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Biden wins N.H. primary following a grassroots effort to organize write-in campaign

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There was a Democratic primary in New Hampshire last night, and President Biden won it, even though his name was not on the printed ballot. That is thanks to write-in votes that showed broad support among Democrats overall. Biden had backed new rules from the Democratic National Committee under which the party's primary process actually begins on February 3 in South Carolina, not Iowa or New Hampshire. The DNC argued that South Carolina should go first, in part because it is more diverse and more representative of broader national concerns. But before we leave New Hampshire, we thought we'd get some thoughts about that from James McKim. He is president of the Manchester, N.H. branch of the NAACP. That's the longtime civil rights group focused on issues of particular concern to Black people. Good morning, Mr. McKim.

JAMES MCKIM: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: I should mention you're joining us via Skype. First of all, are people surprised that there is an NAACP in New Hampshire? As I understand, only about 2% of New Hampshire residents identify as Black. Are people surprised that you are there?

MCKIM: Well, people are surprised that we are here. Even people in New Hampshire are surprised we are here. And so we're just working to make that not an issue anymore.

MARTIN: How did that argument about South Carolina should go first, in part because it's more diverse - how did that sit with you?

MCKIM: Well, it didn't sit with me very well. And the reason it didn't sit with me very well is because if they're looking for a state that is representative of the rest of the nation, they're not going to find one. And to say that there are no people of color here doesn't reflect what you can see if you go to census tract 15 and 14 in Manchester, N.H., which is more representative of the population that they're looking to have representative of. So it's - it was really, for many of us, a slap in the face. It's - you're discounting New Hampshire.

MARTIN: So let me just point out again that - and the NAACP is a nonpartisan organization. And also, you know, your board is racially diverse. But having said that, I did want to tap your expertise with Black voters in the state. There's been a lot of press lately about how the Biden campaign is struggling with Black voters. Have you seen that?

MCKIM: We've seen a bit of it, but I think not as much as we see in the rest of the country. It's really interesting to see how people tend to put Black voters into one box. And we are not monolithic.

MARTIN: Did you think that the Biden campaign, despite the fact of all this kind of strangeness around, you know, write-in versus, you know, formally on the ballot, not really on the ballot - despite all that, did you feel that the Biden campaign did make an appeal to Black voters in your state?

MCKIM: I don't think they made an appeal. They didn't contact me. They didn't contact any of the other presidents of the other two branches of the NAACP. And so I don't think they made an outreach here at all. There are some surrogates here, and we have Senator Melanie Levesque, who is the first senator of color here. And she was out strong as well as a couple of other former House representatives here who are out strong with the writing campaign. But in terms of the Biden campaign itself contacting us, no.

MARTIN: So what issues do you think did drive voters to the polls? Voters in general, and Black voters, in particular. And how do you think those issues might inform the president's strategy going forward?

MCKIM: So I think that the issues that really got voters out were immigration, security of the nation. The economy is always something that pulls people out. It's the economy, stupid. It was the phrase from several elections ago, and it's still very valid. So I think those are the issues that brought people out. And Black people in particular - again, we're not monolithic, so I don't know that there's any one set of issues, save the divisiveness of our society today. And I really am disappointed in the fact that the presidential candidates, for the most part, didn't really talk about how they're going to resolve that issue.

MARTIN: And well, before we let you go, just as briefly as you can, what's most motivating for you - you personally?

MCKIM: What's motivating for me personally is trying to make sure that we do eliminate this divisiveness that we have here in our nation.

MARTIN: OK. That is James McKim. He's president of the Manchester, N.H. branch of the NAACP. Mr. McKim, thanks so much for talking with us.

MCKIM: Thank you so much, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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