This is an opinion column by Greg Moore of the Arizona Republic.
Ignore young people and minorities at your own risk.
That’s the political message we can take away from early results of the 2020 presidential election, which came in the wake of this summer’s massive anti-racism demonstrations, the largest protest movement in American history.
Those protests were attended by young people of all races and led by minorities fed up with a system that gave rise to President Donald Trump, who repeatedly refused to distance himself from his racist followers and made statements that infuriated diversity advocates.
The deaths of African Americans, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks at the hands of police, and Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of white vigilantes, were all it took for young people and minorities to take to the streets in big cities across the U.S.
Protest energy morphed into activism
Their energy didn’t die down as the protests faded. Rather, it appears to have morphed into the activism that led to the Democratic Party carving out significant territory in states that Trump won in 2016, including Michigan and Wisconsin.
Each of those two states is home to a large Black population. Wisconsin became a center for the protest movement when Jacob Blake was shot in the back by police.
The shooting prompted a strike across American sports that started when the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the floor for a game. That decision quickly spread across the NBA and beyond. Players in the WNBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball all participated.
The newfound political engagement of young and minority voters also led to Democrats storming into states that have consistently voted Republican, including Ohio, Georgia and Texas.
Here again, each of these states is home to a significant Black population. Georgia was home to Arbery and Brooks. Floyd grew up in Texas.
Black voters have always been the key
Black people have always been the key in presidential elections.
The presence of enslaved Africans was essential to the Founding Fathers’ decision to use an Electoral College system, rather than form the nation as a true “one-person-one-vote” democracy.
Lyndon Johnson flipped Dixieland politics when he signed the Voting Rights Act. The story goes that the Democratic president told an aide that his party had “lost the South for a generation.”
And when Hilary Clinton couldn’t raise the type of Black support enjoyed by Barack Obama, it led to the rise of Trump.
This time around, Southern Black voters gave Joe Biden the Democratic nomination, thanks to sweeping wins on Super Tuesday. And Black support was essential in Biden’s decision to select Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate.
This time it was Black frustration that drove a protest movement that young Latino and white voters were eager to support.
Latinos, angry over Trump’s border wall and his administration’s decisions to separate immigrant families, have helped cut into Republican territory in Texas and Arizona.
About 70% of Latino voters in Texas and Arizona supported Biden, according to numbers from UnidosUs and the American Election Eve Poll.
The reality that these states are in play for Democrats for the first time in a generation shows the scope of the pushback against Trump’s policy decisions and reckless language over the last four years.
Young voters gave Biden an early cushion
The youth vote (18-29) has been especially strong this year.
More than seven million young people turned out for early voting, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.
In Texas, more than 1 million young people cast early ballots, only 200,000 short of the overall participation of this demographic in 2016.
In Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and Montana, “young people cast at least half as many votes as they did in the last presidential election,” CIRCLE reported.
In nearly every swing state the participation of young voters was higher than it had been last presidential election cycle.
It gave Biden an early cushion that Trump supporters had to chew through on Election Day.
He didn’t resonate with young people or minorities.
Those were the voters leading the protest movement that spread across the U.S., more than 550 locations, involving between 15 million and 26 million people, according to The New York Times and Civis Analytics.
Regardless of the final outcome, the early returns from this election show that political leaders can ignore young people and minorities at their own risk.
Contact Greg Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-2236.
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