In Georgia, a coalition that introduced the Democrats into energy breaches amid unfulfilled guarantees

ATLANTA – W. Mondale Robinson spent much of last fall in clubs and bars and concert halls in Georgia convincing disaffected black men to vote – in the 2020 general election, then in the US Senate runoff Georgia – could finally mean real change in their communities.

However, Robinson, founder of the Black Male Voter Project, believes the case would now be a lot harder to make. He recalls precisely the moment when his optimism that President Biden would be different began to fade: when the Democrats said in May that they were ready to significantly weaken a police reform bill in order to gain Republican support.

More disappointments followed. Robinson was dismayed that Biden wasn’t pushing for filibuster reform to introduce a $ 15 minimum wage. He was upset that the president failed to try to stop a series of electoral restrictions passed by the GOP-led legislature in Georgia.

“I think the frustration is at an all-time high and Biden can’t go to Georgia or any other black state in the south and say, ‘We got that delivered in 2021,'” said Robinson, whose group believes 1.2 million blacks Reached men in Georgia. “Black men are mad at the nothing that happened. . . Does it make the job harder? That makes the work almost impossible. “

After an initial boost of support, Biden has seen a significant drop in approval ratings over the past few months. An average of the Washington Post polls since early September shows that 44 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s job approval, while 49 percent disapprove.

And polls suggest that support for Biden has declined, particularly in key Democratic constituencies – blacks, Latinos, women and young people. Polls from the Pew Research Center found Biden’s approval rating among black Americans fell from 85 percent in July to 67 percent in September, while it also fell 16 points among Hispanics and 14 points among Asians.

Interviews with nearly 20 lawyers, activists, and politicians in the crucial state of Georgia – which Biden narrowly won after decades of Republican domination, in large part due to the support of black voters – give an idea of ​​the sentiments behind these numbers. It centers on blacks and other minority voters who contributed to Biden’s victory but are now seeing what they see as unfulfilled promises and diminishing hopes for meaningful change.

In a way, the “benefit of the doubt” part of Biden’s presidency is over. While the president gained goodwill from many initially for simply not being Trump, especially when it came to the coronavirus, now those who have supported him are demanding results and his lack of a devotional base is beginning to show.

“When midterms are about enthusiasm and turnout, who do you think is excited about voting right now on November 2nd?” Said Nsé Ufot, chief executive officer of the New Georgia Project, which has more than half a million voters Has. “Because they’re not Democrats. They are not black. They are not young people. “

It remains to be seen whether Biden’s falling support is a sign of ongoing hostility or a short-term reflection on a difficult stretch marked by a haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan, a deadlocked domestic political agenda, and a surge in coronavirus infections due to the Delta variant.

However, the discontent is particularly evident in Georgia, where Democrats had hoped that demographic change and mobilization efforts would provide a blueprint for expanding their voting card.

Some Biden voters said the president will struggle to keep hard-to-win voters in circles if he fails to address the issues that motivated them in the first place, particularly police reform and the right to vote. And they rejected efforts by the Democrats to attribute the lack of progress to the partisan split alone.

“There are some things they are willing to line up and be more persistent about,” said Christine White, executive director of the Georgia Alliance for Progress, which funds nonprofits across the state. “And I think there are times when we duck and believe the rhetoric about partisanship.”

Biden and his aides warn against placing too much emphasis on survey results. They say the president knew that sometimes when taking on difficult subjects, politics would be tough. But if Biden can beat the pandemic, adopt his infrastructure and social agenda, and continue to make progress on racial justice – which they are confident of – they say his popularity will take care of itself.

Biden and his vice presidential election, Kamala D. Harris, fought hard in Georgia, which has not been won by a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992. After the election, it became clear that the majority in the US Senate would ultimately be decided in Georgia, as a result of unusual runoff elections in which both state seats were up for grabs. At a rally in Atlanta, Biden said that winning both seats – and a majority in the Senate – would unlock a list of benefits.

