Who Is Black America's Best Choice For President?

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Abeni Jones
October 11, 2019

Since he first announced his campaign for President, Joe Biden has been the front-runner. This has been especially true among Black Americans - but that may be changing! Elizabeth Warren has steadily been gaining ground in major polls.

According to Real Clear Politics, Biden had a huge lead in the Democratic field in May, with more than 40% of voters indicating he was their first choice. That lead has steadily shrunk, and as of October 8th, he is still in the lead - but with only about 26% of the vote.

During the same time period, Elizabeth Warren has consistently risen - going from about 8% in May to 26% in October - dead even with Biden. But why? And is this change reflected among Black voters?

Not exactly. According to multiple polls, Biden is still by far the top choice for Black voters. But Warren is gaining ground here, too: her poll numbers among Black voters have doubled in the last few weeks.

Activists have criticized Biden as “not progressive enough,” and attribute his role in creating the 1994 Crime Bill as to why. It introduced things like “three strikes” laws and mandatory minimum sentencing, which greatly contributed to mass incarceration, which has put countless Black people behind bars. 

He also regularly says eyebrow-raising off-the-cuff remarks, like when he compared “poor kids” to “white kids,” or when he bragged about being friendly with openly-racist senators.

Black voters make up nearly 25% of Democratic voters, and that means whoever Black people vote for is very likely to be the nominee. But Black voters are diverse and have a wide variety of interests and priorities. 

Primary among Black voters is “electability;” many reports indicate that their highest priority is winning against Donald Trump. While many could support a woman president, they know it’ll be harder for her to compete - and they look to Hillary Clinton’s loss as a cautionary tale.

Biden has mainstream name recognition and a close association with Barack Obama - the most popular former president in recent memory - neither of which is one of Warren’s strengths. Supporters of Biden also point to his reputation as a collaborator and dealmaker in congress, while Warren is known more as a “firebrand.” Many activists argue, though, that not only is Warren electable, she’s also better for Black America than Biden.

Biden has been largely moderate on most issues important to Black Americans - such as criminal justice reform, education, economic issues like taxes and income inequality, and racism - while Warren has been outspoken and progressive about these issues, as well as one of the first congress members to call for President Trump’s impeachment.

As she gains popularity - Elizabeth Warren is now clearly in the No. 2 spot behind Biden - more Black voters are warming up to her. One Black Warren-supporter explained her perspective on the shift: “I just think people don’t know her yet… [a]ll she needs to do is put herself in front of people,” and they might like what they discover, said Kim Ume, who lives in South Carolina, which strongly supports Biden according to polling.

Only time will tell who wins Black voters’ crucially important favor.

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