Bernie Sanders’ Popularity Forces Hillary Clinton to Focus on South Carolina Black Voters

<> on January 17, 2016 in Charleston, South Carolina.
Getty Images

Hillary Clinton is looking to black voters in South Carolina in a desperate attempt to avoid three early primary season losses against rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Once considered a shoo-in for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, current polling shows that Clinton may be facing a repeat of her 2008 nightmare, where despite big leads in early polling, she went on to lose in a landslide to upstart candidate Barack Obama.

Clinton and Sanders are currently running neck-and-neck in Iowa, but the latest poll numbers show that Sanders has a crushing lead over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. As the New York Times reports:

Mr. Sanders’s lead, 60 percent to 33 percent, is stunning by New Hampshire standards, given that most polls have shown a tight race there and that Mrs. Clinton won the state’s primary in 2008. But Mr. Sanders, a well-known figure in New Hampshire after a 30-year political career in neighboring Vermont, has been enjoying a burst of political momentum in recent weeks, and he appears to be consolidating support among New Hampshire voters who viewed him favorably but had yet to commit to his candidacy.

Among the harshest findings for Mrs. Clinton, 55 percent of likely Democratic voters said she was the “least honest” of the party’s presidential candidates, compared with 33 percent who said that in September and 46 percent in December. Only 2 percent of those surveyed described Mr. Sanders as the least honest in the Democratic field.

If Hillary Clinton gets walloped in New Hampshire, a loss in South Carolina on February 27 would be a major perceptual defeat, as it would come just two days before eleven states cast their ballots for Democratic candidates on March 1.

None of this escaped the notice of The Hill, which ran an article titled: As Sanders eyes 2 big wins, Clinton rallies black voters, detailing candidate Clinton’s recent invocation of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama at the Charleston debate as evidence of an attempt to raise her appeal among African-Americans.

A quote from that article by fiercely loyal Obama ally the Reverend Al Sharpton should worry candidate Clinton, because it does not seem to indicate overwhelming support. Instead of his usual abrasive Democratic cheerleader routine, Sharpton chose to play the role of objective pundit:

‘Clinton has the early advantage now, because more people are familiar with her,’ the Reverend Al Sharpton told The Hill, referring to voters in the black community. ‘But once there is a prolonged primary challenge, then people are going to start to want to know more about Bernie Sanders. The whole argument of inevitability starts going if she cannot end this early. She runs the risk of people taking second looks, giving Sanders second chances and the chance of people liking what the hear.’

Clinton’s black strategy in South Carolina plays to the state’s demographics. As The Hill reported, “more than half the Democratic votes cast in the 2008 contest were from African-Americans, according to exit polls. The last two major polls in the Palmetto State, both released in December, showed Clinton leading Sanders by 36 percentage points in one and 44 points in the other.”

However, black voters are obviously noticing Bernie Sanders.

Although he might not be the typical black voter, prominent Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King penned a column for the New York Daily News on January 15 titled Why Bernie Sanders is the best candidate in the running for the White House. King does not whitewash his support for Sanders. Discussing the famous moment where Black Lives Matter protesters took over the podium at a Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle, King writes effusively:

Looking back on it, I truly think it was the most important moment of his campaign. He took the brave interruption to heart. Instead of simply saying “Black Lives Matter” here and there, he released the most comprehensive, thorough, specific plan of any candidate on either side to address police brutality, economic inequality, voting rights, education, health care, gun safety and more.

Shaun King thinks Hillary Clinton pales in comparison to Sanders, and goes on to list some of the reasons, including Hillary’s links to embattled Democrat Mayor Rahm Emanuel:

  1. Police and political corruption in Chicago is a horrific mess. With both Hillary (and Obama) having deep ties to the city and its mayor, Rahm Emanuel, they have both been rather mum about it. Bernie, on the other hand, came out strong on how leaders at the highest level need to be held accountable there. This is what it’s going to take to address police violence in America.
  2. No presidential candidate has been as clear on what happened to Sandra Bland as Bernie. In addition to meeting with her mother, he came out in December and flat out said “Sandra Bland should not have died while in police custody. There’s no doubt in my mind that she, like too many African-Americans who die in police custody, would be alive today if she were a white woman.” He gets it. Race is not a coincidental factor in police violence, but is a central, determining factor in much of the brutality. This must be acknowledged and Bernie has done so repeatedly.

Perhaps more culturally significant was the recent endorsement of Sanders by rapper Killer Mike, whose real name is Michael Render. Killer Mike carries heft with many black Americans.

When asked what attracted him to Bernie Sanders, Killer Mike replied bluntly “Smoking a joint and reading his tweets.”

For an understanding of Killer Mike’s politics, a look at a lyric video for his song “Reagan” is instructive. Although the song is harshly critical of former Republican President Ronald Reagan — one lyric says “I’m glad Reagan’s dead” — it also name checks the Bushs, Clinton and Obama, calling them “employees of the country’s real masters” and saying they are talking heads “telling lies on teleprompters.”

One metric of the interest in Sanders among what are likely young, black and liberal activists are the statistics on an unlisted YouTube live stream of the 50 minute conversation between about communist Cornell West, socialist Bernie Sanders and hip-hop artist Killer Mike. The video has gotten over 100,000 views in just a few days.

By comparison, of the last 10 videos posted on YouTube by Hillary Clinton, none has more than 41,000 views.

Hillary Clinton is currently beset by a host of challenges, including the resurfacing accusations about her husband Bill Clinton’s sex scandals and her own scandal about a private email server. That email server scandal is currently the focus of an ongoing FBI investigation and due to court orders, new emails are being released every month, which is having a torturous effect on the Clinton campaign.

In the next few weeks, we’ll see if that drip drip drip of scandal combines with the river of love that many current Democrats have for radical socialists and turns into a flood that once and for all ends Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.