The first presidential debate of the 2020 race for the White House on Wednesday featured five moderators, 10 candidates, two hours and only one question on the voting bloc that comprises the base vote for the Democratic party: African American voters.
The one question came an hour and thirty minutes into the debate and was delivered by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow to candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. But even that question, which started out focused on the Democratic party’s reliance on African American voters, pivoted over to a question on Latino voters.
Hispanic voters continue to underperform at the ballot box as compared to other demographics. Additionally, exit polls and other data demonstrated that 25 to 30 percent of Hispanic voters supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
In 2016, numerous reports on Russian interference demonstrated that Black voters were targeted for voter suppression, one of many obvious signs of the importance of Black voter support. According to Pew Research, in 2016, the Black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election. The turnout rate for African American voters was 59.6% in 2016 after reaching a record-high 66.6% in 2012. For Hispanics it was 47 percent.
One of two African American candidates for president in 2020, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, refocused the discussion on African Americans several times during the debate. Much of the two hours of debate discussion focused on immigration policy. President Trump’s obsessive focus on a wall at the Mexican border and keeping Mexican immigrants out of the United States was revealed from the moment he announced his candidacy for president in 2015 to his first month in office in early 2017.
There were 10 Democratic candidates on stage for the first of two debates in two nights: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro of Texas, Klobuchar, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Reps. Tim Ryan of Ohio and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, and former Maryland Rep. Tim Delaney.
Typically, moderators and subject focus for each debate controls what the topics will be. Even though Lester Holt was a moderator for the first debate on June 26, corporate media largely ignores issues disproportionately affecting African Americans, unless there is a preplanned structured debate where specific subject matter is to be focused on.
Warren and Castro were viewed as winners of the first debate as they focused on middle class issues and social economic parity.
“From a candidate’s perspective, it’s about who comes to the game ready to play the game. The only person, in my view, who came to the game last night and ready to play it was Julian Castro,” said former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele on MSNBC on June 27.
The second of the first two debates of the 2020 campaign will be June 27 in Miami. A second African American candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, will be featured.
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter @LVBurke.