The Real Story of This Election Lies with a New Generation of Multiracial Voters

By Colleen Loper, Director of Political Strategy at Way to Win

Photo: Ted Eytan

Reading mainstream political coverage, you would think that white voters alone hold the key to victory for Democrats. The past four years have been an endless parade of pearl-clutching think pieces from reporters eager to know what makes white working-class voters tick. While the media obsessed over rural white voters’ “economic anxiety” — the euphemism du jour for racism — progressive organizers stayed busy laying the groundwork for the record-shattering turnout we are seeing this year among a burgeoning multiracial coalition.

This progressive, multiracial coalition is where the real story is. It is true that white folks currently make up 60% of the electorate, but that will not be the case for much longer. If they wish to win elections, both political parties must accept — and should embrace — the fact that they simply cannot rely on white voters alone. The path to victory in the 21st century relies unequivocally on a multiracial coalition that cuts across lines of class and geography. The Obama coalition is reassembling across the map this cycle; take a look and you’ll see the electoral map growing precisely because of the work being done at the state level to engage and turn voters out.

In Arizona, Democrats have increased turnout impressively, with 72% of total 2016 Democratic voters having already turned out in 2020, thanks largely to organizations like LUCHA and Chispa AZ mobilizing voters. That increased Democratic turnout is coming from voters of color. Black Democrats have increased their turnout by 64%* compared to 2016. Asian-American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) Democrats have increased their turnout by 89%, and Latinx Democrats have increased their turnout by 52%. Arizona is now poised to flip for Biden and Senate candidate Mark Kelly. Had the campaigns and grassroots organizers in the state focused solely on white voters, Trump would prevail easily.

Meanwhile, in Texas, turnout has been historic. In total in 2016, 8.9 million people voted in Texas; this year, as of October 30th, Texans surpassed 9 million votes cast. The bulk of the groundswell can be attributed to a 100% increase in Black Democratic turnout, 131% increase in AAPI Democratic turnout, and 137% increase among Latinx voters, who are breaking for Democrats by an astounding 50-point margin, 70% to 20%. This kind of voter engagement does not happen overnight. It is due to the tireless work of organizations like Texas Organizing Project and MOVE TX, who have spent years building an infrastructure to mobilize the multiracial coalition needed to win.

Georgia and Florida also offer hope. In the Peach State, 2.6 million votes have been cast already. Black participation has already increased by 75% compared to this time in 2016. The Black voting bloc alone is 30% of the current electorate, with 92% breaking for Democrats. Add in increased white support for Biden and increased AAPI and Latinx Democratic participation, and a true Obama-era coalition emerges, thanks to Black Voters Matter and New Georgia Project, who have turned out high-potential voters. 23% of these early voters didn’t vote in 2016, and 21% of them have never voted at all or have only voted once before. In Florida, we’re also seeing a growing Democratic coalition of Black (93% support) and Latinx (58% support) voters thanks to the work of New Florida Majority and Florida for All. In all of these states, here’s the bottom line: new voters are leaning Democratic. The multiracial electorate is growing.

The states above are in the Sun Belt, but what about the Rust Belt? The Midwest has been examined ad nauseam for the past four years, as the Democratic establishment chased the all-important “white swing voter.” But what is true in Arizona is true in Michigan: for Democrats to succeed, it will take a multiracial coalition. In Michigan, a state with a majority of white voters (as of this writing, 1.6M out of 2M) and an abundance of unaffiliated voters, it’s unclear which party has an edge.

The key to victory, then, is shoring up multiracial voters. Thanks to organizations like Detroit Action and We the People, this work has been going on for years. We’re now seeing Black participation in Michigan up by 220%, with 98% of Black voters supporting Democrats. We are also seeing AAPI participation skyrocket — 500% more AAPI votes have been cast in 2020 than in 2016 at this point, and 65% are Democratic.

Despite all of the evidence of its incredible importance, this multiracial coalition is not given the credit it deserves. It is worth pointing out that voters of color often must overcome barriers to voting that many white voters do not — barriers deliberately put in place by Republicans who know that the more people exercise their right to vote, the more races they’ll lose. Democrats cannot win by playing the GOP’s game, frantically trying to shore up what votes it can from a shrinking white base. The data is clear — when we invest in the multiracial coalition, we exponentially increase our chances of winning up and down the ballot.

If Democrats win this cycle, we are sure to read dispatches from affluent suburbs about how white women saved America from another four years of Trump. The reality is that America’s salvation lies not with the voters who gave us Trump in the first place, but with the millions-strong multiracial coalition mobilizing for the first time thanks to dauntless organizers on the ground. They are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

*Demographic and Partisan data pulled from TargetSmart on 10/28



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Way to Win

A homebase for progressive donors and organizers seeking a strategic approach to political funding that builds lasting power in states.