BY Dara Sharif, The Root
With more than 20 (at last count) Democrats in the running to win the party’s presidential nomination, it’s probably more important than ever to differentiate oneself, especially among Black voters, one of the most important voting blocs in the Democratic Party primary.
Four of those candidates took part in a forum Saturday where they offered up economic policy positions — ranging from so-called baby bonds to startup seed money targeted to Blacks and other minorities — to help improve money matters for Black folks, the Washington Post reports.
Moderated by journalist Soledad O’Brien and convened by the Black Economic Alliance, the forum offered the candidates who took part the opportunity to try to make inroads among Black voters, especially in South Carolina, where the forum was held and where, as the New York Times notes, Blacks make up a majority of the state’s Democratic voters.
Candidates and U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) attended the forum, as well as former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Booker, who according to the Times was one of two candidates to receive a standing ovation from the crowd (Warren was the other), touted his baby bonds proposal.
“The baby bonds legislation that I have puts $1,000 into a savings account for every child born in America,” said Booker, the Post reports. “By the time that you’re 18, if you are [among] the lowest-income Americans, you actually would have up to $50,000 to put towards training, to put towards college or buying a home — the things that we know, the data shows, create generational wealth.”
Warren focused on wealth creation, as the Post reported, “calling for the Economic Patriotism Plan to help more Black Americans become entrepreneurs”:
“You need access to capital. This is something the United States government should be able to provide. I have a plan to set aside $7 billion to be there for equity investments for Black and other minority-owned business,” she said. “It would support about 100,000 Black and other minority-owned businesses to get them up and started and create about 1 million jobs across the country. That’s a win-win for everyone.”
O’Rourke also highlighted a plan to support entrepreneurship, according to the Times, with a plan to “invest $500 million in small businesses, much of which would be targeted to owners who are women or minorities.”
His ideas also were well-received by the crowd, as the Times reports,
particularly when he said that white Americans have not understood the central role race plays in the country’s consciousness.
“We have to talk about the foundational sin of this country,” Mr. O’Rourke said, referring to slavery. Racism “is systematic and foundational. And to those who say you only need to reform, you cannot reform a system that was fundamentally designed to produce these exact outcomes.”
Buttigieg, the lowest-polling of the four among African Americans in South Carolina, blamed his low numbers on his relative lack of name recognition, but told O’Brien his campaign was working earnestly to engage and win over Black voters.
“We’re working very energetically, very actively, in order to invite more people and specifically Black voters into this campaign,” said Buttigieg, according to the Times.
He touted his commitment to studying the issue of racial discrimination in the credit industry, saying he was concerned that the nation was going to “automate” racism with the involvement of algorithms, the Post reports, further isolating African Americans in the credit-decision process.
“We need to look wholesale at how things like access to credit and scoring of credit work to break down racial bias,” he said.
This article originally appeared in The Root.