In her first televised interview since announcing her candidacy for the New York governorship, Cynthia Nixon told Wendy Williams that black women voters are the "backbone of the Democratic Party," and criticized the party for failing to fight for black voters' interests. Nixon is running in the Democratic primary in hopes of unseating incumbent New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"Black women are going to stop showing up for the Democratic Party if the Democratic Party doesn't start showing up for them," Nixon told Williams. "It can't just be that we remember the importance of black women on election day and forget it the rest of the year. We can't have that."
The fact that Nixon chose to make that first TV appearance on Wendy William's show, instead of a late show hosted by a white man for instance, points to how crucial black women's votes will be in her election. Black women are one of the most important voting blocs in the Democratic Party, and they vote for the party in far higher numbers than any other demographic: In the 2016 election, 94 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton, while 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump.
Obviously, Clinton didn't win that race. But insofar as the importance of black women voters go, the 2016 election was anything but an anomaly.
During the 2017 special Senate election in Alabama, it was black voters who delivered an improbable victory to Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore. In that election, an astonishing 98 percent of black women voted for Jones, compared with just 34 percent of white women. Black women were Jones' strongest pillar of support in that election, which he won by just 1.7 percent.
“Let me be clear: We won in Alabama and Virginia['s gubernatorial election] because black women led us to victory," Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez said after Jones' election. "Black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party, and we can’t take that for granted. Period.”
But although this was a common sentiment in liberal circles after Jones won, many black activists stressed that the Democratic Party needs to actually give black women a seat at the table in governance, as opposed to simply thanking them after winning elections.
"Any candidate or campaign looking to win an election must invest early — not just a few weeks before Election Day in black women turnout, but also, and most importantly, leadership," Planned Parenthood spokesperson Alencia Johnson told the Washington Post. "Let black women lead on strategy and engagement; support black women candidates, resource campaigns geared toward our issues. And talk about the issues."
"Black women have long been on the forefront of change and progress in this country,” Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman said at an event the day after the election, the Post reported. “Sadly, we are so often left on the sidelines of critical discussions and policymaking that disparately impacts us and the communities we support.”
Meanwhile, activist Bree Newsome, who became famous for removing the Confederate Flag from outside the South Carolina statehouse in 2014, pushed back against the emerging narrative at the time that black women voters had "saved" Alabama from Moore.
"The image of the magical negro' or the 'mammy' figure who rescues white people in their time of distress is a very old racist trope that celebrates Black people for being able to save 'whiteness' from its self-destructive impulses," Newsome tweeted after the Alabama election.
"[Black women] are the backbone of the Democratic Party, and we need to let them lead," Nixon acknowledged to Williams, echoing what black women activists had already said. "If we're going to say that black lives matter, we have to mean it." If Democrats don't earnestly take the concerns of black women into consideration, Democrats are going to stop winning elections. And it's clear Nixon knows it.