By Amanda Becker
Wisconsin is a red state for the first time since 1984 and this year’s election saw its lowest number of ballots cast in 16 years. Low income neighborhoods like those in the center of Milwaukee were major contributors.
Tucked behind a gas station, on the corner of Capitol and 20th, is Mr. Perkins. It’s a neighborhood soul food restaurant that resembles a chapel on the outside and a truck-stop diner inside. On a Friday morning, every seat is full.
It’s been one month since the election results revealed Donald Trump to be the new president-elect. Troy Spears is eating his breakfast sandwich as he bluntly announces that he doesn’t participate in politics.
“Politicians got a history of making promises and not keeping them.”
Located in a predominantly African-American community where the unemployment rate is nearly double the national average and the median household income is below poverty level, if Hillary Clinton had a message for the residents here, it was not heard.
Kevin, who didn’t want his last name used, is waiting for his food to-go. He voted for Clinton but doesn’t care that she lost.
“I mean, it really didn’t matter to me. Nothing Obama did affected none of us. They’re all upper class. It ain’t going to affect the minorities, or the people that ain’t middle class- the lower people. We’re still going to have to struggle. Period.”
Spears shared the same discouragement for those of low-economic status.
“You can hear them always talking about the middle class. What they’re going to do for the middle class. Well, if they’re middle class they’ve got something going on at least, but there are people out here in the lower class who have nothing.”
Across the street is WNOV radio, located in the 15th aldermanic district, it’s a section of the city that had a nearly 20% decrease in voter turnout compared to the last election. Democrats who voted for Obama in 2012 did not show up vote for Clinton in this area, and others like it, as they were expected to.
Sherwin Hughes is the host of “The Forum,” a show that discusses politics and community issues for WNOV. He said that one visit from Clinton to the Sherman Park neighborhood, and other impoverished cities in battle ground states, could have engaged more voters.
“It didn’t give black voters enough of a reason because they didn’t see her, they didn’t talk to her, there was no eye contact. Now, she’s not President Barack Obama but she had to at least make an appeal to folks that did vote for Obama if she wanted to get their support.”
As few as 27,000 more votes would have changed the outcome of the entire election. But most say she didn’t even try, and her lack of enthusiasm was reciprocated from voters. To inner city locals, like Hughes, diversity and segregation are more than just political buzz words.
“In the city of Milwaukee, African-American’s are dealing with unprecedented poverty, joblessness, hopelessness, a skills gap, an education gap and the Clinton campaign failed to address that.”
Following an election with obvious racial overtones, should communities like these be apprehensive about what the future holds for them?
No, says Hughes.
“Remember the African- American Community has lived through a lot of presidents and changes so the majority of folks are going to be A-OK, and that’s what the majority of the conversation is based around.”
Back at Mr. Perkins Akhigbe Ohikhuare is eating his breakfast. He mutters, as if still half-searching for the answer himself, “I think things are going to get a little worse. You really just got to wait and see. You never know what someone is going to do.”
Many people in this neighborhood did not vote for Trump. But, their only choice is to give him a chance, and if the Democratic Party wants the black vote in the future, they’ll have to earn it.