20 Black Influencers Tell Us the No. 1 Issue They're Voting on in the Midterms | Opinion

The midterm elections are just one week away. Both the House and the Senate could switch from Democratic to Republican control, and Black voters will be crucial in deciding many of the most important races. We asked 20 Black influencers to tell us what is the #1 issue they are voting on this midterm cycle. Here are their answers:

Brandy Shufutinsky, social worker, writer, researcher and advocate

Every time I’ve entered the voting booth, I’ve done so to acknowledge the work of generations before me, because, in the words of my Aunt Charlotte, democracy is a participatory sport. Now, more than at anytime in my life, democracy is being threatened. The challenges to democratic ideals are numerous and coming from the fringes on the radical-Left and far-Right. In November 2022, I will be voting for democracy, for faith in institutions, schools, a justice system, and laws that are built to support liberty, for leaders who will stand up for a government for and by the people. I’ll cast my ballot against authoritarianism, whether it comes from extremist secular dictators or religiously fanatic authoritarians.

Charles Love, executive director of Seeking Educational Excellence, host of The Charles Love Show

The number one issue I’m voting on is America. There are many people who love America and want to make it better, who believe it is falling short of the ideal it was founded on. But there is a growing number of people who hate America, the Constitution, and all of the ideals it was found upon. Some of these people are running for office in hopes of destroying America. This is my number one issues because if enough of them get into office, it won’t matter what the policy is on crime, immigration, or abortion.

Jason Nichols, senior lecture, University of Maryland College Park

The issue I will be voting on is democracy broadly, which includes voting rights and attempting to keep our nation secular and diverse. There are clear choices across the nation between those who want to limit the participation of communities of color in our elections by restricting access to the ballot and racial gerrymandering and those who want free and fair elections. Democracy is fundamental to who we aspire to be as a nation.

© Newsweek Kathy Barnette Newsweek

Kathy Barnette, 2022 Republican primary candidate for Senate, Pennsylvania

The number one issue I’m voting on this November depends on which political candidate I’m looking at on the ballot. For instance, when considering the next governor, I will do so through the lens of who will best protect me and my family from surging crime. Who will alleviate inflation and high energy prices by reopening our oil and fracking fields in Pennsylvania? Who is more likely to comply with a federal government mandate to shut down schools and the economy, and force perfectly healthy children to mask up and be vaccinated with an experimental drug?

Darvio Morrow, CEO of the FCB Radio Network

I’m looking for candidates that actually speak to our issues and have plans to address them. Not platitudes but actual plans. Too often we are expected to give our vote freely without asking for something in return. Those days are over. We want to be courted politically like every other group.

Aimee Allison, Founder and President, She the People

As we heard from women of color voters in our ten-state listening tour, the top Midterm issue lies at the intersection of abortion access and the economy. For women of color, access to an abortion and the right to make decisions about how and when we start our families are intrinsically tied to the economic realities of having children while trying to afford food and rent. In many cases, the right to choose isn’t only a matter of access to urgently needed healthcare; it’s about having the economic resources to make decisions about our bodies for our lives and families.

Adam Coleman, writer of Adambcoleman.substack.com

Family is incredibly important to me; if family deteriorates, so goes our society. If we are going to have a prosperous society, protecting our children from perverse concepts and people is of utmost importance. For these midterms, my vote is going to the candidates who are doing everything possible to protect our children from perversion in schools, from the “BigMutilation” medical industry predators, and from the clutches of forceps within the womb.

Carmen G Black, Director, Social Justice and Health Equity, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine

I am voting for reproductive justice as a fiercely proud Black American woman descended from enslaved persons, as a physician activist, and as an international educator. Centuries of educational, professional, and reproductive anti-Black racism limit the representation of persons like me to barely 1 percent of teaching physicians. Moreover, I underwent medical school as a Black mom raising a child alone. I freely chose to defy the staggering odds with robust family support. Restricting abortion access removes that choice and blunts our professional potential, thereby leaving medical racism unchallenged by its professionals. I vote to advance representation of Black doctors by voting for abortion rights.

Jeff Charles, host of “A Fresh Perspective” podcast

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The most important issue for me as for many other Black Americans is the economy. A survey conducted by TheGrio and KFF found that 73 percent of Black Americans named the economy as the most pressing issue. Since Black Americans still lag behind whites when it comes to income, wealth, financial savings, and homeownership, it makes sense that almost three fourths of us cite economic issues as the most critical. From where I sit, Democrats are not up to the task when it comes to lowering the prices we are paying at the grocery store and at the pump. Indeed, the policies the Left has supported have contributed greatly to the problem. The past year and a half has shown many that President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers are no longer invested in coming up with solutions for the issues plaguing far too many Black communities in America. While I haven’t been a Democratic voter for over a decade, many other Black Americans are now pulling away from the party. It’s long overdue.

Chris Boutté, host of The Rewired Soul podcast

I’m looking for candidates with real solutions to fix the economy. I found a new job that’s paying me more than I’ve ever made, but due to inflation, I haven’t even noticed the pay difference, because I’m spending much more on gas and groceries. The Democrats have introduced some semi-good policies, but none help me personally. I didn’t go to college, so debt forgiveness doesn’t help me feed my son. I hope for a peaceful resolution in Ukraine, but it kills me as I continue to see news about all the money we’re sending while so many Americans struggle.

