North Charleston, South Carolina — Billionaire left-wing donor Tom Steyer promised a gathering of African American religious leaders Wednesday morning that he would push for “blacker” and “browner” leaders if elected president.
Steyer, who used those terms in describing his proposal for 12-year term limits for members of Congress, was one of several Democratic presidential candidates to address the National Action Network (NAN), a group run by Al Sharpton, at a breakfast for local ministers ahead of the state’s presidential primary on Saturday.
Sharpton has played an unprecedented role in the 2020 presidential primary. In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) openly refused to accept Sharpton’s endorsement, given his history of racist and antisemitic rhetoric.
But President Obama, needing allies within the black community, later helped rehabilitate Sharpton’s reputation.
Today, Sharpton functions as a kingmaker within the Democratic Party, with candidates lining up for photo-ops with him, hoping for his praise and support.
Tuesday’s breakfast was no exception.
Former Vice President Joe Biden was listed as the first speaker, and won the coveted endorsement of House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC).
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who has cast herself as a moderate, appeared at the event. So, too, did former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who showed up despite fighting a cold that has forced him to cancel other campaign appearances.
Buttigieg acknowledged that he had made “mistakes” on racial issues in South Bend, and that he did not share the experiences of black Americans, but said he would always be willing to listen. He thanked Sharpton for his “leadership.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) spoke about her commitment to criminal justice reform, including the abolition of private prisons.
Steyer claimed that his mother had contributed to the civil rights movement by working as a public school teacher. His call for reparations for slavery received a smattering of applause.
He praised Reps. Al Green (D-TX) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) for supporting calls to impeach President Donald Trump.
Frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was the last to speak, and received a stirring defense from Sharpton himself.
“Do not go by those who use the ‘socialist’ tag to separate us from what we need to do for this country … we are not that stupid,” Sharpton said.
Sanders recalled his arrest for protesting housing discrimination while a student at the University of Chicago. He recalled attending the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1963, and noted that he had endorsed Jesse Jackson for president in 1988.
He, like Steyer, called President Donald Trump a “racist” who had to be removed from the White House.
New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg was the only candidate who was noticeably absent.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.