By Del Marie Cobb, The Publicity Works
In a recent interview I said that white people vote on the way to work and Black people vote after work. This election year the coronavirus has changed the voting pattern, but the results are the same. Many Black people chose to vote by mail as a precautionary measure to a Covid-19 surge that might prevent Election Day voting and to protect them from being exposed to someone with the coronavirus. So, whether it’s voting after work or by mail, ballots from large urban communities where most Black people live, are the last to get counted. That’s why we’re seeing the voting results change in Vice President Joe Biden’s favor.
I learned this lesson while serving as national traveling press secretary for Jesse Jackson’s presidential run in 1988. All the white political pundits doubted Jackson would win Michigan, because a Black man would never be able to win a Northern industrial state. When the polls closed in Michigan, we were in Wisconsin preparing for the Jefferson Jackson Dinner. As we walked into the hotel lobby, there was a large screen floor model television in the corner. CBS News anchor Dan Rather was reporting that Michael Dukakis was the projected winner of Michigan.
The campaign staff was deflated, but you quickly learn from working on an insurgency campaign that losing didn’t determine staying power. It was confusing, since there had been such excitement in Michigan for Jackson from the top of the state to the bottom. Before the election, the Chicago staff had asked me how Michigan was looking. My response was that I think we’re going to win. They asked me why did I feel that. I said, “…I keep getting separated from the campaign, because of all the people swarming Jackson at every stop.”
Now, that’s not very scientific, but when you’re working on “poor campaigns with rich messages” that can’t afford polling, you learn to read signs and tea leaves.
So, after hearing the news we shrugged it off and went to the dinner for Jackson to speak to Wisconsin’s Democratic Party leaders. Around 9 p.m., I got a call in my hotel room from Gene Randall of CNN. Gene and I had worked together at NBC 5 Chicago when he was a reporter and I was a desk assistant. Gene asked me if we were going to call a news conference any time soon. I said we were working on it.
Remember, this is all before mobile phones. I got hold of Jackson and told him we were going to call a news conference in the next few minutes, because he had won Michigan. As a result of winning Michigan, Jackson had his first million dollar fundraising month. Again, this is pre internet. That’s how I learned about Black voting patterns.
President Donald Trump’s re-election odds are diminishing in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada, because of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Albany, Savannah, Augusta, Detroit, Flint and Las Vegas.
For Biden, the third time is a charm. If he reaches the 270 electoral votes needed to become President of the United States, it will be in large measure because of Black voters—starting with the primary in South Carolina and the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn.
If 2020 has revealed anything, it’s that descendants of enslaved people in America need an agenda. We need to all be singing from the same hymnal. Top of my list is a Black woman Supreme Court justice as soon as there’s a vacancy. Second, is passage of an infrastructure bill. Jackson was calling for an infrastructure bill when he was running for president and we still don’t have one.
Black people keep saving the Democratic Party. Now, it’s time for party leaders to save our communities and us.