In Georgia, a coalition that introduced the Democrats into energy breaches amid unfulfilled guarantees

“The power is literally in your hands,” Biden told the Georgians. “You can break the deadlock that has gripped Washington and this nation. With their votes in the Senate, we will be able to make the strides we need to make on jobs, healthcare, justice, the environment and so many other important things. “

But for many of these voters, these changes are nowhere to be found.

Two months after Biden spoke in Atlanta, Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill that imposed new restrictions on mail and early voting, and reduced the number of ballot boxes, while criminalizing outside groups who queued voters for food and water to offer. Critics say the bill has an overwhelming effect on colored voters, and Biden himself called it Jim Crow 2.0.

However, Congress was unable to pass a voting law. And the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act – co-authored by Harris when she was a Senator – died after a bipartisan group failed to compromise, despite repeated calls on Biden to do so before the anniversary of Floyd’s death.

At the same time, many were disturbed by images of Haitian immigrants seeking asylum in the country during a turbulent period and being rounded up and beaten by white immigration officials on horseback. The images, according to White, “send a signal to blacks that our government has not done enough to eradicate the racist structural behavior of law enforcement agencies. . . . The message that comes across very easily from the pictures is that America doesn’t care about black people, period. “

The White House says Biden went to great lengths to help color communities, from appointing a historic number of minorities to intertwining provisions for racial justice during his pandemic, infrastructure and social safety net laws. For example, the American Rescue Plan – the official name of Biden’s Pandemic Relief Act – provides debt relief for “socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers,” which include blacks, Latinos and other minority farmers.

“The black agenda is bigger than the right to vote and bigger than the George Floyd Police and Justice Act,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki recently.

Aides also say the president hasn’t given up pushing voting and police reform laws through Congress. “Both are extremely important,” said Psaki. “The President has undertaken to do both. He wants to legally sign it. ”Urged why Biden didn’t do this, she noted that Congress“ is a separate body. You need 50 votes to change the filibuster. You also need a majority of votes to bring laws into law. “

Biden Says Eliminating Filibuster Will “Wreck Entire Congress”

But Georgia activists say Biden and the Democrats have let themselves be outmaneuvered. Many mentioned Sens. Joe Manchin III (DW.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Moderate Democrats who critics said they played an inappropriate role in stopping Biden’s agenda.

Adelina Nicholls, who heads the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, said her group knocked on “every Latino door in Georgia” ahead of the 2020 elections – but now she is dismayed at the lack of help Biden has allegedly given immigrants.

“The concern we have is that the Democrats keep repeating the same mistakes,” said Nicholls. “We worked for something here. Let’s try something new, let’s be different. What good is a politician who does not work for the benefit of the community that has elected him? “

Helen Butler, a longtime voting rights activist and executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, said she was discouraged by the government’s insistence that there is no going to the filibuster – and how it prioritized an infrastructure bill as a vote in Georgia Deprived of rights.

“If people can’t vote for people of their choice, it doesn’t matter what infrastructure bill you submit now,” Butler said. “What does it matter if you don’t have access to the ballot?”

Biden was chosen by people with different priorities united by their antipathy for Trump, said Michael Thurmond, CEO of DeKalb County, which includes many suburbs around Atlanta. And he must give priority to fighting the coronavirus pandemic, said Thurmond.

“As critical as all of these other problems are – and they are – the existential threat to America was the coronavirus, a virus that killed 700,000 Americans,” Thurmond said. “I don’t think he got enough recognition for the American Rescue Act. You don’t get any recognition for the lives not lost, the money saved or the people not displaced. “

Robinson, the leader of the Black Male Voter Project, said his days of contacting reluctant voters are not over and he hopes black men in Georgia will reliably stand for election in future elections. But with little movement in the issues that matter most to the group, he believes the talks will get a lot tougher in the next election cycle.

“You cannot call me and ask to serve my brothers on a plate for their benefit,” he said. “They cannot have my data, they have no access to what I know about black men from our work, unless I see something serious for blacks. And that requires talking to (black men) well before Labor Day in an election year. “