The Election Year Poor People’s Campaign Gap

TRENTON-If New Jersey’s 1.4 million poor and low-income voters went to the polls at the same rate as higher-income voters they could determine the outcome of races up and down the ballot, Rev. Rupert Hall told a lunch time Trenton rally organized by the New Jersey chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign in front of the statehouse on Tuesday.

“We are here today to serve notice that the political landscape, not only here in New Jersey, but around the country can be changed,” Hall told the crowd made up of activists that are also organizing a March 2 rally at the state house. “It is imperative that the extremist narrative that blames the poor and low income for their plight be countered that poverty— not the poor– should be fought.”

Rev. Hall is a tri-chair of the New Jersey Poor People’s Campaign and the pastor at Trenton’s Turning Point United Methodist Church.

Hall cited the recent poor voter turnout in municipal elections in Trenton, a city with endemic poverty and homelessness.

“For instance, here in Trenton in the last Mayoral and Council elections of 37,791 eligible voters, only 9,248 cast ballots, 24 percent—we are here to serve notice that we are going to change that here in Trenton, in New Jersey and the country,” Hall said, adding the one of the Council races was actually decided by just one vote.

Hall said the national effort aimed to target “five interlocking injustices: systemic racism, ecological devastation, the war economy, militarism, and the false moral narrative of religious nationalism that says you don’t have to address these issues.”

Thirty-seven percent of New Jersey’s households either live below the poverty line or struggle week to week to afford the basic necessities, according to the United Way’s ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Project that has been tracking this cohort for over a decade.

Mark Lesko is disabled and is also a tri-chair of the NJ Poor People’s Campaign.

“My entire check is not enough for a one-bedroom apartment but I make too much to qualify for Medicare and get healthcare,” Lesko said. “A real living minimum wage in New Jersey would be $30 to $35 an hour and we are at half that. Now, often with legislation when it comes to low wealth and impacted people its ‘how are you going to pay for it’ but when it’s the military budget and lining the pockets of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon it’s a rubber stamp—no problem—we find the money.”

Lesko continued. “The government proved during COVID that they could increase the Child Tax Credit, expand Medicaid for millions. Poverty went down. Food stamp money went up and they proved it could do it with no effect on their bottom line. Where are we now? Backwards.”

Congress’s decision to not continue the COVID era boost in the Expanded Child Tax Credit was followed by the largest spike in poverty in over 50 years.

“If Congress had continued the American Rescue Plan’s Child Tax Credit increase in 2022, about 3 million additional children would have been kept out of poverty, preventing more than half of the 5.2 million increase in the number of children in poverty last year,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The New Jersey event coincided with similar events in 31 states and Washington D.C. as part of a 2024 voter mobilization by the Poor People’s Campaign-A National Call for Moral Revival led by Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis that’s modeled on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1960s’ Poor People’s Campaign.

The campaign will target 15 million poor and low-wealth voters nationwide ahead.

In 2016, in a ‘proof of concept’, the Poor People’s Campaign targeted specific low wealth and low wage voters in several states including in Georgia where they identified and mobilized 36,000 previously unengaged voters that helped produce the margin of victory in the pivotal U.S. Senate races won by Rev. Raphael Warner (D-GA) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA).

“For far too long extremists have blamed poor people and low wage people for their plight while moderates too often have ignored poor people, appealing instead to the so-called middle class while the poor and low wage people have become nearly half of this country,” Rev. Barber told reporters at press conference in Washington earlier this month announcing the voter drive “Poor and low wage people have the power to determine and decide the 2024 elections and elections beyond. In the 2016 election there were 34 million poor and low wealth people eligible to vote but didn’t. These voters made up more than a quarter of the electorate.”

Barber continued. “Poverty is now the fourth leading crisis of death in America, a moral crisis in America taking the lives of 800 people a day and this is before and after COVID…These are the issues that must be at the center of the narrative of a democracy in our country. If we are serious about saving democracy it can’t be some philosophical term. Saving democracy must be a Third Reconstruction where people are paid a living wage—where people have health care—where public education is fully funded and where voting rights are protected and expanded.”

With the support of the Poor People’s Campaign, Columbia University researcher Robert Paul Hartley conducted a study of the 2016 electorate that zeroed in on the performance of the low wage voter cohort and found a majority of them did not vote and when they were surveyed they explained  they didn’t turn out because they didn’t hear candidates discuss issues that had any relevance to their lives.

Columbia University researcher Robert Paul Hartley  found that only 46 percent of voters with household income less than twice the federal poverty rate cast a ballot in 2016, as compared to a 68 percent turnout rate for voters who had a household income more than twice the poverty line. “They’re saying that they’re not voting because people are not speaking to their issues and that they’re just not interested in those candidates,” Hartley, told the New York Times. “But it’s not that they couldn’t be.”

In 2016, in key rust belt states where unions were part of the historic Democratic base like Michigan, Trump won thanks to depressed African American voter turnout and the lack of engagement of the multi-racial cohort of economically struggling voters that polls show overwhelming support for reproductive rights, a living wage and universal healthcare.

In 2016, Trump carried Michigan by just 10,000 votes. 980,000 low wage voters did not turn out. If. 1.1 percent of those voters had bothered the results would have been different. Michigan was no exception. In North Carolina, Trump’s margin of victory was 170,000 votes while 920,000 poor and low wealth voters sat it out. If just 18.9 percent of those disengaged voters had been motivated to go to the polls, history would have bent another way.

In the House of Representatives in 2022, now held by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA.), an unapologetic insurrectionist, the GOP won control by just 3,500 votes in five tight House races.

In 2020, in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin the Biden Trump faceoff was really tight, close to just 3 percent. In Texas, a Republican bastion for decades, the margin was just over 5 percent.

At the national kickoff in Washington the Poor People’s Campaign speakers were joined by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, President of Lake Research Partners.

“In 2024, the election is going to be about mobilization,” Lake told reporters. “There is no question that the biggest contest between the two parties is going to be who can get their voters out to vote. Democrats have an enthusiasm gap today, and the progressive alliance and Democrats have fissures within their constituency that makes getting out the vote even more important. The biggest bloc of potential voters by far is low-income, low-wage voters. Increased participation even by miniscule percentages could be game changers. It is a massive voter engagement that is being started here today.”

 

 

 

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3 responses to “The Election Year Poor People’s Campaign Gap”

  1. Poverty has been created by the Democrat Party, who wants to keep minorities “down on the plantation” by giving them crumbs of welfare, education, healthcare, free food stamps, etc. for votes. However, the Democrats are giving illegal aliens (e.g., the new criminal element) all of these entitlements, and leaving the true American poor in the lurch. The Democrats are giving all of the entitlements to illegals now, because they want their votes.

    Given that Democrats were the ones who were the original slave masters, started the Civil War to keep their slavery population, started the KKK and Brown Shirts & Red Shirts in the South to block Reconstruction after the Civil War (1863-1877) unless the Democrats got their slaves back–causing Republican President Ulysses S. Grant to send in Union troops to enforce Reconstruction–and the Democrats blocked the 1866, 1871 (13th & 14th Amendments), the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, anyone voting for Democrats, again, is insane. Voting for Democrats over and over again to hope for a different result to pull the poor out of poverty is the very definition of insanity. Time for Democrat voters to wake up and look around at what Democrats have done for them over the past 100 years–ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!!!!

  2. In response to Tomasina Schwarz, I refer you to President Trump’s 4 years in office in which he raised the incomes of all minorities, took minorities off of the poverty and unemployment lines, and promoted entrepreneurship for minorities. Minorities were very happy with Trump, because everyone was making money and had jobs. But, thanks to the Democrats, the minorities are once again put into the “shackles of poverty” by the Democrat “plantation owners”.

    Why do you think minorities are coming out and supporting Trump for office in the next election??? Read the polls dear. They show minorities and women are overwhelmingly supporting Trump’s economic, foreign affairs, and border and crime policies.

    Let’s remember what Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson (“LBJ”) told his Southern Democrat Senator buddies: If you give the Negroes everything for free, I’ll have them voting Democrat for the next 200 years.

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