Race relations at center of Biden visit to Broward County
Updated: Nov 30, 2020
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden visited Broward College North Campus on Oct. 29 in an effort to energize last-minute voters, just five days before Election Day. As a key battleground state still too close to call, and with President Donald Trump trailing Biden by a single digit lead in Florida, both presidential candidates waged their war over the state from different coasts this afternoon.
Trump spoke in Tampa, attempting to appeal to primarily Democratic and moderate voters in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, while the Biden campaign returned to South Florida seeking support from the Black and Latino communities.
During his drive-in campaign in Coconut Creek, Biden emphasized the importance of
voting for Democrats, from local races all the way to the White House.
“The heart and sole of this country is at stake right here in Florida,” Biden said. “If Florida goes blue, it's over.”
By putting a “promise to end systemic racism” at the party’s forefront, Democrats are
relying on support from marginalized communities in hopes that their acknowledgement of the pain that exists among minorities will help them dominate a voting bloc many people of color insist has been neglected, if not attacked, by the Trump administration.
“Trump doesn’t care at all, about anyone,” said Alandra Mata, a rally attendee who carried a large Mexican flag across her shoulders. “He is full of hate.”
In Florida, the implications of low minority turnout were seen in 2016 with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, where enthusiasm was dismal compared to the influx of minority voters in 2008 and 2012 for the Obama administration. This underscores the importance of appealing to Black and Hispanic Floridian voters to secure a Democratic win in Florida.
A major Democratic turnout in South Florida is essential to offset the Republican dominance in other Florida counties like Collier and Lee. This makes Broward, a largely diverse county, the perfect staging ground for a final sell at key voters.
“You have to vote,” Biden said. “You have to vote because while Donald Trump fails to condemn white supremacy, we can deliver on racial justice. When you all do better, everybody does better.”
While not absolutely essential to surpass Trump in electoral votes, a Democratic win in
Florida would pave an easier path for Biden to the White House. Biden is enjoying a 7% national lead, with an already projected 183 electoral votes from states that voted for Clinton in 2016. To reach the required 270, Florida would provide Biden with enough breathing room to parallel his national lead.
Conversely, as early voting closes, Trump’s struggle to maintain a hold on the Sun Belt states has resulted in over a 100 electoral vote deficiency compared to Biden, making Florida a must win for Trump to even have a chance at a second term.
With limited capacity inside the event, per the Biden campaign's COVID-19 safety
protocol, supporters took to the Broward College North Campus parking lot. The sea of blue anticipated to back Biden’s arrival quickly turned red as Trump supporters outnumbered that of Biden by a landslide, challenging the assertion of Biden’s favorability estimated by national polls.
Over 75 Trump enthusiasts from across South Florida dominated the crowd, fully
equipped with “Make America Great Again” flags and clothing. That forced the less than 20 Biden supporters to retreat to a sidewalk adjacent to the library. Tensions between the opposing groups rose when the issue of race brought several Trump supporters toe-to-toe with a single Biden supporter.
“You destroy your own neighborhoods,” one Trump backer shouted.
Another held a homemade sign urging Democrats to not “give Blacks a pity vote” by
voting for Biden.
“Unbelievable,” said Amanda Ruzzano, wife of Margate Mayor Tommy Ruzzano. “That's all I can say, unbelievable.”
The stark contrast in supporter turnout raises questions about the overall voter enthusiasm for Biden. It also confirms that race and issues unique to minority communities are key deciding factors in party affiliation. The small crowd of Black and Hispanic supporters for Biden, compared to the visibly white-dominated Trump fanbase, revealed that an appeal to identity politics works in favor of Democrats, while Trump’s emphasis on recreating a suburban and economic utopia by evoking memories of an exclusive 1950s society, attracts primarily white conservatives.
This image also confirms that with a candidacy built on the foundation of racial equity
and fighting for those who say they are marginalized under the current Republican policies, Black voter turnout will be essential to a Biden victory. This has been true from the beginning of Biden’s presidential campaign.
Biden was nearing the end of his run for the White House back in February until an endorsement from House Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn (D) helped secure Biden’s win in the South Carolina Primary. Clyburn’s extensive influence in the Black community led to a near 30% victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders (D), who was leading the Democratic primary election at the time. This narrative of leaning on Black support remains true today.
As roughly 20% of Democratic voters - and the most loyal demographic to the party - Black enthusiasm is key to a Democratic win. If Thursday’s rally is an accurate indication of what the turnout ratio will be between the parties on Nov. 3, Biden must prioritize galvanizing Black enthusiasm, especially in areas where it has ebbed since 2012, to control the narrative of the election.
This requires Biden to correct the misunderstanding that the Trump administration “has done the most for African Americans since Abe Lincoln,” a Trump-originated misconception that has weakened Democratic support from Black Americans, particularly Black males, according to national polls.
Trump has frequently exaggerated his role in the economic stability of Black people in an effort to energize the minority electorate. He claims credit for the record low Black
unemployment prior to 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, an area in which Black communities have been disproportionately affected medically and economically.
Though national Black unemployment reached a record minimum in 2019 at roughly
5.4%, an almost 2% decrease from when Trump took office in 2016, data gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics attributes that improvement to a preexisting downward trend set in motion by former President Barack Obama in 2011.
Trump has, however, increased national Black household income to $41,511, surpassing 2007’s pre-recession high of $41,134. More money in the pockets of Americans, especially during the era of COVID-19, will comprise the other half of the dichotomy surrounding
voting this election, with many Black voters making their decisions for president either on the basis of social or economic issues.
Trump’s new investment plan for Black communities, the “Platinum Plan,” supplemented by support from entertainment figures like Ice Cube and Lil Wayne, also creates an optimistic
outlook for economic equity moving forward. However, the plan’s exclusion of Black rural and suburban residents, again assuming that urban areas and the lower class are primarily comprised of Black Americans, and its threat to exacerbate over-policed communities with even greater policing standards, may be key deterrents.
In battleground states like Florida, Latino support will also be essential. Biden will have to distance himself from the Trump-perpetuated notion that Biden and his allies in Congress are socialists threatening American individualism. This is especially crucial for securing Hispanic support.
Latino voters, like Cubans and Venezuelans, maintain a Republican lean to avoid any repetition of their generational issues with government abuse of power or the social strife experienced in their countries of origin. Their sensitivity to “corruption,” an assertion Trump ties to Biden’s “socialism by association,” is what breeds some Latino support for GOP promises like the Southwest border wall and lenient COVID-19 protocol.
With Cuban-Americans comprising more than 50% of the Miami-Dade Hispanic
population alone, separating his policies from socialism is necessary to allay concerns of communism.
For Biden, this may also mean appealing to white voters in the way he does for
minorities. His plans for justice reform, livable wages and economic and medical protection for low income families are all outspokenly tied to his calls for racial justice, suggesting that people of color exclusively belong to the lower class - an implicitly racist assertion in itself that subsequently alienates white lower and middle class families.
Though Biden’s rally in Broward triggered warning signs for Democrats about the threat of another lag in minority voter turnout, Biden supporters remain hopeful that Election Day will be in their favor.
“God would not do that to us again,” said Janice Major, a rally attendee. “He let it happen the first time because we needed a wake up call. But now, everybody’s awake.”
Only Election Day will tell whether ties to originalism or a call for societal reform proved most effective in securing Florida. The Biden campaign will visit the Sunshine State for a final time before Election Day, as former President Barack Obama will visit Miami on Monday, Nov. 2.
By Haley Hartner