By Regina Graham
Do blacks just vote for black candidates because they are black, was one of the questions raised during the panel discussion moderated by BET Networks host TJ Holmes, titled “W.E.B. Dubois Plenary: Black, White, Red and Blue: Views from the African American Electorate in the Battleground States.”
The panel, featuring Andra Gillespie, Emory University Associate Professor of Political Science, Cornell Belcher, pollster with Brilliant Corners, and Sonya Ross, an editor with The Associated Press, answered a number of questions and addressed issues surrounding the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama.
One critical concern raised by Holmes was what will energize blacks to come out in strong numbers this time around. Ross responded that Obama is going to have to change his approach to black voters, particularly women.
“This president needs a different approach than your standard white Democrat,” Ross asserted. “What we are seeing or at least what I’m observing in the events is a democratic approach that is very much like the standard white male candidate is up for re-election. And that is let’s engage and energize the African American vote when it matters like in August.”
Ross went on to say that this tactic is not going to work. Instead, Obama needs to be engaging and re-energizing the black vote a lot sooner than that. In addition to this, Ross said Obama needs to specifically re-engage with black women voters because they came out to the first election in such strong numbers across the nation.
Panelists also tackled the issue of how blacks are being targeted to vote on election day.
Gillespie, who was trained to study field operations participation, said that door-to-door canvasing is the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to getting people out to vote, yet blacks are the least targeted group.
The money spent on field operations needs to target more black communities instead of the traditional white suburban soccer mom, Gillespie said.
The audience quizzed the panel about a variety of topics including student loans, healthcare costs, the state of the economy and gay marriage.