Despite being the most dedicated voting base in the Democratic Party, Black women overwhelmingly experience inequities in health care, economic mobility, housing security, environmental pollution… the list goes on. Activists and organizers have strived to educate, register and mobilize voters in hopes that someday not only will we see equal representation at all levels of government, but also that the policies implemented will reflect the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities.
With the Democratic primaries for president looming, there seems to be very little conversation about the failure of the current administration to do much to deliver a United States that works for us all. The end of pandemic relief programs in housing, health care, income and food assistance has exposed the sobering truth about our country’s unwillingness to pass legislation that benefits the most vulnerable among us.
The federal minimum wage remains stagnant, the Dobbs decision has eviscerated our reproductive rights, student debt payments have resumed and the continued erosion of environmental protections makes me worry that there will be no habitable place in which my future grandchildren can grow up.
Recently, hip-hop artist Cardi B took to social media to express what many women of color feel: Our president is sending billions of dollars overseas to fund the murder of women and children while continuing to cut funding for vital services like education, libraries and housing for those in need.
With Joe Biden’s incumbency in hand, it appears that the urgency of the 2020 election campaign has dissipated. The ability to move the current administration on progressive issues has waned. But many of the very people who ensured victory for the Democrats in 2020 and have supported the party throughout recent history are clear that a second term of this status quo presidency does not serve them. The fact of the matter is that our two-party system is unduly influenced by corporate interests, and the working class is left holding the bag. Moreover, the Democrats’ belief that voters, including Black women, will continue to choose the lesser of two evils may doom them. If the party fails to energize apathetic and disappointed working-class voters, a second Trump presidency is quite foreseeable.
Debate is important and as old as democracy itself. With increasing authoritarian rhetoric and insurrections attempting to invalidate elections, not only is circumventing debate anti-democratic, it’s downright dangerous. Not only does the electorate deserve real choices, but we should hear directly and extensively from candidates — and that can happen in public debates. A series of Democratic debates before the primary elections at least would offer the incumbent an opportunity to explain his lackluster performance and recommit to his campaign promises of 2020. At best, debates could introduce voters to new ideas and serious challenges to the status quo. Canceling primaries and pretending that there is no contention among Democrats is a risky strategy for the party’s leaders to be pursuing.
The Democratic Party has done more to defeat progressives than to protect us from fascism. The pitiful half-measure efforts and scant victories that are being forced to the front of our collective psyches do not eclipse the travesties of our bloated military budget, the ever-increasing militarism of municipal police departments, and the terrifying increase in violence against women. The censure of the only Palestinian-American member of Congress and the unwillingness to protect the lives of innocent civilians will undoubtedly be remembered by many Democratic voters next year.
Progressives want a candidate that we are excited to organize for and who will stand up for us. (My dream is that a champion will emerge from the ranks of the labor movement.) However, on many issues, especially of significance to Black women, the priorities of both parties seem to be more similar than those of everyday, working-class voters. Voters like me want a champion for climate justice, healthcare for all, student debt relief, and protection for women’s rights and LGBTQIA+ individuals. More than ever progressives need to mobilize our resources to fight off corporate interests on both sides of the aisle.
In autumn, many voters will have to reconcile our disappointments as we head to the polls. Will we once again hold our noses while swallowing the bitter pill that the selection of our party’s nominee is a political process, not a truly democratic one? There is currently no scheduled debate and little public discourse regarding alternatives in the Democratic Party. The party power elite and their corporate backers long ago coalesced around President Biden to prevent any other credible candidate from stepping forward, let alone earn support from voters. Aside from the glaring injustice of circumventing the democratic process, all signs point to Trump likely being the GOP nominee and polls suggest he could win over Biden. Pair that with the mishandling of the Israeli apartheid state’s genocide in Gaza and the subsequent erosion of the Muslim and age 18-35 voting blocs, a second Trump presidency and the slippery slope toward a fascist regime seems more likely than not.
As a queer Black woman and mother to four Black men, sitting out any election is not an option for me — our lives can be directly endangered by the effects of an election’s outcome. This also means that progressives must continue to organize and build the infrastructure for a viable third party to ensure that someday our government will be truly representative and not just comprised of two sides of the same coin.