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Here’s What Biden Should Say to Black America at His First State of the Union Address

By: Terrance Woodbury

As President Biden prepares to speak to the nation at his first State of the Union Address, the President must also talk directly to his base’s core: Black voters. 

Black voters are keenly aware of their role in reviving President Biden’s primary campaign and delivering Congress and the White House to Democrats. Because of this, Black voters maintain high expectations for the President and demand a return on their political investment. Unfortunately, despite making progress on many Black voter priorities, the Biden administration has proven incapable or unwilling to take a victory lap and demonstrate to Black voters that he has their back. The result is fewer and fewer Black voters reporting approval in his presidency

How it started:How it’s going:
In June, ~53% of voters approved of Biden’s job performanceToday, ~42% of voters approve of Biden’s job performance
In June, 86% of Black voters approved of Biden’s job performanceToday, 73% of Black voters approve of Biden’s job performance.

Biden’s State of the Union address can be a pivotal moment for his Administration, one in which he can more directly take credit for his accomplishments and outline his plans to advance Black voter priorities.  

HIT Strategies’ latest focus groups show that Black voters are excited about Biden’s plans to nominate a Black woman to replace retiring justice, Stephen Breyer. However, these voters fear that Republicans will target her with racist attacks and that Democrats will not provide a firm defense of the nominee. Herein lies an opportunity for Biden and Congressional Democrats to forcefully defend their SCOTUS pick. Some Senate Republicans have already begun race-baiting and baseless attacks. By uniting behind the first Black female nominee, the President can recommit to his pledge and make the case to America why the Supreme Court should look like America. 

Furthermore, during his Address, the Biden Administration should make it clear to Black voters that how it’s going in 2022 is much better than 2020. 

COVID-19 recovery remains a top priority for Black voters who were disproportionately impacted by the health and economic suffering caused by the pandemic. The Biden Administration should take credit for acting decisively and deliberately to prioritize the most vulnerable communities, saving countless Black lives.  

How it started:How it’s going:
In early 2021 Black Americans were 37 percent more likely to die than Whites from COVID-19The racial gap in COVID-19 deaths is virtually eliminated
In April 2021, the ratio of Black Americans vaccinated as compared to white Americans was 2:3Today, that ratio has narrowed to 5:6, with 71% of Black Americans reporting having received the vaccine

Economic recovery also ranks highly among Black voters’ policy priorities. The pandemic-induced recession hit Black America hard, exasperating an already persistent income and wealth gap. President Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill addressed many economic hardships Black Americans face with numerous measures and programs. Too many Black voters aren’t aware of the resources provided by the Administration. President Biden must deliver these resources to the palm of their hands as aggressively as they sent messages encouraging Black voters to “click here” for instructions on how to cast a vote.  

How it started:How it’s going:
 13% of Black voters faced eviction or foreclosure.    

23% of Black voters skipped or were late on mortgage/rent.  

37% of Black voters skipped or missed a bill payment.
 
The Child Tax Credit helped reduce Black child poverty by more than 20%.

45.6 billion in emergency rental assistance/ eviction moratoriumStudent loan pause for Black American borrowers who are the 2nd-most likely to have monthly $350 or more monthly payments.

Extended unemployment benefit and stimulus checks  

Lastly, Black voters want Joe Biden to address racism and discrimination. There are voices inside the Democratic party that want to lean away from racial justice issues, fearing backlash from “moderate white voters.” However, many Black voters in the Democrat’s coalition are single-issue voters, and their single issue is combatting racism. Ignoring these issues and alienating the Black voters that Democrats need to win elections would be a detriment to the Biden Presidency. Our most recent BlackTrack polling shows Black voters are more likely to support candidates that are firmly anti-racist by an extensive margin. Racial issues are also motivating policy areas for Democrats of all races. Addressing these issues appropriately while calling out the GOP for its racism only helps Democrats. 

How it started:How it’s going:
BlackLivesMatter was designated a terrorist organization by DOJ DOJ designates Proud Boys a terrorist organization. Oath Keepers charged with treason  
Lead in drinking water, contaminated pipes in every state$24 billion allocated to update water systems infrastructure and eliminate lead exposure
Millions of young people and people of color protested George Floyd’s killing, demanding reform.  DOJ banned no-knock warrants and chokeholds for federal police. Revival of consent decrees to reform police departments
Voter suppression and election subversion laws passed in GA, TX DOJ sued GA, TX for discriminatory voting laws

President Biden needs to ensure that he receives the appropriate credit for his achievements in advancing racial equity while pressing for additional substantive changes. Vice President Kamala Harris should also play a key role in talking to Black voters about the Administration’s accomplishments. Her voice can play an essential part to bolster Democrats’ fight for Black priorities.

In short, as President Biden faces the nation from Capitol Hill, he has the opportunity to take credit for his numerous achievements. However, his strategy to re-energize Black voters must go much further than one speech. By employing “click here” messaging on government resources and pressing forward with a firm, anti-racist agenda, President Biden can demonstrate his commitment to advancing the priorities of Black voters. This would go a long way to fulfilling his campaign promise to Black Americans: “you got my back, and I’ll have yours.”