Sixty-four years after Ralph Ellison wrote his seminal novel, Invisible Man, about an African-American man who is consistently unnoticed by the powerful white people around him, it appears that black folks are still invisible to progressives and Democrats. Publicly announced political spending plans for the left this election cycle thus far reveal a gargantuan hole in terms of investing in the work necessary to turn out the voters most essential for any progressive victory in November—people of color, in general, and African Americans, in particular.
$200 Million Slated—But None for African-American Mobilization
By election day, nearly $3 billion will have been spent on the 2016 elections by Democrats and progressives. In recent weeks, several major political organizations have publicly revealed preliminary plans to spend more than $200 million. (In addition, the Democratic nominee will likely match the $1.1 billion Obama spent on his reelection, and most Senate and House races will entail millions of dollars of expenditures).
The largest independent expenditure operation backing Hillary Clinton, Priorities USA, has stated its intention to spend $136 million on television, digital, and radio ads, with three-quarters of the television ads devoted to attacking Trump in an attempt to influence moderate undecided voters, also known as swing voters (at least 82 percent of whom, by my calculations, based on interpretation of 2012 exit polls, are white).
A similar anti-Trump super PAC launched by several labor unions plans to spend $50 million. Labor leaders have signaled that their strategic focus is to “target members who are thinking of supporting presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.”
The environmental-advocacy organization NextGen Climate will spend $25 million on registering and mobilizing college students in seven battleground states. Five of the seven target states are significantly whiter than the national average of 69 percent, and only about a third of 18-to-24-year-old people of color are in college.