quentin Hart, the African American mayor of Waterloo, Iowa, which is considered the leading metro in the nation for racial disparity. Hart told The Christian Science Monitor that Buttigieg had “one of the most aggressive plans for black America.”
As for Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, she doesn’t even rate among black voters. The former prosecutor has been pushing her Midwestern pedigree as an electoral asset but has recently been slammed by a group of black leaders who called for the suspension of her campaign in responses to Associated Press/American Public Media investigation indicating that a 16-year-old teenager that she put in prison for life for killing a girl with a stray bullet may have been innocent.
Citing the strength in securing the black vote among Biden and to some extent, Sanders, other candidates such as Warren, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer have been aggressively seeking to gain traction with black voters in South Carolina and Super Tuesday states Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, among others. Elizabeth Warren’s $50 billion investment plan for HBCUs and Bloomberg’s recent “Greenwood Initiative” have been among some of the proposals to capture the attention of the black electorate. And Steyer was recently successful in gaining the endorsement of Alabama civil rights icon, Rev. Gwendolyn Cook Webb after he visited a gathering of community stakeholders in Birmingham to discuss his stance on the livable wage disparity, healthcare access, environmental justice, and improving the quality of Alabama’s education system
As presidential candidates had been competing for delegates in Iowa, Patrick has been seeking to get a jump on the next primary contests ahead. He is in the middle of his six-day, “all access” bus tour that started Jan. 30 and will end Feb. 4.