Joe Biden’s Debt to Black Voters Comes Due

Joe Biden’s Debt to Black Voters Comes Due

Black voters helped save the president-elect’s primary campaign and put him over the top in the general election. Now they want action.

On february 29, hundreds of Joe Biden supporters stood densely packed in the volleyball center at the University of South Carolina, and the room went silent as Brian Williams’s voice blared through the loudspeakers. Polls had just closed in South Carolina, and MSNBC was ready to make a projection: Biden had won the state’s Democratic primary.

When Biden appeared onstage to speak, he knew what the victory meant: South Carolinians had saved his candidacy. “We’re back!” Biden yelled. “The state that launched Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to the presidency has now launched our campaign on the path to defeating Donald Trump.” He was joined by his wife, Jill, but he also stood next to the powerful South Carolina Democrat whose endorsement had buoyed him in the state, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. “To all of you here in South Carolina—and especially to Jim Clyburn, my friend—you lifted me and this campaign on your shoulders,” Biden said. “I will never forget what you have done for us.” In a state where 56 percent of primary voters were Black, 61 percent of Black voters supported Biden. Three days later, on Super Tuesday, Biden won 10 states—with overwhelming support from Black voters. The Democratic nomination was his for the taking.

On November 7, as Biden basked in the results of a projected general-election victory and raved about the coalition his campaign had cobbled together, he again pointed to the voters who had propped him up. “Especially for those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb,” he said, before turning directly to the camera and pounding his fist into the lectern for emphasis, “the African American community stood up again for me.”