The power of the minority vote in the presidential election


Nouse looks at how previously marginalised voices were empowered and made all the difference

Article Image

Image by Gage Skidmore

By Shaun Odili

290 to 214. It’s official. Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States as President Donald Trump was unsuccessful in his bid to retain his position as the leader of the free world. We all waited with bated breath to see whether America’s swing states would go red or blue in an election year that produced an estimated record voter turnout of 66.9 per cent.

The two presidential candidates battled neck and neck for what seemed like an eternity, with the share of electoral college votes between them relatively equal for a large part of the campaign. The Republicans won Florida, indicating that Trump may have been in pole position to serve a second consecutive term, as Florida has voted with the eventual winner in all but one presidential election since 1964.

Due to its large population, Florida is perhaps the most influential swing state as it has the most electoral college votes. However, the Democratic party triumphed in other swing states, flipping Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Amidst the backdrop of allegations about voter fraud, complaints about the postal system and calls for a recount, it appears that Joe Biden, and the Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, are set to lead a country that is highly divided. Trumpism will persist, and Trump himself will persist.

The reinstatement of Democratic politicians as the leaders of America, in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, signifies both regression and progression. In Biden, there is the sense that his reign as President will engender the return back to traditional politics and back to America’s reintegration into the liberal economic order. The walls of protectionism that Donald Trump built are set to come down.

In Harris, we have the first female, Asian and Afro-Caribbean Vice President. An unprecedented figure within an unprecedented time, Kamala Harris provides an indication that American politics is moving towards a more inclusive and diverse system. The impact that Biden and Harris will have is yet to be seen and they will have their detractors. With the numbers of seats won between both parties relatively equal within the House and the Senate, to some extent they may be limited within Congress. With 71,513,128 people voting for Donald Trump they face the battle of being denied by a significant portion of the American public. But what can’t be denied and what isn’t shrouded in doubt and uncertainty is the fact that this election is representative of minority voices being more powerful than ever.

I remember attending an event at Chatham House in London in March 2019 where Stacey Abrams spoke. She eloquently delivered a speech on the importance of identity politics, sharing her belief that it is reductive to obfuscate the links between race, gender and socio-economic position. Her message was one of paramount importance. Giving marginalised groups a voice within political debate would enable them to no longer feel silenced and oppressed by groups that have dominated politics for decades. The crux of her speech was exemplified within the political landscape of Georgia at the time where she made a bid to become the first African-American woman to become a governor in America. Ultimately, she lost to her Republican challenger Brian Kemp, who had previously cancelled voter registrations for more than a million Georgia residents due to “inactivity” in order to maintain voting records in his role as Georgia’s Secretary of State. To Abrams this was another example of how dominant, oppressive groups within American politics sought to further disenfranchise minorities.

Although she lost her battle to be governor, a year later Stacey Abrams has won the war against the attempts to silence the voices of marginalised voters. In collaboration with a network of grassroot organisations she was able to register more than 800,000 voters in Georgia alone and help prove that the black vote truly matters. As Georgia was one of the key states that contributed to Joe Biden’s election, it is evident that Stacey Abrams’ efforts were not in vain. Abrams wasn’t the only example of inspiring women aiming to shift the political paradigm and narrative during this election. Brittany Smalls, a Philadelphia voting rights activist, dedicated much of her time towards empowering those within her neighbourhoods, reassuring them of the fact that their votes do matter. Kruzshander Scott, an organiser in Florida, worked tirelessly to turn out voters in her historically black community despite receiving threats.

There are many questions that will be posed in the aftermath of this election. Will Trump actually concede? Will Biden be able to unite America? Did Biden actually win? But, what can’t be called into question is the endeavours that people such as Stacey Abrams made to ensure that this election, more than any other election before, was one where the black vote mattered and the voices of the marginalised were heard.