ATLANTA — For a good two years, Democrats have been wooing Black voters across the ideological spectrum, hoping to appeal to the issues they care about most both politically and culturally as they gear up for Election Day. Friday evening, at Morehouse College — Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater — Sen. Kamala Harris made the party’s closing argument to them, emphasizing the issues at stake for Black communities and outlining how a Biden administration would alleviate them.
Dressed in a black suit and stilettos, she strutted out to Mary J. Blige’s “Work That,” beaming as she grabbed the mic. She delivered her remarks to a crowd of voters at a drive-in rally at the historically Black college, whose alumni include former NAACP president Julian Bond, Maynard Jackson Jr., the city’s first African-American mayor, Spike Lee and Samuel Jackson. (Not to mention, one time Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.)
The setting was not lost on Harris, and she tailored her speech accordingly.
“Coming to Atlanta, and especially if you are Black and hold elected office in America, coming to Atlanta is like coming back to the womb,” Harris said, alluding to the civil rights foundation of the city.
“Atlanta is a place that has produced leaders who have been national leaders and international leaders, who have always understood that hope will fuel the fight, faith will be what grounds us in knowing what is possible.”
Harris talked about the all-but-a-done-deal confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, and in so doing, invoked Thurgood Marshall, the Court’s first Black justice. She talked about climate change, but made sure to drive home its impact on communities of color. And in discussing Democrats’ chances of taking control of the Senate, she reminded everyone she was the only Black woman to hold the post — and only the second to do so.
“You got to just organize the folks,” she said, “and bring people together and recognize that nothing we have ever achieved as a nation by way of progress came without a fight.”
Her remarks represent a full-throated lean into her identity as a Black woman, something the California senator has frequently cited in addition to her Indian American heritage. Her visit closed the lid even tighter on Black support in Georgia ahead of its mandatory Saturday voting period on October 24, during which all counties statewide will be required to keep polling places open.
Part of the playbook: Black voters are key to Democrats’ victories up and down the ballot on Nov. 3. Black women are the most active within this voting bloc and view Harris’ position atop the ticket as recognition of their support of the party and further fuel for their efforts to get out the vote.
A margins game: Democrats anticipating close election results have targeted key voting groups to put them over the top on Nov. 3. Young Black men, specifically, are atop that list. During her visit to Atlanta, Harris held listening sessions with groups of them and addressed her role as a prosecutor–something her critics point to as a stumbling block with the group. During an interview with V-103, a Black Atlanta radio station on Friday, Harris addressed those concerns.
“I’m never going to tell anybody that they are supposed to vote for us. We need to earn the vote,” she said. “Black men, like anyone else, they’re not monolithic.”
Georgia is in play: As Election Day draws closer, liberals have grown increasingly bullish about the odds of delivering the state for Joe Biden and elect two Democratic senators. Their claim is boosted by large numbers of Black early voters and coalescence around the party from Asians and Latinos, who have voted for Republicans in larger numbers in the past.