Politics

Ebony: Is Hillary Clinton ‘Ready’ for Black Voters?

Still ‘bad blood’ in black community towards Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Clinton / AP

There are a "substantial number of fences" that the Hillary Clinton campaign must mend with the black community to win their vote, according to an April Reign column in Ebony.

The biggest fences, according to Reign, were erected during the primary fight between Clinton and President Barack Obama in 2007 and 2008, and a lot of "bad blood" still exists.

There are a substantial number of fences that "Hillary for America" must mend with the Black community if Clinton is to earn Black votes, going back to the contentious primary between her and then-Senator Obama in 2007. In 2007 and early 2008, former President Bill Clinton had biting words for candidate Obama, publicly comparing Obama’s primary victory in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson’s campaigns in the eighties. Further, Bill Clinton alleged that the Obama campaign had played "the race card" on him and seemed hyper-focused on Obama’s lack of experience.  Infamously, Bill Clinton called Obama’s record on Iraq the "biggest fairytale I’ve ever seen."  These statements and others did not sit well within the Black community and left many with a bad taste in their mouths.  While Bill Clinton and not Hillary made these statements, a candidate takes on the baggage of his or her spouse. Further, Clinton touted herself as the better candidate to win "hard-working Americans, white Americans," all but abandoning her attempts to win the votes of Blacks once then-Senator Obama established himself as a strong contender in 2008.

Some potential Black Democratic voters have indicated that, while they will support Hillary Clinton should she become the eventual nominee in 2016, it will not be with the same fervor as they did for President Obama, in part because of a sense of bad blood experienced during the 2008 campaign.  Indeed, many Blacks are saying that Hillary Clinton is not their first choice to receive the Democratic nomination in 2016 and that they will be anxiously waiting to see whom else enters the race.  These sentiments must not go unchecked by Hillary for America because Black voters, while not a monolith, are a large constituency that must be courted by Democrats to win the presidency. There is a sense of entitlement that Hillary Clinton has not earned within the Black community, allowing her supporters to mistakenly take Black votes for granted. Hillary Clinton will have to earn our support and our votes just as any other candidate does.

Reign also writes that Clinton’s "sense of entitlement" to the 2016 nomination is not one that has been earned in the black community and that Clinton cannot take those votes for granted.

One issue where Clinton is failing is on the hot-button issue of the use of deadly-force by law enforcement, where Reign believes politicians need to take a stand on how the issue should be addressed without making it appear to be political grandstanding.

Clinton is failing to do either, according to Reign.

Clinton did herself no favors by waiting nineteen days after Mike Brown was killed to give her thoughts on his death and the aftermath. Many wondered why it took so long for her to make a statement and whether she was waiting for the volatile moments in Ferguson to end.  Interestingly, Clinton timed her remarks to fall on the 51st anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I Have A Dream" speech during the 1963 March on Washington. Whether this was political posturing or merely a coincidence, Clinton did not endear herself to many in the Black community by waiting until it appeared that the most tumultuous days had passed.  A few days after Walter Scott was killed by a police officer while running away unarmed, the official Hillary Clinton account tweeted: "Praying for ‪#WalterScott‘s family. Heartbreaking & too familiar. We can do better – rebuild trust, reform justice system, respect all lives." While the acknowledgment is appreciated, these cannot be empty words. The focus must be on the justice system, including police brutality and the school to prison pipeline, instead of name-dropping those who were unjustly killed when it seems politically expedient to do so.

Clinton "will need Black votes to succeed" in 2016, yet she still has "several hurdles" to overcome to win their votes.