It would have probably never occurred to most politicos that the Democratic Party may be in peril of losing the votes of black women, who make up one of its most loyal and politically active voting blocs. But the slow-motion implosion of both major political parties we are observing in real time on social media may also include an exodus of black women from the party of Jefferson.
This weekend, Saira Rao, Democratic Party supporter, social justice activist, and co-founder of In This Together Media, wrote an op-ed for The Huffington Post entitled, "I’m A Brown Woman Who’s Breaking Up With The Democratic Party," and subtitled, "I realize now that the love has been one-sided."
In the form of an open letter to the Democratic Party, Rao first details her history of party loyalty and activism, in which she clearly invested a lot of her emotion, time, energy, and money. Then she shares how she feels about how little the party has given her in return for her investment before telling what the final straw was for her:
"My own 'liberal' white congresswoman in Colorado has given me a hint as to why.
At the congresswoman’s town hall in February, Neeti Pawar, the brown female founder of the South Asian Bar Association of Colorado, was one of the only people of color in a room of nearly a thousand. She asked about immigration and DACA protections. The congresswoman scoffed. When Pawar pressed on, she was told to remain silent or she’d be asked to leave. During a follow-up, staffers told Pawar that civil rights weren’t the representative’s “issue.” Brown and black people don’t have the luxury of sidelining civil rights. It’s life and death for us.
And it didn’t stop there.
I was organizing a fundraiser for a U.S. senator earlier this month, and had planned to use the opportunity to highlight women of color by having black women introduce him. The congresswoman’s staff caught wind of the event and asked if she could introduce the senator. I explained my position but invited her to come as a guest. No response. When pressed on her stance on racial inclusion, her staff didn’t respond to me directly but tattled on me to the white women co-hosting the event."
As an independent voter all my life, I was frustrated for Saira, and excited to hear that she is quitting the rigged two-party establishment system to become an independent. I was also curious to find out if she was the only woman of color who feels this way about the Democratic Party, or if there were more. I found that we may be seeing a trend emerge.
At the end of September, Patrice Lee Onwuka, a senior policy analyst at The Independent Women's Forum reported that black women are beginning to doubt whether the two-party system really represents them:
"Black women have been treated as nothing more than a mistress or 'side chick' by the Democratic Party. Democrat leaders aggressively — and publicly — court other demographics such as young people and educated white women, but exert little effort to secure black female voters. They have had no reason to — until now.
Black women form the most reliable base of support for the Democratic Party. Yet, now they are awakening to the realization that they are nothing more than a fallback plan for Democrats.
The 3rd annual Power of the Sister Vote conducted by Essence and The Black Women’s Roundtable found an 11-percent drop in black female voters (from 85 to 74 percent over one year), who believe the Democratic party best represents their interests. Additionally, more than one in five black women don’t think either party best represents them — an eight-point increase from last year.
This is not the first signal of trouble from a constituency that has been the party’s most loyal voters.
According to a survey presented to the Congressional Black Caucus earlier this year, 63 percent of black Americans feel taken for granted by the Democratic Party. That sentiment is strongest among black women ages 50-plus, who have watched decades of black communities and important issues go ignored."
If some of the Democratic Party's most reliable voters are reconsidering what they're really getting out of the two-party system, no votes are safe and the parties are going to have to start actually earning votes instead of just being a little "less evil" than the other party.
We'll see if they adjust to the new reality of informed voters in the age of the Internet and social media, or if they continue to lose voters to the growing independent voter movement. Welcome, Saira. It's great to be independent!
Image: Patrice Lee Onwuka