Why the Biden-Harris ticket needs Black Philadelphians

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Kamala Harris speaking with Solomon Jones during a visit to Philadelphia on Thursday. (Courtesy of Solomon Jones III)

Kamala Harris speaking with Solomon Jones during a visit to Philadelphia on Thursday. (Courtesy of Solomon Jones III)

Pennsylvania is going to be one of the most important states — if not THE most important state — in determining the outcome of this year’s presidential election. President Trump won Pennsylvania by a narrow margin in 2016, thanks in part to a crucial number of Democratic voters sitting out the election.

WHYY’s political reporter Katie Meyer explains that’s why this year, the question in Philly is not whether the Biden-Harris ticket will win the city, but by how much. One key group they have to convince? Black voters, some of whom feel the Democratic Party has taken their support for granted.

Hear the whole story on The Why

Interview highlights

On why Democrats can’t afford to take any Pa. voters for granted

It’s a swing state, and it’s pretty divided down the line between Democrats and Republicans. And it’s worth 20 points in the Electoral College, which means that whoever wins, it gets a really big boost … And FiveThirtyEight recently did an analysis that said Pennsylvania has about a 30% chance of being the tipping point state that decides the election. It says that Pennsylvania is so important that there’s an 84% chance of Trump winning the presidency if he carries Pennsylvania. And if Biden wins Pennsylvania, he has a 96% chance of winning … In 2016, Trump won [Pennsylvania] by .7 percentage points, so less than 1% …  And so that means reaching out to voters in places like Philly who, you know, we think of as reliably Democratic. Black voters — Black voters vote for Democrats in pretty high numbers and reliably high numbers. But the question is, will they vote in high enough numbers to tip the scales?

On one Black voter who feels ambivalent about Joe Biden 

Carl Day, he’s a pastor at Culture Changing Christians Worship Center in North Philly. And he got a lot of media attention recently after he appeared at this town hall that Trump did with undecided voters in Philly. And he asked President Trump, you know, when Trump says “Make America Great Again,” what great time period is he talking about?

He voted for Jill Stein in 2016. But before that, he very happily voted for Barack Obama. So I asked, “So what changed?” And he said, well, in 2016, he didn’t like his options. He didn’t like Trump, didn’t really like Hillary Clinton. So he went for Stein. And he says this year, he kind of feels similarly. Specifically, he pointed to ways that he believes Black Philadelphians specifically have been set up to fail, so things like redlining (where people were forced over years by actual policy in two neighborhoods that were considered undesirable), schools being underfunded, being in jobs that are low paying. And he said he wants action on this, and he wants it in a really explicit way that he thinks these candidates aren’t really giving him. [He said,] “When the smoke clears, guess what? I still have to continue to pick up the pieces in my community. So, I’m not about to just settle for a, ‘Hey, anybody but 45.’ No, I need better answers than that.”

But the thing is, in a close election, voters like Day, people who don’t feel particularly inspired by their candidate, they’re going to be important. This is an election that’s going to be decided by probably not very many votes. And so when campaigns are deciding who they’re going to target and who they need to turn out, every vote really matters.

Philadelphia Councilmember Cherelle Parker on why she supports the Biden-Harris ticket

When have you heard a person running for president who has a plan to support historically Black colleges and universities? Until I heard Kamala Harris and Vice President Biden talk about it and make it an essential part of their platform, we hadn’t heard people to talk about it. Support for cities. I think there’s a certain sense of urgency relative to the issues that we are facing right now …

When people talk about Biden-Harris, it’s no longer just about hope. It’s about: We’re going to hold you accountable to help us develop the remedy that we’re going to need to address the issues that are taking place in our communities.

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