Brooks B. Robinson, Ph.D.
This BlackEconomics.org analysis brief concerns a potentially pivotal event in Black America’s, the nation’s, and the world’s history. The 2024 President Election is approaching rapidly, and there are good reasons to be concerned about the outcome. Given our precarious condition, position, and situation generally, Black Americans should be keenly aware that the election’s outcome could lead to wonderful benefits or severe injuries. Therefore, we provide the following background information and exploratory analysis of a tool (a political report card) that could assist Black America in improving our approach to determining our strategic political engagement.
We engage the political economy to inure benefits. As Black America pursues benefits through the political economy, the following four points are logical starting “assumptions.”
- Three important political economy stylized facts are: (i) Black Americans represent the median voter and have a history of marshalling votes that determine election outcomes; (ii) we are not positioned well to set and control legislative agendas (a key leverage point in determining political economy outcomes); and (iii) we are not a “moneyed special interest group” that can lobby effectively and consistently for change through nation political processes.
- Fueled by distrust, our overall disunity often prevents us from achieving elementary outcomes that should not be sought from the political economy. In other words, we do not do for ourselves what we should do for ourselves to achieve outcomes that we desire. Consider that successful self-efforts are enabling and strengthening.
- Black America is not operationalizing in unity or transparently a strategic plan that includes production of continuously updated comparative report cards for candidates of the two major political parties, and that signals how we should lodge our political support during election cycles. That is, we should have “no permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests.”(1)
- Too many Black political and economic leaders succumb to selfishness and opt for “elite capture” instead of ensuring the development and maintenance of a strong political economy foundation that can produce long-term benefits through political and economic processes.
These points should cause Black America to seek outcome-improving solutions for the future.
The foregoing does not cast a favorable scenario for Black American voters confronting the 2024 Presidential Election. We find that Black America is conflicted and behind the eight ball again because we chose to ignore many past calls to form our own Black political party.(2) This analysis brief would be irrelevant if a Black political party existed. Ideally, a Black political party would possess infrastructure and tools to identify preferred candidates and to provide guidance to Black voters. Unfortunately, we are not there yet. But hope springs eternal and the following section highlights how a Black political party might develop and utilize an objective tool to assist Black American voters in determining preferred candidates. For the upcoming presidential election, individual Black voters could use this tool to determine their own voting preferences.
Political Report Card Development
A report card serves as an excellent tool for assessing performance and providing guidance for the future. As already noted, a Black political party would possess a report-card-developing infrastructure that could identify preferred candidates for Black voters. This section of the analysis brief shows that an even unsophisticated report card can assist Black Americans in identifying their preferred 2024 presidential candidate. We start with an analysis of report card elements, then capture information that produces report card results.
Identifying and defining report card elements
Each election is accompanied by unique issues, conditions, and concerns, and election report cards must adjust accordingly. Theoretically, a report card could adopt a “kitchen sink” approach when selecting elements. However, as economists know well, there are influential variables (elements in this case) that are weighty in outcomes. Hence, for the 2024 Presidential Election, we identify the most important issues for Black voters. Although Black voters have their unique interests, they are subsumed in the US cultural and socioeconomic milieu and reflect many common interests with US voters broadly. Consequently, we take the following four report card elements as a starting point: Economy, Immigration, Abortion, and Foreign Engagement (Ukraine and Middle East). They are based on a CNN exit poll for the January 22, 2024 New Hampshire GOP Primary.(3) These issues appear atop several other polls. We add “Climate Change” as a fifth element because of its persistent high rank in polls that concern important political issues.
We round out the report card elements by factoring in important Black American concerns. We augment the already selected five elements (and the two existing sub-elements for Foreign Engagement) with four additional sub-elements. Black America’s primary material concerns are economic in nature. Therefore, for the economy element, we insert Reparations and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) as sub-elements. The reasoning for this is transparent. Also, for the Foreign Engagement element, we add Sub Saharan Africa and the Caribbean as sub-elements because Black Americans have a unique and historical affinity with the people of these regions.
Report card elements definitions, metrics, and interpretations
This section features definitions, metrics, and their interpretations of the five report card elements and their related sub-elements (Table 1). The table is largely self-explanatory, and we will clarify its contents further as we discuss the report card. However, we take a moment now to emphasize the “red“ type that appears in the table’s right-most column. For row 4, note that there once was scholarly controversy concerning immigration’s effect on Black American unemployment. We adopt the interpretation of this element that immigrants affect adversely the employment of Blacks with low training levels. For row 5, while women are due full rights to their bodies, Black America’s population growth is decelerating and may decline if high abortion rates persist. For a variety of reasons, we cannot afford a population decline. For rows 9 and 10, although we generally argue for less foreign assistance, we take the opposite view when interpreting candidates’ positions on foreign assistance to Sub Saharan African and Caribbean regions.
Metrics for report card elements
Table 2 provides an assessment of the Economy—the report card’s first element. It presents statistical analysis for six components that are associated with the two presidential candidates now under consideration for the 2024 election on an unweighted basis. Interestingly, adopting a Black American perspective when interpreting the components results in a dead heat. The two candidates’ (Trump and Biden) administrations each “win” three of the six components. Consequently, there is no clear winner for this report card element largely because there is no weighting scheme. A Black political party, and even individual voters, would typically assign own weights to the components of this element.
