The idea of reparations has become a major talking point in the Democratic Party over the last several months – especially among the 2020 presidential candidates.
In April, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced S.1083, a bill which would, according to its text, “establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery…”
Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) all co-sponsored Booker’s legislation.
Booker also introduced legislation called the “American Opportunity Accounts Act,” which would “mitigate the growing wealth gap between American families by creating a seed savings account for every American child when they are born. The funds would sit in an interest-bearing account that would receive additional deposits each year depending on family income,” according to a press release.
Several other candidates have set forth their own proposals as well.
Sen. Kamala Harris has proposed the “Lift Act,” which would provide “a refundable middle class tax credit of up to $3,000 for individuals and up to $6,000 for married individuals filing joint returns,” according to the Congress.gov summary.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has proposed the “American Housing and Economic Mobility Act,” which would, in part, have the federal government “take the first step toward addressing the racial wealth gap that it contributed to creating by helping individuals or descendants of individuals who were harmed by housing discrimination or negligence…”
In February, Warren stated, “Black families have had a much steeper hill to climb – and we need systemic, structural changes to address that.”
Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson, who is polling at just 0.3%, according to the RealClearPolitics average, has stated:
I propose a $200bn-$500bn plan of reparations for slavery, the money to be disbursed over a period of 20 years. An esteemed council of African American leaders would determine the educational and economic projects to which the money would be given.
Despite the myriad proposals and damning quotes from the Democratic candidates, it appears that a majority of Americans are opposed to reparations.
A Hill-HarrisX poll conducted in late-June asked voters, “Should the descendants of slaves be paid reparations to make up for the harms caused by slavery or have these harms been adequately compensated?”
56% of respondents said “No,” 20% said “Yes,” and 24% said they were unsure.
While Republicans (81% against) and Democrats (36% against) were predictably divided on the issue, independent voters landed firmly against reparations, with 57% rejecting the idea.
The opinion gap between black voters and white voters was even more stark than that of the Republicans and Democrats, with 55% of black voters favoring reparations of some kind, as compared to only 11% of white voters.
This Hill-HarrisX poll falls in line with a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey in which 27% of Americans stated that reparations are a “good idea,” and 62% stated that reparations are a “bad idea.” 11% were “unsure.”
Only time will tell how these polls will impact the Democratic candidates’ platforms.