Where Are You, Lady? Red State Democrat Having Trouble Mobilizing Black Voters

Posted: May 15, 2018 2:20 PM

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is already one of the most unpopular Democratic senators running for re-election this year. She truly is in the fight for her political life. She’s going to have to “bring her a** to St. Louis,” said one woman at a Democratic town hall. While McCaskill was able to virtually gobble up the entire demographic in Missouri for her 2012 re-election campaign, many of her allies in the black community are hearing an earful about McCaskill, namely why should they vote for her when she’s done nothing for them. Yes, they’re not going to State Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is the presumptive Senate nominee, but it’s looking clear to these folks that the Democrats take their votes for granted (via McClatchy):

The future of Sen. Claire McCaskill's Senate career could rest with the state's black voters — and McCaskill is struggling to overcome the perception that she's taking their support for granted.

Leading black politicians in Missouri have held a series of private meetings in recent weeks with McCaskill. Among those urging her to get more involved are the state's two veteran black congressional representatives and state Rep. Bruce Franks, the Ferguson protester-turned-politician who admonished McCaskill earlier this year for not doing enough outreach in black communities.

McCaskill won 94 percent of the black vote in Missouri in 2012 when Barack Obama was on the ticket, seeking re-election as the nation's first black president.

This year, in what is expected to be one of the most hotly contested Senate races in the country, McCaskill will need the enthusiastic support of minorities from her base in the state's urban centers, Kansas City and St Louis, in order to secure a third term.


… Cleaver told her about a March 30 urban summit meeting he attended at a church in Kansas City, where he was grilled about the Missouri Senate race by 50 to 60 leaders from the area’s minority communities.

“’Are you going to support Claire McCaskill?’ That was the first question,” he said.

“It’s a tough group,” Cleaver said. “Even though they’re my friends, they weren’t happy with my constant statement: ‘I’m supporting her, I’m supporting her.’”

They asked him why, Cleaver said. “Has she helped you?” he said they asked. “Why should we vote for her, we haven’t seen her.”

This has been a simmering problem for quite some time. In February, town halls from members of the black community noted the dearth of communications between themselves and their supposed ally, Claire McCaskill (via Kansas City Star):

Democratic State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. got into a protracted back and forth with African-American constituents over their shared sense that Sen. Claire McCaskill is so busy courting rural voters that they’ve forgotten what she looks like.

“The entire exchange was so telling of the challenges that McCaskill faces this fall,” said a story in St. Louis’ African-American newspaper, the St. Louis American, “that we transcribed it.” And it’s so telling that I’m going to quote it at length.

A woman in the crowd started the whole thing by saying she’s worried McCaskill could lose her Senate seat to Republican Josh Hawley this year: “She may not be speaking to folks,” the woman said, but if she goes down, then the Democrats “lose an important seat in the Senate. How can we get folks out to vote for that, understanding that it’s touchy?”

It’s so touchy, in fact, that Franks turned the question back on her: “As a black man in a poor black community, how would you express to me the need to vote for Claire McCaskill?”


A woman in the crowd called that crumbs, but he disputed that, too: “We are talking about folks who, chances are, are having trouble voting for Claire. So her votes on the good stuff, those are crumbs. Her rhetoric, those are crumbs….I’m going to vote for Claire, but Claire is going to have to bring her ass to St. Louis. Period.

According to the transcript, the crowd applauded that remark. There was more, too, none of it laudatory.

“I don’t like a lot of what she’s done, either,’’ said the closest thing she had to a defender. “But ... it would be a tragedy to lose that seat.”

That’s bad for Claire. Obviously, these people are voting for Claire, or said they would, but what happens on Election Day is a different story. There’s no energy. it’s all very, very low energy concerning her support with black voters; they are vocal in their disappointment. McCaskill should expect a headache. She is going to be pelted, or at least she should be, about her past support for Hillary Clinton, who trashed her state, calling it backwards, racist, and sexist for breaking for Trump. She’s in a state that Trump won by double-digits, and her approval ratings are shoddy. Now, she can’t fully mobilize the black voters. There’s still a lot of time until Election Day. 

Claire may try to break free of the national Democratic Party label, but there's a lot here to suggest she's no different than any other liberal Democrat from the urban or coastal regions of the country, as opposed to the centrist flavor rural Democrats used to exhibit; they've all gone extinct. The fact that she didn't offer a comment for McClatchy is telling that she probably know she's up s**t's creek on this.