OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion
As he enters his second year in office, Joe Biden’s lead among black voters – the group that helped propel him to the White House – has plummeted.
It’s no surprise that black voters are frustrated with Biden, who closed out his first year in office with record-low approval ratings.
The nomination of Biden for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination was boosted by black voters in the Democratic primary.
During the South Carolina primary in late February 2020, Biden’s presidential run was all but done.
In New Hampshire, he had finished fifth and in Iowa, he had finished fourth. Yet, Biden cautioned skeptics to withhold judgment on the matter until a state with a large Black population, their most reliable constituency, could weigh in.
‘Too often your loyalty, your commitment, your support for this party has been taken for granted. ‘I give you my word as a Biden that I never, ever, ever will.’
As a result, Black voters recast the Democratic race and sent Biden to the White House.
Now that he has been in office for one year, Biden is hoping to retain the support of black voters, even though he has not delivered on voting rights legislation and other issues which have disappointed some supporters. Among the many challenges he faces in his second term, retaining the support from the party’s base is the most important.
Recent polls conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that less than seven in ten Black Americans approved of Biden, down from nine in ten at the start of his presidency.
‘I’m perplexed. At some points, I’m angry. I’m trying to see if there is anything redeeming,’ said Professor George Hart, 73, advisor of the NAACP chapter at Benedict College, a historically Black college in Columbia. ‘I’m just so disillusioned, I don’t know what to say.
‘He let so much happen from the time he became president to the time that he actually introduced the measure, it was lost,’ remarked Hart, who backed Biden in South Carolina’s primary. ‘And we are the ones, African Americans, Black voters, who are going to pay the penalties.’
Among Black voters in South Carolina last week, Hart’s views were not universal, but they are a troubling sign for a president whose approval ratings are near record lows. While some Black South Carolina voters have supported Biden’s campaign for quite some time, others have supported him reluctantly, or don’t support him at all.
Biden supporter Dennis Brothers feels things were going ‘pretty well,’ despite Biden’s failure to honor a campaign promise to cancel, not delay, some student debt.
‘That has been a disappointment,’ said Brothers. ‘I just hope that some of those promises that were made are kept.’
Brother said that the administration must make its goals more transparent in the next three years, particularly on issues relevant to Black voters, such as policing reform.
‘We know that Rome was not built in a day. ‘I´m not going to say he´s not trying, but I just wish he would try a little bit harder.’
According to Margaret Sumpter, a 64-year-old community advocate from Hopkins, the stagnation of voting rights is due to Congress’ gridlock, not Biden’s inaction. She claims Biden, who has been a senator for decades, still has a lot of learning to do as a president.
‘I think that he could push a little harder with Republicans like Mitt Romney and some of the other folks to help him to get this passed,’ said Sumpter, who supported billionaire Tom Steyer during South Carolina’s primary, but subsequently voted for Biden.
‘The same thing that they´re doing to him, they did it to Barack Obama,’ she said. ‘Why? Do people think Republicans are going to treat him any differently because he’s a white man? No.’
There are others who are less patient.
In 2019, Travis Lincoln attended Biden’s first South Carolina rally and even performed at an upcoming event, but ultimately supported technology entrepreneur Andrew Yang in the primary. Despite his support for Biden in the general election, Lincoln is underwhelmed by him now.
‘His campaign sold us on the idea that he was going to support some Black issues, and that´s not really happened,’ Lincoln said. ‘The people that were in his corner thought that was going to be the best move for him. It was more political strategy than anything.’
Lincoln recognized that the voting rights movement was doomed from the beginning due to Republican opposition. Biden should instead have focused on other issues, such as expunging nonviolent drug-related offenses, a subject Biden campaigned on but did not take executive action on.
The co-founder of Amplify Action, a nonprofit promoting political engagement of Black men, Ra Shád Frazier-Gaines voted for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during South Carolina’s primary. Frazier-Gaines’ assessment of Biden’s performance is that he has talked more than delivered.
‘Black people are the reason Joe Biden is president, and I don’t feel … that there has been one time that he’s ever shown us a ‘thank you’ by way of policy,’ Frazier-Gaines asserted. ‘Yes, his administration has given a lot of talented Black people opportunities to serve in different positions. All of that is cute, but that’s not doing anything to put food on the tables of Black families across the country.’