The Ethnic Vote in America

How did the “ethnic vote” work in the latest U.S. presidential election? According to a provisional projection by CNN, the Democratic candidate and winner of the election, Joe Biden, captured 42% of the white vote, versus Donald Trump’s 57%; 87% of the Black vote, versus his opponent’s 12%; 66% of the Latino vote, against the Republican’s 32%; 63% of the Asian vote, versus the current president’s 31%; and finally, 58% of the vote from “others” (whatever that means), compared to 40% for the current occupant of the White House.

One conclusion stands out: the Black vote was fundamental. “Without the resounding support of Black people, we would be saddled with a very different electoral outcome. In short, Black people won this election,” stated Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black voters in the U.S. have a tradition of high voter absenteeism, not because of their supposed “laziness,” as some claim, but due to the country’s structural racism. Among the evidence of that reality is the use of voter suppression strategies by Republican state authorities to obstruct voting for minority voters in general and especially Black voters.

The Democrats, and Biden in particular, learned their lesson from 2016 and consequently organized a broad movement to encourage Black voters to turn up at the polls in this election. It was a truly national and cross-sectional movement involving politicians, social activists, churches, intellectuals, students, athletes, celebrities and anonymous people.

One figure emerged from that movement and this election: Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, who was defeated by a narrow margin two years ago. In fact, she was a major force behind Georgia’s pro-Democrat swing. After losing the election for governor, she created a foundation that spent two years mobilizing and organizing the Black community to register the highest possible number of potential voters, and to mobilize them to vote on Nov. 3. The results are there.

Thus, despite the fact that it was the win in Pennsylvania that was decisive for Biden’s election, Georgia’s result may be considered the most symbolically significant. Abrams already said that this result is due to much more than the racial factor, as Georgian Democrats managed to form a large coalition among the Black community, white progressives and other groups. However, given the state’s history (as the last to abolish slavery in the country), Biden’s victory may signify the beginning of a new march to fight the racism that is still prevalent in American society.

Another point is related to the Latino vote. The last election truly demonstrated that there is no “Latino vote” in America. There are several. Hence, the votes of Americans of Latin American origin determined Trump’s victory in Florida, but were also decisive for Biden’s win in states like New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. As an aside in comparing this with Black Americans’ votes, despite 12% of them voting for Trump, their votes did not decide any of their local victories.

Returning to the Latino or Hispanic vote, in short, Latinos in Florida are anti-Castro Cubans, Venezuelans disgruntled with the regime in Caracas and even nouveau riche and mostly pro-Bolsonaro Brazilians. All of them are ready to swallow Trump’s rhetoric that Biden is a “socialist.” In the other states mentioned above, Latinos are usually poorer and from Mexico or other Central and South American countries, so they are more responsive to the Democratic agenda which envisions a greater role for the state in society.

As for white people, Trump owes his victory mostly to men, as Biden received more votes from women. Of the 57% of white people who voted for Trump, many of them are poor with less formal education, including workers affected by some of the adverse effects of neoliberal globalization. This impact includes factories moving to areas of the world with cheaper labor, automation and the technological revolution more generally, as well as the financialization of the economy.

Poor people voting for Trump and other similar figures around the world is a paradox that democratic forces will need to decipher, or else risk being devoured. As writer Marcelo Coelho, Brazilian journalist for Folha de S. Paulo, wrote a few days ago, “Fascism cannot be defeated without understanding and winning over right-wing poor people.”

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