Close consideration of Table 1 reveals that beyond “Economy” only one additional element employs a statistical metric for decision making: “Foreign Engagement (rows 6-10).” Using fiscal year (FY) Presidential Budget values available at www.foreignassistance.gov, we collected statistics on candidate’s preferred expenditure levels for foreign assistance. Summarizing the collected data, President budgets foreign assistance spending requests for the Trump Administration (FYs 2018 – 2021) were considerably lower than for the Biden Administration (FY 2022 – 2024) overall and for each of the sub-elements (Ukraine, Israel, Sub Saharan Africa, and the Caribbean). Keep in mind that the collected data are temporal, but they are unadjusted for price change. We interpret these statistics in the Report Card Results section below.
All remaining report card elements and sub-elements lend themselves well to easy assessment; i.e., there are no direct and associated statistical metrics. It is possible to decide winners and losers with knowledge of positions expressed widely in the press by candidates and their political party.
Report Card Results
Table 3 presents the results of this report card development effort. Trump and Biden tie on the Economy element (revisit Table 2); Trump wins three elements (Immigration, Abortion, and Foreign Engagement) and two sub-elements (Foreign Engagement with Ukraine and Israel); and Biden wins one element (Climate Change) and four sub-elements (Reparations, DEI, and Foreign Engagement in Sub Saharan Africa and the Caribbean). A simple tally of elements and sub-elements won by the two candidates results in a deadlock (five each). However, when a weighting scheme (irrespective of its complexity) is permitted to enter the report card assessment process, the candidate selection decision is pushed, in an unconfounded manner, to the right or left. A Black political party would certainly possess systematic methods for computing and assigning weights to report card elements and sub-elements. Voters, too, have their weight development and assignment methods—although they are likely to be somewhat subjective and subconscious.
Unquestionably, Black America leaves a large set of potential benefits on the political economy table because we do not enjoy effective and efficient organizational unity. A Black political party would help us alter, in a very favorable way, our current condition. As suggested, such a Black political party could broaden and elevate the sophistication of the political report card tool explored in this analysis brief. However, the 2024 Presidential Election is nearly upon us at a very critical juncture in the history of the nation and the world. We know that Black America can and will likely determine the election’s outcome. We can hardly afford to make an uninformed and illogical decision and contribute to our own demise.
In the absence of a Black political party, we call on respected and capable Black organizations and institutions to: (i) Consider the political report card explored in this analysis brief; (ii) develop their own meaningful report cards; and (iii) present their methodology explicitly and transparently so that Black Americans can be well-informed concerning the candidates that should attract their votes. This voting guidance should not be contaminated by tradition or history, or be motivated by benefits that may accrue (elite capture) to organizations producing report cards. Rather, every effort should be made to consider as many important elements (variables) in the political economy equation, to assign appropriate weights, and to conduct the report card development process in as objective, purposeful, and systematic a manner as possible.(4)
Two final points are worth making. First, it is not news that after the need for more familial and communal unity, the most important requirements for Black Americans are economic in nature. Second and related, Black Americans can help ourselves and the nation economically in significant and beneficial ways when Federal, state, and local governments ensure that we gain access to the share of their expenditures that are proportional to our representation in the population.(5) This is an outcome that should not be too difficult to achieve when there are concerted and purposeful efforts by the executive branch to fully exercise its power and authority, and when there are significant reductions in stealthy legislative earmarks.
While this may appear somewhat unrelated to development of political report cards, it is critical that candidates express an urgent and serious intent to ensure Black American access to our fair share of government expenditures. Consequently, a report card element should capture this requirement, and due consideration should be given to assigning the element an appropriate weight.
1 The quote is from the late Hon. William L. Clay, Sr., member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Missouri.
2 Consider the following essay as just one of many examples. Brooks B. Robinson (2015). “Why Not a Black Political Party?” BlackEconomics.org; https://www.blackeconomics.org/BEFuture/wnabpp.pdf (Ret. 012524).
3 Ariel Edwards-Levy (2024). “CNN exit poll: Immigration, economy are the top issues driving New Hampshire GOP voters.” January 23rd; https://www.cnn.com/politics/live-news/new-hampshire-primary-01-23-24/h_27d3e3f0b4b67c91897a24b52be6ed5e (Ret. 012524).
4 It is important to mention that, although the Ukraine and Israel Foreign Engagement sub-elements concern wars, political report cards for the 2024 Presidential Election should include an element or sub-element for candidates’ posture on permitting wide (global) expansion of existing wars and military conflicts.
5 The Biden Administration has acknowledged openly that, for FY 2021, while Black Americans represented about 13 percent of the nation’s population and about 12 percent of firms eligible to receive Federal Government contracts, Black firms captured less than 2 percent of Federal Government contracts (see “Progress in Procurement: Equity in Federal Contracting; https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/OPA/blog/equity-in-federal-contracting.pdf (Ret. 012624)). Keep in mind that these statistics on Federal contracts concern awardees, not award amounts. Inequity in Federal Government contract award amounts is likely to be equally egregious—if not more so. Similar outcomes exist for certain state and local governments.