Tag Archives: black voters

Running from Race is Hard in the Presidential Race

New Orleans       It’s Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, so what better time to talk about the still unresolved, raw issues around race that continue more than 150 years after his death.  Evidence abounds that you can’t run from issues around race, as we examine increased scrutiny of Democratic presidential candidates, and their forced confrontations with the issue to their peril.

Former Mayor Peter Buttigieg has borne the brunt of a number of recent commentaries over his comments late in his term in the small city of South Bend, Indiana that he was surprised to find the level of segregation in the local schools.  A racialized killing involving a cop brought him off the campaign trail while he was still mayor to deal with the crisis to less than rave reviews.  His abysmal polling at around 6.6% in the latest 538 summary indicates he’s a very tough sell outside of the white castles of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Minnesota’s Senator Amy Klobuchar is having to answer questions about her time as prosecuting attorney in the Twin Cities and her role in the conviction of an African-American teenager that remains a controversy.  Her law and order claims have had to confront questions about how she handled race in the overwhelmingly white St. Paul / Minneapolis area.  Another white settlement in the spotlight problem.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is appropriately finding it hard to paper over the years of damage his top-of-his-lungs advocacy of destructively racist stop-and-frisk policies by the police with a simple apology.  The fact that it was racial profiling is beyond debate.  The fact that it led to huge incarceration rates of black and brown New Yorkers during his many terms in office is also beyond dispute.  Millions of dollars in television ads has bought him a 7.8% showing in South Carolina so far, just as billionaire Tom Steyer’s millions have him now standing at 10%, but those numbers don’t indicate that all is forgiven, all is forgotten.

Senator Bernie Sanders faces some of the same dilemma with all of his political experience coming from snow white Vermont.  The Census Bureau still classifies Vermont as the whitest state in the country with somewhere between 95 and 96% of the population easily lost in the winter there.  In Vermont, it’s a white-in, not a white-out, when a winter storm breaks.  Sanders has worked hard to offset his inexperience with race, and his experience in the primaries in 2016 and now again in 2020 shows that he has made some progress perhaps but still runs far behind former Vice-President Joe Biden, who has dealt with race by embracing President Obama in a bearhug and constantly citing their eight years together.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren isn’t having to sweep up mountains of problems in her past record, but clearly has not been able to catch fire with African-American voters yet either.  She may continue to be damaged in the kerfuffle of her claims to Native American heritage there.

African-Americans are the largest, most unified voting block in the Democratic Party.  Ambition may trump everything else, but how can any candidate believe they can win in the primaries or against Trump without uniting black votes and dealing aggressively in every way possible with the issues of race?

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We’re Going South Now but the Call to the Black Base Has to Become a Constant Chant

The ‘March for Black Lives’ passes by the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015 Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

The ‘March for Black Lives’ passes by the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015 Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

New Orleans    Hillary Clinton established in the debate in Charleston now as the campaign prepares to go South, she is switching strategic gears to cloak her campaign in the power and potential of the black vote. Very interestingly, now that she is an embattled front-runner with Bernie Sanders hot on her heels, she is dropping the regal posture of pretending she’s above it all and should try to distance herself from President Obama and welding herself to him firmly. When the campaign goes South, black votes matter!

To hold onto this part of her path of power, Hillary Clinton is willing to abandon any position around the middle ground. According to the report,

Twice in the debate, Mrs. Clinton sought to evoke outrage about racial inequities. Saying one in three black men may “end up going to prison,” she added starkly, “I want people here to think what we would be doing if it was one out of three white men.” And, referring to the crisis in majority-black Flint, Mich., over lead in the water, Mrs. Clinton discerned a racial double standard: Had the water in “a rich suburb of Detroit” been contaminated, she said, “there would’ve been action.”

On the eve of Martin Luther King Day, why not, but I have to wonder if she realizes that the clarion call to the black base can’t just be a Democratic southern strategy anymore, but an everyday thing. Race is more central to the American debate about our present and future than perhaps at any time since the Civil Rights movement. Certainly, it was an issue – and an accomplishment – as Obama ran and won, but that was a measured and polite dialogue with history in which hate went to the ballot box in secret silence in many precincts around the country but was muted in public discourse. Since then the rabid hate and antipathy to the President and lack of respect for him and his office in many quarters has vacated any claim for a post-racial America. What was coded and covert from Bill Clinton’s ending of “welfare as we know it” in a message to white America and his attack on Sister Souljah, is now, thanks once again to people in motion and the churning of new forms of social protest, front and center.

A New York Times music critic rated Obama’s funeral oration for those killed in the South Carolina church and his singing of Amazing Grace as one of the top ten performances of 2015, while admitting that he would not have normally fit in a category looking at musical concerts. Hillary Clinton called being there in the church a chance to witness history in the making.

Race can’t be just a Southern campaign chorus for Clinton. Sanders can’t just bring on a couple of rappers or change a line or two in his set speech about economic justice to appeal to the base. The Republicans can’t be allowed to continue to campaign for white, right, and all right.

As Reverend King preached, there has to be a mountain top, and we have to judge candidates on whether or not they are willing and able to get us out of the ditch on race, and back on the climb to the mountaintop after President Obama steps down.

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