WASHINGTON — As Democrats fret about their ability to win back white working-class men, some argue the party should instead be focused on turning out women of color as the best path to beat President Donald Trump in the election exactly one year away.
Black women are the Democrats’ single most loyal voting bloc, with 94 percent of them voting for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, according to exit polls. But their turnout was down from previous years and some say that’s because Democrats have taken their support for granted.
She the People, a national network which formed after Trump’s election, aims to change that by launching what it says is the first national voter mobilization effort focused exclusively on women of color.
“This is a very direct, strategic path to win electoral votes,” She the People Founder Aimee Allison told NBC News. “There's never been a national focus on turning out women of color like this, and certainly not one that starts 12 months out."
She the People aims to create a “national political home” for one million women of color, especially in key battleground states, with digital content and cultural events that will attract women of color who might not otherwise vote or be interested in politics, as well as by “stitching together” smaller local groups into a national effort.
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The scale of the effort and a “couple million” dollars initially behind it are “a drop in the bucket compared to the attention paid to white working-class voters,” Allison acknowledged.
But, she argues, it's narrowly focused where it matters most: Not just black women, who have long been loyal Democrats, but Asian American and Latina voters, among whom Democrats could still expand their margins.
In the battleground states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — home to cities with large minority populations such as Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia — the drop-off in turnout from women of color who voted for President Barack Obama in 2012, but then stayed home for Clinton in 2016, would easily swamp Trump’s narrow margin of victory, the group argues.
Census data showed a steep drop off nationally in minority turnout from 2012 to 2016, followed by an uptick in 2018, which helped Democrats recapture the House of Representatives, win races for governor in Michigan and Wisconsin, and re-elect the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania.
Overall, last year’s midterms saw a 37 percent surge in turnout among women of color from 2014, including a 48 percent jump among Asian American and Pacific Islander women, a 28 percent increase among black women, and a 51 percent rise among Latinas.
Much of that was driven by the backlash to Trump’s presidency.
But, Allison said, it will take organized efforts to both sustain that enthusiasm and effectively channel it to boost turnout next year.
“The path to winning those states has to be focused on getting women of color to turn out in 2012 numbers, as well as a strategic focus on registering younger voters,” she said.
The strategy takes a page from the playbook Democrat Stacey Abrams used in Georgia’s gubernatorial contest last year, which narrowly failed to put her in office, but came closer to doing so than many expected. “We're in essence applying on a national scale some of the lessons learned by the Stacey Abrams race in Georgia,” Allison said.
She the People organized one of the first major candidate forums of the 2020 Democratic presidential calendar earlier this year, but will not endorse a candidate in the primary.
Instead, starting now, it will begin focusing its efforts on organizing for the general election.
“The reason we're doing this so far out is a lot of the establishment's strategists think of women of color as an afterthought, if it all, and won’t start organizing until much later,” Allison said.