US midterms: how the black vote could decide Trump's fate
The turnout of African-American voters for a critical US midterm election in November is likely to be decisive in Washington and the result could reverse the balance of power in Congress. The FT's North America correspondent Patti Waldmeir reports from Ferguson, Missouri
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The black vote is - is the X factor in this election.
If African-Americans don't turn out to vote in this election, the seat for the Democrats is at risk, and that's an opportunity for the Republicans.
I think it is a - a referendum on the president. All of the political rhetoric has gotten to a point that it is almost violent in nature.
Because one day when I was lost and deep in sin, the...
Pastor Cassandra Gould is a child of the American civil rights movement. Her mother went to jail for the right to vote in the 1960s, when she was arrested in the famous Bloody Sunday protests in Selma, Alabama. Now, her daughter pounds the pulpit every Sunday at her church in Jefferson City, Missouri, exhorting her parishioners to vote.
If you have not voted, you need to register to vote.
The stakes are high. Low black voter turnout was one factor that helped President Donald Trump win the White House in 2016. Now, America faces midterm elections that could reverse the balance of power in the US Congress, but not if black voters stay home.
When you have a president that actually amplifies the very violent, racist, reckless history of this country, and amplifies the very worst in humanity, if for no other reason, people should go vote to actually try to stop that train.
Democrats have identified the US Senate race in Missouri as one place where they intend to draw the line. Claire McCaskill, the state's Democratic senator, is in danger of being unseated by pro-Trump Republican Josh Holly. Holly seems to be getting a late boost from Trump voters angered by the ugly Senate confirmation fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Up until now, the polls have shown a dead heat between the two candidates, so every vote counts.
But McCaskill is a moderate white baby boomer, so it may be hard to get young African-American voters to the polls for her in places like Ferguson, Missouri. That's the black suburb of St Louis that exploded in violence four years ago when a white policeman killed an unarmed black teen. But Ferguson activist and battle rapper Bruce Franks is encouraging black voters to turn out for her.
Folks may not be happy. We may not be happy with our particular choice, and we might have our grievances. But we do have to measure them up against each other and see who is the closest to our interest. I was them. I was that person that didn't vote, that wasn't involved in the process. So when I'm able to explain it, and then I get to see that I'm in a certain position, they're a little more excited about registering to vote and actually voting.
So it was the murder of Michael Brown, right? Like, that's what drove me to finally think about policy, think about politics, look at who we have in charge. And when the community came together and asked me to run for office, that's when it made sense.
He points to the fact that African-Americans came to the polls in large numbers in August for a Democratic primary election that would normally have got very low turnout. And because so many blacks cast their votes, they were able to unseat a long-serving white prosecutor, the same man condemned for his handling of the Ferguson police shooting, and replace him with a black Ferguson city councilman. Democrats hope that enthusiasm carries over into next month's midterms.
In 2018, the entire United States Senate is at stake, and this is a very, very close election. It's seen as tied in all the polls so far. It's going to be a real nail-biter to decide who wins this seat, and probably who wins control of the US Senate.
Strong African-American turnout for the Democratic party helped elect Barack Obama, America's first black president, exactly a decade ago. But in 2016, the electoral pendulum swung back, putting President Trump, a man with very little African-American support, into the White House.
Now, black activists are mobilising the African-American electorate to vote against Republican candidates in the midterms, hoping that will generate enough voter enthusiasm to unseat Mr Trump when he's expected to seek a second term. The balance of power, now and in 2020, could be in the hands of black voters in Ferguson, throughout Missouri, and across the United States. The same voters who once had no franchise. Will they vote, or will they stay home? Much will depend upon it.
Patti Waldmeir, Financial Times, Ferguson, Missouri.