Denise Long, CEO of Youthcentrix® Therapy Services

The midterm election of ’22 and the upcoming Presidential election of ’24 will present the toughest decision points in my voting career since I officially joined the Republican Party to vote for McCain/Palin over Obama/Biden. Half a generation later, we are still struggling to embrace the policies that unify. This election cycle and beyond, I’m voting for Lincolnesque courage to unite our nation. Unity involves incorporating the political priorities of descendants of U.S. slaves, which have always placed Americans First. Unifying policy includes economic security to American workers, Reparations, integrity in law enforcement, and a commitment to curb legal and illegal immigration.

Michael Crawford, New York-based activist

Like Issa Rae, I’m rooting for everybody Black. And in November, I’m voting for the freedom of everybody Black. The freedom for Black people to drive, jog, walk home, go to the grocery store, attend school, go to work, bird watch, breathe, vote, and live free from the threats of white supremacy and racist violence. I’m not under the illusion that voting for Democrats will achieve freedom for Black people, but I am clear that Republicans in power are a mortal threat to us. And the magical thing is that as Black people become more free, so will everyone else.

© Newsweek Carolyn Butts Newsweek

Carolyn Butts, publisher and founder of African Voices and Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival

The economy is my number one issue in deciding whom to vote for in November. Inflation and taxes are forcing American families to decide whether to feed their children or pay rent this month, while our government is sending billions of dollars to fund a war in Ukraine. In New York City, there is a visible increase in the number of people I see sleeping on the subway and in the street. It has to end. I will vote based on a candidate’s record on delivering resources to support families and local businesses that provide jobs at home.

Demetrius Minor, Author, Preacher & Political Commentator

I am voting on crime prevention and public safety. The ability to live in a safe and secure environment is of utmost importance to me. I want policies that enables state and local governments to adequately and effectively address just not violence and crime, but the root causes of it: poverty, economic outlook, family dynamics and education. I am also voting on the economy and jobs, and parental rights in education.

Heather Thompson Day, associate professor of communications, Andrew University

My top concern for the 2022 midterms is probably immigration. The last stats I saw said that we had 8,000 border crossings per day out of Mexico, and I am unnerved by the political response of using human beings as issues to rally votes. These are people. How is our immigration policy going to provide better access and documentation for people pursuing migration? I am tired of Democratic responses that essentially boil down to, “at least we aren’t Republicans.” Who is helping the actual people who are trying to get into this country legally be able to do that in a more efficient process?

Khury Petersen-Smith, Michael Ratner Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies

I’m concerned the U.S. is making the world a more dangerous place. The U.S. is selling more weapons. Biden, like his predecessors, has given a green light to allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel, despite the violence they carry out in the Middle East. China is portrayed increasingly like an enemy to be defeated rather than a country to be in dialogue with. Congress has fueled these missteps by spending over $21 trillion on militarism these last 20 years. Changing our foreign policy starts with candidates committing to put that money into protecting people and our planet instead.

Rafique Tucker, pharmacy technician, Baltimore

For myself, as a Black man, the issues that are important to me this election are the same issues as everyone else—the economy, inflation, crime, and the future of democracy. There’s a dispute going on as to how important that last one is, and as to which party represents the biggest threat to democracy, but as I see it, one party generally believes in respecting elections, and one party does not. One party believes the perpetrators of January 6 should be held accountable, and one party appears not to think that. I’m a Democrat, and Lord knows my party isn’t perfect, but despite recent polling, I believe on the democracy question, the Democrats are right, and the party of Trump is wrong.

Tope Folarin

Tope Folarin, executive director of the Institute for Policy Studies

This year’s census data found something remarkable: Despite the devastations of the pandemic and inflation, 45 million Americans escaped poverty between 2020 and 2021. This was no fluke; it happened because poor and low-income people mobilized for change. They won common sense social spending like the Child Tax Credit and other pandemic relief programs that dropped child poverty to record lows. Those programs are now expiring, but the pandemic and inflation carry on. Will lawmakers build on last year’s success—or turn their backs on working people? This year, America’s poor and low-income voters are voting for their lives.

© Newsweek Lydia Simmons Newsweek

Lydia Simmons, CEO of M.O.O and Motherocity

In this year’s elections, I am voting for platforms that support and protect women and humans with uteruses, that defend their right to safe and equitable medical care, especially during postpartum. I am voting for people who are aware of the inequities of maternal health care and have a plan for reform. I am voting for awareness of the influence and money it undoubtedly will require to see those changes through. To me, that’s what is of utmost importance.

© Newsweek Bernell Grier Newsweek

Bernell Grier, Executive Director of Impacct Brooklyn

Access to fair housing, the right to a home, and adequate pay should be central to the American electorate. COVID-19 magnified what we closest to the community have long understood: Communities of color and low-income white families are rent burdened. They are living with homelessness, a lack of health services, and insufficient healthy food options. There is a lot of discrimination that takes place toward people with housing vouchers. The cost of housing and the rise in rents in New York City are the inflationary pressures that most impact the community I serve, so that is what I am voting on this cycle.

The views expressed in this article are the writers’ own.

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