7 African-American Politicians Who Will Rise in the Era of Trump

Lauren Victoria Burke
Top row: Cory Booker; Kamala Harris; Justin Fairfax. Bottom row: Keith Ellison; Tim Scott; Val Demings.
Top row: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images; Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Children’s Defense Fund; fairfaxforlg.com. Bottom row: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; scott.senate.gov; valdemings.com.

The Democratic Party just got rocked by Donald Trump, but the popular-vote totals indicate a counterargument: Hillary Clinton won over 2 million more votes than Trump. The fact is, the pendulum always swings back against the party in power in American politics, and no one stays on top for long.

Over the next four years, some new—and some familiar—players will step up to the national political stage, including the following African Americans. Some will owe their political rise to Trump in the end.


1. Sen.-Elect Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)

Kamala Harris in 2014
Kimberly White/Getty Images

The soon-to be-former attorney general of California will join the U.S. Senate in January and is certain to be a standout player in the Democratic Party's plans. Harris already delivered a shot across the bow at attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) with a statement saying that she was "concerned with his support for policies that would undermine core Department of Justice functions and his views that are incompatible with constitutional guarantees.” Look for Harris' name to pop up for a White House bid in 2020, whether or not she gives a signal that she's running.

2. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) speaks to reporters as he leaves a meeting with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Republican National Senatorial Committee on July 7, 2016, in Washington, D.C.
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

With rumors flying that Scott may run for governor or lieutenant governor of South Carolina, the U.S. Senate's only black Republican may be looking to win South Carolina statewide again after winning re-election to the Senate on Nov. 8. Scott's bipartisan work on poverty issues and his securing of money for police body cameras, along with his candid, surprise commentary on racism and police on the Senate floor this summer, have positioned him for a larger profile than he had when he entered the House in 2011.

3. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Even if Ellison doesn't win his battle to be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee at the February 2017 election, he will play a big role in progressive politics for years to come and have substantial input regarding the Democratic Party's policy direction.

4. Rep.-Elect Val Demings (D-Fla.)

Rep.-elect Val Demings (D-Fla.)

The former police chief of Orlando, Fla., will arrive in Congress in January 2017. She has already demonstrated leadership in Florida around justice and community-policing issues. Even in the minority in Congress, Demings is likely to be a standout and a fast starter who will already be well aware of how to position herself politically in an effort to get something done.

5. Justin Fairfax

Justin Fairfax

Former federal prosecutor and Duke and Columbia Law grad Justin Fairfax will be the only African American running statewide in 2017 as he runs for lieutenant governor of Virginia. In 2013 Fairfax lost by only 4,686 votes in the race to be Virginia's attorney general. His campaign is likely to be viewed the same way Barack Obama's (2008) and Doug Wilder's (1990) "Screw it, I'm running" campaigns were. Fairfax is the black candidate the establishment didn't back, but he has a well-connected, powerful network of supporters and is likely to overcome trends in a formally red Southern state that’s turning increasingly blue.

6. Whoever Is the Next CBC Chair

Whether it's Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) or Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), whoever leads the largest Congressional Black Caucus in history—50 members—will be one of the leaders of the loyal opposition to Trump. Since House Republicans are saying they'll actually do legislative work now that their target of obsession and obstruction, President Barack Obama, will be gone, there will be endless opportunities for strong messaging from the CBC chair for the first time in eight years.


7. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

Sen. Cory Booker D-N.J.) waves during day 1 of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on July 25, 2016.

Booker should be among several Democrats planning to run in 2020 against Trump. In an answer to the "It has to be Hillary" attitude seen in 2016, the field of Democrats running for the White House should be much younger and much larger than what was witnessed this year.

Lauren Victoria Burke is a Washington, D.C.-based political reporter who writes the Crew of 42 blog. She appears regularly on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin on TV One. Follow her on Twitter

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