In Mil­wau­kee - ‘hard-pressed’ black vot­ers dumped Clin­ton

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MIL­WAU­KEE: On North Av­enue, young black men with noth­ing to do wan­der past boarded-up build­ings and di­lap­i­dated shops. It is a sad, des­o­late land­scape. They and other African Amer­i­cans in Mil­wau­kee con­trib­uted to Hil­lary Clin­ton’s crush­ing de­feat in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion: Not only did they not vote for her, as had been ex­pected, some even backed Don­ald Trump.

Wis­con­sin’s largest city is also Amer­ica’s most racially seg­re­gated one, ac­cord­ing to a study based on the 2010 cen­sus. And Wis­con­sin served up one of the big­gest sur­prises of an elec­tion day that shocked Amer­ica and the world: no one thought the mid­west­ern state would fall to the Repub­li­can bil­lion­aire. Clin­ton was so sure of vic­tory she did not even bother to cam­paign here af­ter the Demo­cratic pri­maries, in­stead send­ing her daugh­ter Chelsea or her hus­band, for­mer pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

“She prob­a­bly thought she had Wis­con­sin wrapped up,” said Ron­ald Roberts, a 67 year old re­tiree, as he left a shop called Bill the Butcher. Its aging sign is miss­ing the R. “You can’t take the vot­ers for granted be­cause they’ll stay home,” said Roberts, who used to work as an auto me­chanic. That is just what hap­pened here, ac­cord­ing to exit polls taken on Novem­ber 8. Stop any­one in this part of town, where there is not a white per­son in sight, and they will tell you as much. “I feel that she is no bet­ter than Trump. That’s why I didn’t vote,” said Brit­tany Mays, a young woman who works in a beauty sa­lon. Around her de­cay abounds: empty hous­ing de­vel­op­ments or boarded up homes sym­bol­iz­ing the eco­nomic woes of fam­i­lies that fell on very hard times.

Barack Obama had won over the state’s traditionally Demo­cratic elec­torate in 2008 and 2012, and Clin­ton had been bank­ing on a strong turnout here among African Amer­i­cans as she cam­paigned with the bless­ing of the na­tion’s first black pres­i­dent. But in Mil­wau­kee, turnout slumped the most in poor, black ar­eas of the state, com­pared to wealth­ier-whiter-ar­eas.

Many black peo­ple here were left out of the eco­nomic re­cov­ery that Wis­con­sin en­joyed af­ter the Great Re­ces­sion. “Now you have got a lot peo­ple walk­ing around here with no job. There is not a lot of money cir­cu­lat­ing,” said Roberts. In Mil­wau­kee, prac­ti­cally all of the white peo­ple have moved to the sub­urbs, and Trump cam­paigned there, of course. Black res­i­dents moved here from the south in the 1960s, just as the city’s man­u­fac­tur­ing base was start­ing to de­cline. The set­tled in the north of the in­ner city, and His­pan­ics set up in the south.

Over time, lit­tle by lit­tle, the racial di­vide has deep­ened. These days the un­em­ploy­ment rate among black peo­ple is three times that of whites. African Amer­i­cans hold the na­tional record in school drop-outs. In Mil­wau­kee County, more than 50 per­cent of black peo­ple aged 30 to 40 have spent time in jail, mean­ing they are barred from vot­ing for a while. What is more, a re­cent law forces peo­ple to show a photo ID in or­der to vote. Ad­vo­cacy groups ar­gue that this was de­signed to limit mi­nor­ity turnout in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. “In some case, vot­ers were wrongly turned away,” said An­drea Kamin­ski, who runs the Wis­con­sin chap­ter of the League of Women Vot­ers, which de­ployed 250 ob­servers on Elec­tion Day.

Di­vide deep­ened ‘Dis­mal pic­ture’

“You can­not count the num­ber of peo­ple who did not even try to vote be­cause of the voter ID law. But that’s prob­a­bly a much big­ger num­ber than the peo­ple who were ac­tu­ally turned away,” Kamin­ski said. “I do know a few peo­ple who did not have ID or were re­stricted to vote and they feel like it was un­fair to them,” said Der­ricka Wes­ley, 24, who works at a Wal­mart store. Hard hit by drug abuse, vi­o­lence, a col­lapse in real es­tate prices and un­em­ploy­ment, many peo­ple in black neigh­bor­hoods of Mil­wau­kee have sim­ply lost hope, said LaTonya John­son, a black lo­cal elected of­fi­cial. “You see this dis­mal pic­ture where peo­ple aren’t re­ally see­ing the cor­re­la­tion be­tween ac­tu­ally cast­ing their bal­lot and im­prov­ing their liv­ing con­di­tions,” John­son said.

She ar­gued that Trump’s re­lent­less cam­paign rhetoric about cor­rup­tion dis­cour­aged peo­ple from vot­ing. “Trump was talk­ing about all the cor­rup­tion in pol­i­tics and the rigged vot­ing. So you got a lot of peo­ple who just re­ally felt like their vote wasn’t go­ing to mat­ter,” said John­son. Some black vot­ers rea­soned them­selves into back­ing the real es­tate ty­coon with no ex­pe­ri­ence in govern­ment.

“I voted for Trump be­cause I be­lieve he can create jobs. Pe­riod,” said Den­nis John­son, a 39-year-old truck driver. “He said, ‘Hey, what have you got to lose?’ To me, it just made per­fect sense,” said John­son. He added: “Now, lis­ten, this coun­try will sur­vive four years of Trump. We sur­vived eight years of Obama and eight years of Bush.”

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