The Clinton political machine is pulling out all the stops to secure victory in the upcoming South Carolina primary. After narrowly eeking out a victory in Iowa, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is determined to secure a decisive win over rival Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Black voters make up half of the electorate in South Carolina. According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll, Clinton leads Sanders 75 to 17 among Black voters. The Washington Post said more than 170 Black women are set to campaign for Clinton in South Carolina and other Southern states. Clinton is counting on the Black vote to secure the Democratic nomination, but it may not be a sure thing. Some Black voters are looking at Sanders’ record. Sanders is a veteran civil rights activist who has also laid out plans to end the Drug War, reduce the militarization of the police and end mass incarceration. Sanders was the only candidate to talk about the link between urban unrest and Black unemployment.
“I do not separate the civil-rights issue from the fact that 50 percent of African-American young people are either unemployed or underemployed,” said Sanders in an interview with The Nation.
The Clintons have enjoyed the support of the Black community in the past. Tony Morrison said Bill Clinton was the first “Black president,” because he grew up in a single parent, blue-collar home and played the saxophone. But in recent years some Black people have questioned Clinton’s record. As president, he adopted Republican anti-welfare programs and also passed harsh sentencing laws that lead to the mass incarceration of Black men and women. Clinton has since apologized for his actions.
Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, has expressed astonishment that Black people are strong backers of the Clintons.
“I can’t believe Hillary would be coasting into the primaries with her current margin of black support if most people knew how much damage the Clintons have done — the millions of families [that were] destroyed the last time they were in the White House thanks to their boastful embrace of the mass incarceration machine and their total capitulation to the right-wing narrative on race, crime, welfare and taxes,” said Alexander in a Facebook post.
According to The Atlanta Blackstar, the Clintons have played both sides of the fence. They have positioned themselves as supporters of the Black community, while passing policies that harmed Black people. They also never tried to dismantle white supremacy. Amanda Girard of U.S. Uncut said that while Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas, he failed to oppose Confederate Flag Day.
The Clintons also lost some Black supporters after Bill Clinton made disparaging comments about Sen. Barack Obama when he was running against Hillary in the 2008 Democratic primary. Obama won South Carolina.
However, Hillary Clinton’s campaign is still expecting Black women to support her. According to the campaign, they expect Black supporters to, “talk about how Clinton will fight for women by working to close the pay gap, fight for paid family leave, make affordable child care a reality, protect women’s reproductive rights, raise the minimum wage and promote women’s rights around the world.”
It remains to be seen what Black voters will get in return for their strong devotion to the Clintons and the Democratic party in general. Political pundit Tavis Smiley has long been critical of the Black community voting en masse for the Democratic party. He has suggested Black voters hold back their ballots in one election to force the Democrats to really campaign for the vote, instead of taking it for granted. However, the alternative is voting for the Republican party, which ignores Black issues and tolerates people like Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh, who are openly hostile to Black people. Black voters don’t have much of a choice.