Black History Month: When can America expect a Black woman as president?

Nii Ntreh Feb 4, 2020 at 10:00am

February 04, 2020 at 10:00 am | Opinions & Features

Nii Ntreh

Nii Ntreh | Staff Writer

February 04, 2020 at 10:00 am | Opinions & Features

L-R: Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Stacey Abrams.

In a recent interview, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, predicted that she will be president of the United States by the year 2040.

The outspoken Democrat was speaking to FiveThirtyEight on the future of her political career as well as the potential of some of the projects of passion she is seeing to these days.

On what will become of her, Abrams seemed optimistic, offering a resounding “Yes, absolutely” when asked if America was going to see a woman president, and particularly a black woman, in the next two decades.

Abrams came within a margin of less than two percentage points, or about 55,000 votes, in her defeat to eventual winner Republican Brian Kemp.

In life after loss, Abrams’ work since the beginning of last year has been centered on confronting the legal and political machinations that have been designed to keep voter turnout low.

Coming from the south, Abrams knows better than many that these restrictions disproportionately affect African-Americans and other people of color.

In the theatre of public debate, such restrictions are pushed by proponents who speak about election sanctity in terms of stricter voter ID laws, fewer voting centers and massive police presence in areas with heavy black and brown populations.

When fear keeps the numbers down, the narrative that black people do not like to vote is watered.

But in spite of this, a 2019 Brookings Institue report noted what it considered the reliable stability of the “black vote”.

What is, therefore, more valid topics is the contentious history African-Americans have with American law enforcement and the disenfranchisement they are fighting to date to overcome.

Abrams’ dreams of the presidency is linked to the success of her campaign to increase voter turnout. But in the wider scheme of things, the challenge is equal to an aggregate of some individual issues.

Take the following two.

There is the problem of why a determined Republican establishment would prefer a coalition of the (white) voters it chooses. Black people are much more likely to be Democrat.

And then there are the economic and political implications this anti-democratic agenda holds for America’s black women, one of the most vulnerable groups.

The marginalization of black women is steeped in generations of their kind having to stand farther from the crowd, quite literally, to make their case. Their proximity to power ever stretched out by double doses of misogyny and racism.

This systemic challenge found manifestation in all aspects of American life from maternal health to discrimination in insurance claims. Consequently, for black women, the material fulfillment prior to political engagement is a rug nearly whipped from beneath them.

Looking forward, the positives are few. As a demographic, black women may have just started to have their time in the sun.

Establishment and independent media praised the role of black women in electing Doug Jones as a senator from Alabama against the nationally unpopular Roy Moore.

Before that, statistics showed black women with or without college degrees, were the biggest demographic to have voted for Hillary Clinton. This is more in percentage points than black men and Caucasians of either sex, with or without degrees.

Since the last presidential elections, voices within and outside the Democratic Party have also been making the case for greater recognition of the role of black women as part of increasing left-identitarianism within the party.

America’s changing demographics may also present a vision of a brighter future for Black women and Abrams’ hopes of being president.

Population projections say by 2045, America’s white population will be the racial minority.

Statistician William H. Frey, writing for the Brookings Institute, painted a portrait: “During that year, whites will comprise 49.7 percent of the population in contrast to 24.6 percent for Hispanics, 13.1 percent for blacks, 7.9 percent for Asians, and 3.8 percent for multiracial populations.”

The projection gets more dire for the white population by 2060, something that is attributed to “a consequence of more deaths than births”.

White America is getting older while present minority numbers are growing but with younger Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians.

Voter suppression tactics, as well as the hardline immigration policies, have been attributed to the fear of the impending racial dynamic. Some have called into question the potential for the success of reactionary attitudes.

Cast against this background, Abrams can be more confident. What then follows is how a black woman can ingratiate herself to America’s voting public.

The challenge then moves from the racial barrier to a winning ideological vision. 2020 is a loud lesson.

The election of Donald Trump has been viewed by many experts as a backlash against the cultural significance of Barack Obama’s presidency. The theory holds that the nativist rhetoric found among some in white America points to that very fact.

It may be far-fetched to suggest Obama would still be in the minds of the white electorate in 20 years. But there still may be some resentment against the demographic shift.

If this is the case, black people would possibly have to contend with gerrymandered districts and the electoral college. The preferred candidate in such a scenario would have to be a safe choice – the Joe Bidens, perhaps, of 2040.

If the towering problems of the future are economic, the times could belong to the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warrens of the time.

The point here is that the race of a black woman running for president may or may not be consequential in 20 years. With this comes a lot of difficulty in predicting who may be that black woman who shatters the glass.

As things stand, Abrams is in the company of Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, the other two most popular black women expected to have the best chance at winning the White House.

Who knows, in two decades, we may be talking an entirely different person.

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