The Democratic Party Apologizes to Black Voters

Betty James listens to a church service in Miami, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012 before joining the "Souls to the Pouls" rally. On the only Sunday that Florida polls will be open for early voting this election cycle, faith leaders from 44 congregations in six Florida cities will lead their congregations to early voting locations in a massive “Souls to the Polls” effort to mobilize faith voters. Organizers of the event estimate more than 2,000 faith voters – mostly African-American and Latino – will vote early as a result of the coordinated, state-wide event. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

It’s a complaint that has been resonating in the African-American community – Democrats take the Black vote for granted.

Usually. Democratic leaders try to explain why that’s not the case, but Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez, recently shocked a predominantly Black crowd gathered by apologizing to those voters.

“I am sorry,” Perez said, speaking a fund-raiser in Atlanta.

At first, it seemed like Perez was voicing one more generalized regret for the 2016 election that put Donald Trump in the White House—the squandered opportunity that abruptly ended the Democrats’ hold on the presidency and immediately put at risk its policy gains of the previous eight years.

Perez, however, soon made clear that his apology was much more specific. “We lost elections not only in November 2016, but we lost elections in the run-up because we stopped organizing,” he said. “We stopped talking to people.

“We took too many people for granted,” Perez continued, “and African Americans—our most loyal constituency—we all too frequently took for granted. That is a shame on us, folks, and for that I apologize. And for that I say, it will never happen again!”

High turnout among Black voters was key to Barack Obama’s two presidential victories, and dips in participation when he was not on the ballot contributed to the Democratic wipeouts in 2010 and 2014, and to Hillary Clinton’s narrow losses in states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in 2016. But there are signs of a revival, not only in response to Republican efforts to reverse Obama’s legacy, but also in response to efforts to erect barriers to voting that disproportionately affect African Americans.