Unlike Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley, who capitalized on the diversification of their districts to defeat white incumbents, Tlaib underperformed with the nonwhite voters in her district last year. She benefited from numerous African-American candidates splitting up the black vote, allowing her to win with just 31 percent of the vote, a narrow 900-vote plurality. (With fewer candidates on the ballot, Jones defeated Tlaib narrowly in a concurrent primary election to serve out the last eight weeks of the term after Rep. John Conyers’s resignation.)
Indeed, Tlaib’s victory is an example of how much left-wing candidates, including those of color, rely on progressive white voters to sustain their support. Most African-American voters identify as moderates and tend to back mainstream candidates with establishment support. According to an analysis provided by a Democratic operative, Tlaib trailed Jones by 4,041 votes in the state legislative districts within her congressional district where black voters make up a majority. Her primary victory was powered by white progressives; the majority-white legislative districts supplied her with the winning margin.