The Chicago Tribune takes a deep dive into this issue, interviewing 60 Black local elected officials, religious leaders in Detroit, Milwaukee, and Cleveland.
Among the more than 3,000 counties nationwide, the three with the largest drop in Democratic votes between Barack Obama’s reelection win in 2012 and Clinton’s 2016 loss were Wayne County, Michigan (home to Detroit), Cuyahoga County, Ohio (home to Cleveland) and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, according to certified election results compiled by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. . . .
Cleveland City Councilman Basheer Jones worked as a regional field director in his city for Obama’s 2012 campaign and as a consultant for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, organizing events to engage Black voters. He described Obama’s campaign as a “well-oiled machine” that sent “waves of people who never considered voting” to the polls while “Hillary Clinton took that vote for granted.”
“They just believed there was no way Black people would support Donald Trump,” said Jones, the first Muslim elected to Cleveland’s council who represents a ward on the city’s predominantly Black East Side. “But they never made the case on why we needed to support Hillary Clinton. There wasn’t a sense of urgency.”
Jones said he’s seeing slightly more energy around this election — mostly because of deep opposition to Trump.
“I’m not seeing a lot of excitement on the ground here in Cleveland for Joe Biden, unfortunately,” Jones said. “So, at least if you’re not pro-Biden, I’m hoping you’re anti-Trump and that will be enough to bring you out, but I’m just not sure.”
“If you want this community to support you, you need to touch down in a lot of ways in this community,” said Rev. Gregory Lewis, executive director of Souls to the Polls, a faith-based grassroots organization that is aiming to boost Milwaukee’s Black turnout by 100,000 voters.
“I know it’s a pandemic, but get people out here with a ton of free yard signs, door hangers, put up some billboards — do something that shows us you want our vote,” Lewis said. “I could go down the street right now and ask someone if they know who Joe Biden is, and they probably won’t know.”