Theodore Johnson, a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice who studies race and electoral politics, said black skepticism in government stretches back decades, citing Booker T. Washington and his early 19th century argument for black self-help, rather than a focus on systemic discrimination. Black voters are often described as “moderates,” but Mr. Johnson said the voting choices are more nuanced than straightforward ideological choices.
Racism “contributes to black people’s lack of support for mass federal programs,” Mr. Johnson said. “There’s a sense that, if you prefer federal programs, that can be an admission that you can’t make it without white people or government.”
In “Medicare for all,” free college and other signature progressive proposals, like the cancellation of student loan debt or housing equality, candidates are asking black voters to trust that government can correct the same systemic inequalities that government helped create. But there is often no plan to undo the cynicism that decades of governmental failure have created among older black voters in particular.
“No matter who is in office, the government has not been our best…
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