- In an interview with Business Insider, NAACP President Derrick Johnson discussed voter suppression, Kanye West, and the impact of Kamala Harris.
- Johnson argued that Republicans, led by US President Donald Trump, “will do all they can to prevent people from voting.”
- “I think stealing the election is a possibility; suppressing the vote is an absolute; and misleading voters is part of their strategy,” Johnson said.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Republicans, led by US President Donald Trump, will do whatever it takes to win in November, from sabotaging the mail to propping up Kanye West to outright stealing the election, NAACP President Derrick Johnson charged in an interview with Business Insider.
“All their actions indicate that they will do all they can to prevent people from voting,” Johnson, a lawyer who took over leadership of the civil rights organization in 2017, said by phone. “I think stealing the election is a possibility; suppressing the vote is an absolute; and misleading voters is part of their strategy.”
One concern, of course, is voting by mail. The US president has repeatedly and falsely claimed that allowing citizens to vote by mail during a once-in-a-century pandemic would “rig” the plebiscite for his Democratic opposition — a reprise of his baseless allegation that fraud cost him the popular vote in 2016. Black voters, the most reliable constituency in the Democratic Party, are actually the least likely, historically, to opt for an absentee ballot. But, Johnson noted, there are other means of suppressing their political voice, both traditional and novel.
Kanye West, for example, he says. The celebrity musician, who recently met with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner — and in 2018, met the president himself while donning a MAGA cap — is running a largely absent independent campaign that Republicans clearly see as a potential spoiler, robbing votes from Democratic nominee Joe Biden in states where a couple of thousand votes could be the difference between winning and losing.
“We see this as a voter-suppression method because it is put in place to mislead voters,” Johnson said. “We expect that this administration and those individuals who are aligned with it will do all they can to siphon off as many voters as possible, either by misdirecting who they vote for or suppressing their ability to cast a ballot.”
But Johnson doesn’t think those tactics are likely to work as well in 2020 as they might have in the last presidential election when Black voter turnout dropped to its lowest point in two decades.
“I am feeling the sense of energy and urgency for this election cycle, particularly with the announcement of Kamala Harris as the running mate — a level of excitement that I did not see in 2016,” Johnson said. “I think Senator Harris generated a level of energy, particularly for African-American women, which is the strongest and largest voting bloc not only in the African-American community but within the Democratic Party. That’s a positive.” And while some have criticized the selection of a former prosecutor in the age of Black Lives Matter, “their excitement vastly overshadows any concerns that others may raise.”
The stakes are too high to quibble in the face of a possible second Trump term. “Based on our focus groups and polling, many African Americans feel that our lives depend on the outcome of this election,” Johnson said. “If he is reelected, there is grave concern over the continuation of the stripping of the rights of many Americans, Black and white,” he said. “Another term would completely strip our notion of democracy in ways in which we may not be able to recover.”
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