A look back at how we got here…
Over the years, there have been many uplifting moments for progressive whites, young people, women, and people of color. The past few elections have been filled with energetic political events, parades, and plenty of moments that did more than entertain; they inspired. Many things are different now, but some things we can count on.
The progressive network now has a unique opportunity to expand, deepen, and strengthen its proven game-changing system, which records students of color. As demonstrated in 2020, these young voters have the power to elect candidates — including African Americans — to the mayor’s office, state capitals, U.S. Congress, and the White House. On the horizon is the critical 2022 midterm elections, where candidates of color are poised to become U.S. Senators if this voter power is tapped.
Senator Cory Booker represents a perfect example of what can happen in 2022. His state of New Jersey — once known as the “pathway of the revolution,” is still a symbol of patriotism. Booker’s use of Twitter to rescue a freezing dog was an example of this new pathway. It demonstrated how new media, politics, and old-fashioned values could create a new brand of social patriotism.
New Jersey has experienced significant demographic changes, which have impacted its political environment. The state has the seventh-largest Latino population in the United States. Nearly 25% of N.J.’s registered voters are VOC, with the majority of them Democrats. Among voters who are not registered, about 33% are people of color. That means close to 32% of New Jersey’s low propensity voters are VOC.
How does the fact that voters of color constitute a significant vote share affect New Jersey politics? One example is Senator Booker doing well against other possible candidates for his 2014 U.S. Senate race. As a result, new Jersey Democrats overwhelmingly supported Mr. Booker over Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Rob Andrews, and State Senate President Steven Sweeney. As a result, new Jersey voters wanted to elect Cory Booker to the U.S. Senate by a margin of two to one.
What’s drove his numbers? Booker’s advantages were across geography, populations, and issues. Also, his social media savvy helped to keep his brand strong and get his message out. As mentioned above, after seeing a tweet about a freezing dog, Booker took immediate action to rescue the man’s best friend. That kind of social patriotism resonates strongly with voters.
By contrast, Pallone, Sweeney, and Andrews were not very well-known among the state’s registered voters, despite Pallone and Andrews having represented N.J. in Congress for over two decades each, and Sweeney leading the state’s legislature.
Understanding the nature of student of color civic engagement is essential in today’s new political landscape. Authenticity may have been a second-tier concern in the past, but it has become the loadstone of demographic politics. Appealing to pockets of voters was once relegated to the campaign’s “base vote” operation. Now it has become the soul of tactical electoral strategy. Campaigns are beginning to understand that the most effective way to expand the electorate and mobilize communities of color is with conduits that intimately understand those communities.
There are a few ways to ensure that voters of color achieve their 31% vote share from past elections. The common denominator is the candidate. Every political leader must engage communities of color with authenticity and social patriotism. For some, embracing the new realities of politics will require them to change. Over time they will find it easier to step outside of their comfort zones and themselves. Then their actions will make a difference for others and themselves because it is the responsible thing to do. #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote