ATLANTA — Ask a young black voter in Atlanta about Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and you’ll likely be met with an exasperated sigh, a side-eye, or a grimace before they launch into a frustrated answer about the former vice president.
The young voters say they’re tired of Biden tying the promise of his campaign to former president Barack Obama’s legacy and what they see as older generations of black voters’ inability to see past that legacy in support of another candidate who just might push the country in a more progressive direction.
“It really bothers me!” Ayanna Ucheena Woodfolk, 18, a freshman at Spelman College, said of Biden’s stronghold on older black voters. “I think it’s because they think, He was with Obama, so he must be OK. But it’s really important to, even if they look good, listen to what they’re saying and at least attempt to learn about them.”
“If you’re paying a little bit of attention at all, it just seems like he doesn’t seem to have the gusto that I need. I feel like we need someone who’s going to be a champion for people like me, and he doesn’t have what it takes to be the president for people like me,” Ucheena Woodfolk added.
Over a dozen young black people who spoke with BuzzFeed News at a nonpartisan debate night watch party hosted by Black Youth Vote and Georgia Stand-Up at Georgia State University and at Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders rallies in Atlanta this past week said that there’s a clear generational divide that’s formed between older and younger cohorts of black voters when it comes to what they’re expecting from a presidential candidate. Older black voters’ willingness to quickly give their support to Biden is frustrating, they said, and concerning for their futures.
“I want change. I don’t want the next 20 years to look like the previous 20 years,” said Bryan Bloomfield, a senior at Morehouse College.
“They know he’ll move the needle just enough maybe, and I think they believe that’s good enough and any progress is better than no progress to them. I don’t believe that just moving two feet is enough — Malcolm X once said, ‘If there’s a knife in my back and it’s 9 inches deep and you take it out 6 inches, you haven’t done anything to help me really,’” Bloomfield said.
The Biden campaign pushed back on that characterization and connected BuzzFeed News with two students who volunteer and intern with the campaign through Students for Biden and with Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a 29-year-old Philadelphia state representative who has endorsed Biden’s campaign.
“He’s always made that case that you have to solidify the gains that you’ve made and then go further,” said Kenyatta.