COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Joe Biden’s run for the Democratic presidential nomination was all but declared dead as he headed to the South Carolina primary in late February 2020.
He had finished fifth in New Hampshire and fourth in Iowa. Still, Biden advised skeptics to withhold judgment until a state with a large pool of Black voters, the most reliable Democratic constituency, had a chance to weigh in.
“Too often your loyalty, your commitment, your support for this party has been taken for granted,” he said. “I give you my word as a Biden that I never, ever, ever will.”
Black voters delivered, recasting the Democratic contest and sending Biden on his way to the White House.
Now, one year into his presidency, Biden is hoping he can maintain the support of Black voters, even as his failure to deliver on voting rights legislation and other issues has left some loyalists dispirited. Of the many challenges he confronts as he enters his second year, few are as important as retaining the strong backing from his party’s base.
Just 6 in 10 Black Americans said they approved of Biden in a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, down from about 9 in 10 who approved in polls conducted through the first six months of Biden’s presidency.
“I’m perplexed. At some points, I’m angry. I’m trying to see if there is anything redeeming,” said George Hart, 73, a professor and faculty adviser to the student chapter of the NAACP at Benedict College, a historically Black institution in Columbia. “I’m just so disillusioned, I don’t know what to say.
“He let so much happen from the time he became president to the time that he actually introduced the measure, it was lost,” said Hart, who supported Biden in South Carolina’s primary. “And we are the ones, African Americans, Black voters, who are going to pay the penalties.”
Hart’s was not a universal view in interviews with Black voters in South Carolina last week, but it is a worrisome sign for a president whose approval ratings are near record lows. Some Black South Carolina voters who long supported Biden’s campaign hold out hope for his administration, while those who supported him reluctantly — or not at all — say they’re unimpressed.
Dennis Brothers, who supported Biden “from the very beginning,” said he felt things were going “pretty well,” although he is frustrated by Biden not honoring a campaign promise to cancel — not delay — some amounts of student debt.
“That has been a disappointment,” said Brothers, a 31-year-old media specialist from Calhoun County. “I just hope that some of those promises that were made, are kept.”
In the next three years, Brothers said the administration should be more transparent about its goals, particularly on issues pertinent to Black voters such as a policing overhaul.
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