In South Carolina, Biden and Harris try a strongly political speech to black voters | ET REALITY


As Democrats amplify their concerns about President Biden’s status among Black voters, South Carolina has emerged as a testing ground for his campaign: a place where he can test his message to a predominantly Black electorate and use it as a platform. largely ceremonial launch for his re-election. .

In the events of recent days, both Biden and Harris delivered reverential, policy-charged re-election speeches to largely Black audiences and celebrated the Black organizers and community leaders who helped deliver the White House to Democrats, starting with those in the Palmetto State.

They also drew a contrast with former President Donald J. Trump and other Republican leaders, whose election denialism and efforts to “whitewash” history, they said, threaten the progress that Black Americans have spent generations fighting for.

Black voters have expressed frustration with the Biden administration for failing to deliver on key campaign promises and have shown less enthusiasm for Biden’s re-election in polls and interviews. But in South Carolina, both Biden and Harris sought to highlight the lesser-known victories his administration has achieved over the past three years, and argued that a second term would allow them to achieve even more. Black voters’ discontent with Democrats, campaign aides and allies argue, is rooted in their lack of knowledge of the White House’s accomplishments rather than fundamental flaws in the Biden-Harris ticket.

“People don’t understand exactly what role the president has,” said state Sen. Tameika Isaac-Devine, who was elected to her Columbia-area seat on Jan. 2. “But when you break down the policy to ‘because of this law,’ you can get dot dot dot,’ I think that’s where we have to do a better job.”

Their visits were the first of several they will make before the state’s primary elections on February 3, according to campaign aides. His presence was reassuring to many longtime black Democrats in South Carolina, who fear that black voters nationally will not turn out in large numbers in November, helping hand the election to Trump, the dominant favorite for the Republican nomination.

Carolyn Reynolds Brown, a retired school counselor from Charleston, S.C., attended Saturday’s event wearing a pink and green jacket emblazoned with the Greek letters Alpha Kappa Alpha, the same sorority to which Ms. Harris belongs. She welcomed Ms. Harris’ visit and said the increased presence of the Democratic ticket in the state could help turn out voters again and counter a troubling issue she has seen in American politics.

“A lot of things that are happening in our country at this particular time seem to really wreak havoc on our return,” she said, pointing to herself while using “we” to refer to African Americans. “As a race it is necessary that we vote. “We need to commit.”

Standing in the pulpit of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, where a white gunman killed nine black parishioners in 2015, Biden criticized the “poison” of white supremacy that he said had “torn this nation apart.” during the Civil War and Jim Crow Eras. The United States, he said, was in “an era of the second lost cause” that could bring about a return of that same racial violence. But when multiracial democracy was back in play, Biden argued, black voters had a chance to save it.

“It is because of this congregation and the black community of South Carolina and, this is no exaggeration, Jim Clyburn, that I am here today as your president,” he said, referring to Rep. James E. Clyburn, a staunch ally of Biden and the state representative. most influential democrat.

Ms. Harris expressed a similar sentiment in a keynote address at the Emanuel Women’s Missionary Society’s annual retreat on Saturday. Recalling the campaign four years ago, she told the group of Black women, which included many of the voters who helped elect Democrats in 2020, that “you showed up to vote and organized your friends, family and neighbors so that they would do the same.” .”

“I am here, of course, to thank you for your work, your leadership, and your vision of what is possible in our nation,” he continued.

Biden and Harris included several specific policy points in their speeches to emphasize that their administration has, in fact, delivered for African Americans. They highlighted the record black unemployment rate and large-scale investments in historically black colleges and universities. Clyburn, who sat behind the president at the Emanuel pulpit on Monday, highlighted Biden’s efforts to reduce student loan debt and his appointment of a record number of Black judges to the federal bench during his presidency; appointments, he said, include Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

“We know Joe. But the most important thing is that Joe knows us,” Clyburn told a congregation of more than 700 people, echoing words he told South Carolina voters four years ago in an endorsement that revitalized the president’s lagging campaign. . Biden rewarded the state by rearranging the presidential primary calendar to put South Carolina first.

Democrats have invested heavily in South Carolina in recent weeks, hiring top advisers and field staff to boost the president’s re-election campaign, even as battleground states have yet to build strong organizations. In the coming weeks, Harris and several Democratic representatives will return to the state to try to generate enthusiasm among black and rural voters. Ms. Harris will celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday next week from the state Capitol in Columbia alongside Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic minority leader, and other national Democrats.

Still, Biden will have a bigger challenge attracting younger voters of color, who have shown greater openness to supporting a Republican in November or staying home entirely. For some South Carolina Democrats, highlighting the administration’s accomplishments is unlikely to be enough to spark enthusiasm in this bloc. Instead, it will require more targeted messaging, and not necessarily from those at the top of the ticket.

“I think it’s less about black voters not understanding politics,” said state Rep. JA Moore, a North Charleston Democrat whose sister was killed at Emanuel AME. “I think it’s, are there national messengers in the Democratic Party who encourage the electorate to take action?”

Moore plans to join Democratic surrogates in a statewide campaign to encourage younger, reluctant voters to go to the polls. “It won’t be enough to say, ‘We’ve done this,’” he added later. “I think it’s a matter of style.”

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