The Importance of Black Women in the 2016 Presidential Election

AFL-CIO’s Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Director Carmen Berkley
AFL-CIO’s Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Director Carmen Berkley

The Importance of African American Women in the 2016 Presidential Election

When African Americans vote, African Americans determine elections. This was true during the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections, where historic surges resulted in African American voter turnout exceeding the percentage of eligible white voters who went to the polls for the first time in 2012.

According to the Pew Research Center, African American turnout in presidential elections has been steadily increasing since 1996. And recent data from the AFL-CIO—the nation’s largest federation of union workers—indicates that African American women, in particular, will play a significant role in this year’s local, state, and Presidential elections.

In 2012, African American women voters put President Obama over the top of the votes needed to secure a second term, which ensured that he won the election. (…)

  • In Florida, African American women voters were 7 percent of the vote for Obama in a tight race where he won by just 1 percent. 
  • In Ohio, African American women voters were 8 percent of the vote for Obama in a tight race where he won by just 3 percent. 
  • In Pennsylvania, African American women voters were 6 percent of the vote for Obama in a tight race where he won by just 5 percent.  Without African American women voters, things would look very different today.

The way AFL-CIO’s Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Director Carmen Berkley, sees it, “Black women have the opportunity, once again, to shift the electorate by using their power to register, educate and turn out others Black folks to vote. Let’s face it, Black women hold a lot of power in our households, from being decision makers to breadwinners. When we engage our families in political discourse, we’re able to shift opinions, hearts, minds and votes. Whether it’s at the hair salon, the grocery store, bible study or brunch, we must utilize our Black girl magic for social change. Our pocketbooks and economic stability depend on our ability to shift the electorate once again.”

Though the circumstances are different than the last two presidential races of 2008 and 1012. In 2008, the Democratic candidate was young, Black and charismatic bringing a fresh idea of ‘Change’. His message swept the youth up in a whirlwind, many who influenced their parents vote and he went on to victory that year. In 2012 he was the incumbent and he held his position.

The 2016 presidential election is a battle between two of the most unpopular candidates ever to run, one of which is a woman. Secretary Hillary Clinton has gotten an unfair reputation based on the September 2012 Benghazi attack that refers to a coordinated attack against two US government facilities in Libya by members of the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Sharia killing Stevens the first U.S. Ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979 and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith

Since then Hillary Clinton’s actions before, during, and after the attacks have been closely scrutinized by the Republican-led US House of Representatives including the other thorn in her side—the emails. Not that she did anything that had not been done by Republican officials such as Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice and an array of others, who have used servers other than the server set-up for White House purposes. In the first of the presidential campaign debates, Hillary Clinton apologized for her mistake of using a server for her email communication as Secretary of State.

Unfortunately it’s difficult to say to those who lost loved ones in the Benghazi attack but seriously, such attacks come with the territory. In numerous interviews, Clinton was pushed to apologize for her actions. Clinton chose to be honest and explain her decision that led to the death of an American Ambassador in the legal context. She said that she is sorry about the aftermath, however given the information provided to her by her advisors who were experts in their fields, which she based her decision. She also said that given the same set of circumstances, she’d make the same decision even though it resulted in the death of  Americans. She never did apologize for her decision but expressed her sympathy for Ambassador Steven’s family U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith. Because the Republicans made such a stink of the matter the situation has plagued her ever since.

Both situations put trust on the line, questioning whether or not she is trustworthy. The question of transparency has casts many doubts in the minds of potential voters. Thus they remain undecided. This is what the volunteers facing on the ground to get folks to vote and to vote Hillary Clinton particularly the ‘Bernie or Bust’ supporters.

Berkley says, “We need to get in formation for HRC. Many of us are still living in the glow of the Obama era, and we were hoping that we’d feel the same way about this presidential election. Whether you’ve been riding with Secretary Clinton’s campaign since day one, you rode hard for Senator Sanders or your feeling disconnected from politics all together, let’s take a step back and acknowledge that Mr. Donald ‘You’re Fired’ Trump is not a viable candidate for Black women.”

Nationwide, African American women are spearheading grassroots movements that are mobilizing voters for political action in their communities. Studies show that African American women are also more likely than women in the general population to exercise their right to vote. And evidence shows that this untapped—and under-courted—voting bloc is also more likely to inspire their families and community members to join them at the polls on Election Day, according to the AFL-CIO.

Finally Berkley shares why it’s imperative that African American women understand why Trump is not the candidate to vote for president, “No matter how many times he retracts his racist and misogynistic statements, the law and order candidate will not be working to  equal our pay, reform the criminal justice system, fund our schools, or stimulate the economy for Black women. Black women have the opportunity to invoke their inner FLOTUS (Michelle Obama) and deliver her message of ‘When they go low, we go high.’ We cannot afford to sit this election out or stay sour over Sanders loss. A loss for Secretary Clinton is a loss for the Black family from the White House to the Supreme Court. We can do what we do best, talk to our communities about what’s at stake if we let an entertainer and not a policy maker make decisions that affect everything from our families to our jobs.”

Even more interesting, the women organizing in their communities are often union members. Data indicates that African American women, whose participation in unions mirrors their make up in general population, make up a greater percentage of the leadership in America’s unions. The benefit of this leadership spreads across African American communities, making African American women a force and the foundation of political change.


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