'Voter fraud' claims are a racist attack on Black voters so let's act like it

Our outsized contribution must not be erased by establishment figures on either side of the aisle.
Image: An election official wearing a mask that reads "Black Lives Matter" sits at her desk speaking to a voter
An election official speaks to a voter in the polling area in the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage on Nov. 3 in Louisville.Jon Cherry / Getty Images

Historically, voter fraud seems to be a consistent complaint when two things happen: when Republicans lose, and when Black people are the ones to defeat them. The idea that Black, brown and Indigenous voters could deliver a decisive blow to the white supremacist political aspirations of the Trump administration is, in some ways, an offense to those who’ve spent their careers — and certainly this election cycle — ensuring that would be nearly impossible.

Historically, voter fraud seems to be a consistent complaint when two things happen: when Republicans lose, and when Black people are the ones to defeat them.

Digital disinformation targeting Black communities has been a central part of President Donald Trump’s strategy from the start. More traditional GOP suppression tactics, like gerrymandering, polling place closures and false mailers, continue to abound. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia continues to insist that fraud was the culprit for the state’s surprising flip from red to blue, assuming that tricks similar to those he leveraged when he ran his own election in 2018 would be successful. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s dismantling of a U.S. Postal Service staffed by committed public servants in order to sway election results has been criminal. And of course, Trump himself continues to rally Republican troops and voters with dangerous rhetoric of election theft that threatens to, at the very least, upend even fragile faith in our electoral processes or, at most, amount to an oft-warned attempted coup.

The left is being told to extend an olive branch to a right spoiling for a fight. But instead of telling us to hug the people who insist our voices are fraudulent, the Democratic Party should be doing everything it can to secure this election and the safety of the voters who participated in it. We must not confer legitimacy on the Republicans’ behavior or on Trump’s attempts to undermine the rule of law — which he seems to support except for elections and his own taxes. Such credibility is not something our frail democracy can afford to award him, and the marginalized communities who won this election can’t afford the violence that may accompany his worst tactics.

Instead of insisting on a moderate platform that still foolishly chases a “white working-class voteit has not won in five decades, the Democratic Party should focus on winning the narrative battle for those universally beneficial policies that are popular when understood. President-elect Joe Biden lost the state of Florida, but Floridian workers won a $15 minimum wage. Once considered radical, grassroots organizers and activists did the hard work of showing everyday Floridians that this policy would add value to their communities. Displaying true gratitude for the organizing apparatuses and the Black, brown, young and marginalized communities that saved this country from itself means that the party truly open up the tent and care for the needs of the people in it.

Every difficult concept of freedom, from the abolition of slavery to the suffrage of women to freedom from discrimination, has been unpopular at its outset and resisted at every turn.

Instead of publicly decrying the framing of the left’s policies, those leading an inclusive big tent should embrace the necessary change and get to work. Tell the story to the American people of what it means to move money from institutions of policing that too often harm us, to institutions of mental health and social services that help us. These concepts aren’t up to Republicans to frame on our behalf, and it’s past time we stop ceding that important narrative ground.

Every difficult concept of freedom, from the abolition of slavery to the suffrage of women to freedom from discrimination, has been unpopular at its outset and resisted at every turn. But the time has come for us to learn the lessons of history and expand our political imaginations. Uniting this country isn’t about calling family members who voted for Trump or pardoning the harm done to millions of Americans already suffering the deep effects of oppression. True unity will come from an urgent policy agenda that makes the lives of the most marginalized better, in turn improving everyone’s well-being. This is the way of the future. It’s time we start walking in the right direction and refusing to let known liars stand in our way.

Still, no matter your perspective, one thing is clear: Black and marginalized voters overcame nearly insurmountable odds to defeat this administration and hand Democrats a historic victory. Yes, the candidates were historic, but so was the sheer size of the national vote tally and the overperformance of the most suppressed voters in our country. That effort was no small task. Black voters decided this election despite the suppression we face, and our outsize contribution must not erased by figures on either side of the aisle who are made uncomfortable by the demands that are absolutely to follow.