Editorial: The next great story for Black History Month could be written in Wisconsin—on Election Day

Black voters

(Image via Shutterstock)

By Pat Kreitlow

February 16, 2024

Voters can choose to continue Biden’s investments in jobs, infrastructure, health care, and schools or return to Trump’s circus of chaos, where nothing good gets done.

Donald Trump’s attempt to steal the 2020 election was certainly the top story of that cycle, but a close second would have to be how Joe Biden’s campaign was on life support earlier that year until Black voters in South Carolina stated emphatically that he was the best choice for getting things done. Can Biden reconnect and reenergize that community in 2024? Because Black voters in Wisconsin and beyond can certainly make the difference for an entire nation.  

Biden has a solid record to run on: a post-pandemic economy that is unarguably best in the world, record employment, increased healthcare coverage for a half-million Black Americans because of the Inflation Reduction Act, a plan to address Black maternal mortality, funding the removal of lead water pipes, increased affordable housing options, and more. But as far as public awareness of that record, let’s just say the administration has room for improvement.

While Biden won overwhelming Black voter support in Wisconsin in 2020, the turnout was far below its potential. Using Wisconsin Legislature election data, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported 2012 turnout in Black-majority wards at 79% in 2012 for President Barack Obama’s reelection bid. In 2016, it tumbled to 58%, when Hillary Clinton lost Wisconsin. And in 2020, it fell to 51% and Biden’s Wisconsin victory margin was less than 1% over Trump.

Angela Lang of BLOC (Black Leaders Organizing for Communities), writing last year for Dan Shafer’s Recombobulation Area, said reenergizing Black voter turnout relies on year-round engagement and a proven track record on issues that matter at a personal level. Policy papers are no substitute for frequent reminders of what actually got done.

Lang and Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) have emphasized the need to actively reach out to young and first-time voters—something that doesn’t always happen because political parties and groups tend to prioritize people already proven to turn out on Election Day.

“This is a severe misstep and a missed opportunity,” Lang wrote about skipping over potential voters in her 53206 zip code. “When there is not year-round engagement about issues, even to provide updates on what is being worked on, people disengage.”

“A democracy is supposed to include all of us—our issues and negotiating power in a civil way,” Lang said. “At times, it feels like democracy and politics is something that happens to us rather than by us.”

If Biden and progressives engage in active outreach, stress local issues, and motivate new voters, they will lead Black Wisconsin voters back to the voting booth in November and write the next great Black History Month story about how communities of color in Wisconsin led a nation.


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.


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