Issue #10

Meg & Bey, COVID-19 testing, Diddy on Democrats, Biden's VP braintrust

This is The Dossier.

Each Sunday we deliver the latest developments in world affairs, political economy and culture straight to your inbox, served with a generous side of soul.

We spend the week scouring the internets for essential information and meaningful content to keep you informed, inspired and mildly entertained.

It’s May 3rd. Happy Birthday, James Brown!

📰 The week in brief

  • 3.8 million people filed unemployment claims in the week ending April 25. More than 30 million people have filed unemployment claims in the last six weeks.

  • NCAA Board of Governors moved closer to allowing college athletes to be paid by third parties for endorsements, sponsorships, commercials and other promotional activities. According to ESPN, the NCAA proposal is more restrictive than California’s law, which passed in September 2019 and goes into effect in 2023.

  • Saudi Arabia purchased a $500 million, 5.7% stake in Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster and co-owns Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.

  • New York cancelled its Democratic presidential primary, which had been rescheduled from April 28 to June 23. Critics warn the move will depress turnout in down-ballot primaries for congress and the state legislature.

  • NASA awarded contracts to three companies to develop spacecraft for landing humans on the moon. NASA plans to land astronauts, including the first woman, on the Moon by 2024.

  • According to Forbes, Kanye West is officially a billionaire.

  • Michelle Obama’s BECOMING hits Netflix on May 6.

🐎 Savage Remix 🐝

‘Rona can’t stop a #HotGirlSummer. Meg dropped Savage Remix featuring Queen Bey and the internet went crazy. The song rocketed to the top of Apple Music chats and fans created a new version of the viral TikTok dance.

All proceeds from the singles’s purchase will go to charity.

🦠 COVID-19

“Anybody that (sic) wants a test can get a test.”

- Donald Trump (March 6, 2020)

According to the COVID Tracking Project less than 2% of the population has been tested. This week the Trump administration committed to sending all 50 states enough tests to screen 2% of their population. Despite these low testing numbers many states have allowed nonessential businesses to open.

While House and Senate Democrats are pushing for more money for states and local governments who are seeing declining tax revenue, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants liability protections for employers and business as a precondition to passing another relief bill.

In Maryland, Republican Governor Larry Hogan is storing 500,000 coronavirus tests in an undisclosed location under the protection of the Maryland National Guard. The state recently purchased the test from South Korea and is preventing them from being seized by the federal government.

The price of beef and pork are surging amid plant closures. President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act requiring meat production plants to remain open.

Gilead Sciences' remdesivir has been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA to treat COVID patients. According to data released by the National Institute of Health, remdesivir helped COVID-19 patients recover faster than similar patients who received a placebo. However, a Chinese trial found that remdesivir did not significantly reduce death. The antiviral drug will be available to COVID-19 patients this week.

👋🏿 Biden still needs black voters

The black vote isn’t going to be for free. We’re going to have to see some promises. We’re going to have to understand what we’re getting in return for our vote. Because nothing has changed in America for black America. In order for us to vote for Biden we can’t be taken for granted like we always are. We can’t trust politicians. We want to know very clearly. Just like Trump made it clear that he wanted to build a wall, Biden needs to make it clear that he’s going to change the quality of life of black and brown people. Or else he can’t get the vote. I will hold the vote hostage if I have to.

- Diddy

In a recent interview with Naomi Campbell, media mogul Diddy expressed a growing frustration with the Democratic Party and its relationship to black voters.

There’s a whole lot going on with what Diddy said, so let’s unpack this.

Fact #1: There is no such thing as “the black vote”

Despite what Diddy says, there is no such thing as “the black vote.” That all too popular phrase belongs in the dustbin of linguistic history, alongside phrases like “the black community” and “black leader.” 

There is no such thing as “the black vote” because black voters are heterogenous in age, income, education, issue preferences and ideology.

Both the 2016 and 2020 presidential primary contests saw a generational divide and regional variation in the candidate preferences of black voters. In 2016, Bernie Sanders performed better among younger black voters and black voters in the Midwest than he did with older black voters and black voters in the South. In 2020, the same pattern held true for both Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Of course, region and age were only two of several dividing lines among black voters. 

Fact #2: Democrats need black voters

Diddy knows Democrats absolutely need black voters. This is particularly true for Democrats seeking the presidency.

In his long shot quest for the 1992 Democratic nomination, Bill Clinton won 80% of black voters on Super Tuesday.

In his long shot bid for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president, Barack Obama consistently won 78-96% of black voters.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 80-88% of black primary voters in her historic bid for the Democratic nomination for president.

In 2020, Joe Biden effectively sewed up the Democratic nomination by winning a substantial share of black voters—61% in the South Carolina primary and 58% on Super Tuesday.

Once they capture the nomination, Democratic presidential candidates rely on strong turnout from black voters—especially in battleground states.

