Does a new poll suggest black voters about to walk away from Democrats -- over impeachment?

If true, this would be a game-changer … if true, to emphasize this again. Donald Trump has put considerable effort into creating messaging designed to woo the African-American electorate for a simple reason. Democrats depend on an enthusiastic and united bloc of voters from this core demographic, without which they cannot win elections.

Politico’s Maya King reported last night on a survey conducted by BlackPAC, a group dedicated specifically to the political strength of that demographic. According to their data, it is neither enthusiastic nor united, with a third of all respondents dissatisfied with the entire Democratic presidential field and the direction of the party. A small but dangerous percentage might be listening to the man in the White House as a result.

And the impeachment project might be indirectly responsible for this trend:

The survey, conducted by the political action committee BlackPAC, found that while black voters are largely supportive of the Democratic Party and align most with its values, more than half feel that the party is not paying close enough attention to the black community. Democrats, they argue, grew too distracted by impeachment to focus on the issues that matter to black voters, putting them out of touch with the key bloc whose support they’ve relied on for decades.

It’s not that they necessarily disagreed with impeachment, it appears, but that it didn’t pay off. It’s tough to tell much without the data (the link at Politico is broken), but this appears to be the manifestation of the well-known risk of impeachment — getting nothing else done. Impeachment uses up all of the political capital of Congress, especially highly partisan impeachments, and makes it impossible to do the negotiating necessary to pass legislation of any significance into law. House Democrats spent all of 2019 and part of 2020 stalling progress, and now they may be paying a price for it with their most important voters.

King notes from her own access to the data that Democrats aren’t looking to leave the party to become Republicans. Most of the disillusioned will just not turn out — but a few of them might leave altogether. Those “few” are still a significantly higher number than seen in recent national elections, too:

The Democratic Party maintains an overwhelming share of black support, with 70 percent saying they will vote for the party’s presidential nominee in November. Yet more than one-third of all black voters surveyed expressed a desire for “someone else” to run. Given the option to vote for the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump or a third-party candidate, Trump and the third-party candidate each received 12 percent of support.

Compare these numbers with the 2016 exit polls to see the danger this would create for Democrats. In that cycle, Hillary Clinton got 89% of a lower turnout among African-Americans, and Trump only got 8%, a number which apparently still rankles him today. If the black vote only got 70% of that turnout and 24% of it split between Trump and a third party, not only would Democrats’ White House hopes be dashed but so would their control of the House. It would be a wipeout in all but their strongest districts and states, and it would likely give Trump a massive Electoral College win, if not a popular-vote victory too.

However, we are a long way away from Election Day. Voters do tend to return home from disillusionment, although they might not all return to the ballot box if they feel this uninspired. The underlying issues in play in this poll still greatly favor Democrats:

“Black voters are extremely anxious right now about what’s happening in the country,” said Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, citing the large percentages of survey participants who also expressed dissatisfaction with the economy and direction of the country. “It matters not the age category or people that live in rural or suburban communities. People are paying attention at a really high rate.”

It would be easy to shrug this off as an outlier, but other polls have shown hints of the same dynamic. Two weeks ago, black voters appeared to be losing confidence in Joe Biden, who had until then kept their loyalty to Barack Obama as an advantage in the primaries. Instead of going to other traditional candidates, however, they’ve migrated to the outsiders — Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg, and to Bernie Sanders, but apparently with little appetite for any of them. With Biden fading and all of the African-American hopefuls eliminated even before the first vote was cast, these voters might not just feel lost but actively marginalized by a process and a party that’s forcing them to choose between several white septuagenarians … again.

There is still a lot of time for Democrats to woo African-American voters back to the fold. The fact that it’s necessary to do so should be a warning signal all in itself.

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