'black-ish' Wants People To Vote Despite Election 2016 Ennui


The 2016 US presidential election is undeniably important. It will affect hundreds of millions of people and policies across the globe, and yet... it also feels incredibly exhausting, with over a month to go before the results are in. And though it may seem an unlikely place for an election-themed hot take ABC's black-ish takes on the presidential election and the complicated desires embedded within in an episode that gets ambitious, but remains surprisingly idealistic. The episode starts with a little cynicism: Dre is heartbroken over losing President Obama, Johan thinks Bernie Sanders was robbed, and Pops is a longtime non-voter. Bow, the usual voice of reason, is shocked to find out so many members of her household are ambivalent about voting, a fundamental civic right and duty.

Ruby, meanwhile, has the old-school mentality: she fought for the right to vote and lived through the passage of the Civil Rights Act — and every year, she votes down-ticket Democrat, regardless of her actual opinions. Diane points out that if Ruby actually catalogs her real opinions, she's practically Donald Trump (I am not sure how the show really reaches that conclusion). One thing I wish this episode had explored a little more — how even the socially conservative, religious black Americans like Ruby would be hard pressed to support the Republican party so long as they support policies like stop and frisk and refuse to acknowledge police brutality.

Another slightly missed opportunity? The chance to acknowledge that it's issues, not just emotions that's driving some people to want to protest vote. One person who doesn't come up often in the episode is Hillary Clinton, the current Democratic nominee. Her substance on the issues is all but ignored, and in the end, some words from Michelle Obama's Democratic Convention speech are enough to motivate Johan and Pops to realize that they should at least reconsider whether or not they want to let their voice go unheard in the election.

black-ish acknowledges that its audience might be losing patience with this election, with politics in general, and with living in a nation that doesn't give black people a lot of options and barely gives them the ability to vote for them. So it might not be the message that some cynics want to hear, but it's certainly appealing to imagine that continuing to have faith in the process will eventually yield a brighter and better America.

Image: John Fleenor/ABC (2)