In 2016, among the many factors contributing to Hillary Clinton’s shocking defeat to Donald Trump was an overall 10% drop in black voter turnout. This was especially true in battleground states like Wisconsin, where Republican voter suppression laws drove a staggering 26% decline in black voter turnout. (Trump went on to win Wisconsin by an extremely narrow 0.77% margin.)

Republican-backed voter suppression, however, doesn’t fully account for the drop in black voter participation in 2016, which brings us to Diddy’s main point.

Fact #3: Democrats must earn the support of black voters

Diddy is absolutely correct in saying virtually nothing has changed for black people in America—especially in terms of income and wealth. The racial income gap remains ossified across every level of education. Meanwhile, as black household wealth remained effectively stagnant over the last couple of decades, white household wealth grew dramatically, widening the racial wealth gap.

Diddy is also 100% accurate in his diagnosis of the Democratic Party: despite being reliant on black voters for electoral success, Democrats too often take black voters for granted.

In a brilliant piece in The Atlantic, professor Ibram X. Kendi put it this way:

White swing voters are largely treated like political free agents who must be persuaded to vote for candidates they like. People of color and young people are treated like political cattle who must be whipped into shape to turn out for candidates they often don’t like. 

He continues:

In our political environment, young black voters receive lectures on the importance of voting, while white swing voters receive memos on the importance of candidates. In other words, young black voters are encouraged to vote. White swing voters are encouraged to vote for candidates.

Kendi argues that Democrats prioritize capturing white voters who “swing” between Republicans and Democrats in the general election over and against the priorities of young black voters who “swing” between voting and not voting.

Simply put, when Democrats take black voters for granted, the “swing” black voters don’t defect to the Republican Party; they simply stay home.

So what does all of this mean for Joe Biden?

The putative Democratic nominee can least afford to take black voters for granted; indeed, for all of the reductionist hype around black voters rescuing his candidacy, Biden has captured the smallest proportion of black support of any Democratic nominee in recent memory.

The former Vice President must tend to the generational and aspirational divide among black voters—a dynamic that reflects the generational and aspirational divide among Democratic voters as a whole.

If Biden doesn’t present a bold, affirmative vision that resonates with the Democratic base, Diddy won’t need to hold any votes hostage; disaffected black “swing” voters will withhold their votes all by themselves.

To be clear, they most certainly won’t vote for Trump; they’d simply stay home.

🗳 Biden’s VP braintrust

We met Joe Biden as the older, more conservative white Democrat who “balanced” out Barack Obama’s ticket in the 2008 presidential election. Barack Obama won with Joe Biden because he was literally everything Obama was not. Undoubtedly, Joe Biden’s presence on the ticket reassured some white voters that it was ok to vote for Barack Obama for President of the United States.

Fast forward 12 years. Barack Obama has advised his former second in command to choose a running mate  who strengthens Biden’s weaknesses. 

But how will Joe Biden do this?

Well, the former Vice President will make this decision the same way you and I might choose a restaurant for brunch—he will ask his friends.

Biden has assembled a vice presidential search committee, which means candidates for the second spot on the ticket will have to run the selection and vetting gauntlet set up by Biden’s closest advisors. 

These are the people who have the presumptive nominee’s ear. 

Former Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut is a  lawyer turned lobbyist who spent 30 years in public service. A close friend of Joe, Dodd chaired the Senate Banking Committee during the  2008 financial crisis. Dodd and Biden worked closely together on the Affordable Care Act. There is a chance that Dodd’s presence on the committee could be a little disruptive to its mission; he is rumored to be involved in a 1985 sexual assault. Nevertheless, Dodd may want Biden to pick someone who is more of an ideologically conservative Democrat.

Cynthia C. Hogan—one of two women on the committee—was counsel to the former Vice President during the Obama Administration. Her journey with Biden goes back  to his days in the Senate. Hogan is currently serving as Vice President for Public Policy and Government Affairs at Apple, but she and Biden have remained close. Hogan is a long time player in Washington; her pick will be one of pure strategy. 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is a national co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign. He is the youngest mayor in the city’s history, and its second consecutive Mexican American mayor. Garcetti is known for taking daring political action including organizing approximately 400 mayors in cities across the nation to adopt the Paris Climate agreement after the Trump Administration pulled out. As a young, rising star in the Democratic party, he may be championing a younger candidate with bolder ideas. 

U.S. Representative-at-Large Lisa Blunt Rochester, hails from a well connected black political family in the Blue Hen state. Her father, Ted Blunt, served as a councilman in Wilmington Delaware for almost two decades. Her sister, Marla Blunt Carter, was both a Biden senate aide and an advisor to him during the 2008 Presidential cycle. Blunt—the first African American to be elected to Congress from Delaware—represents a constituency that is 70 percent white. But as the lone African American on the committee, will she advise Biden to choose a woman of color? 

The former Vice President expects his political circle of trust to finish their sorting and sieving in time for him to make an announcement prior to the Democratic National Convention in August.

Next week, The Dossier continues coverage of the candidates in the Democratic veepstakes.

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