Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may be running neck-and-neck in the Democratic primary with Hillary Clinton, but he is not winning over Black voters.
According to The Washington Post, some Black voters are not “feeling the Bern.” The Post commissioned a poll of 1,100 Black people, which was conducted by Survey Sampling International, and found a lack of support for Sanders.
The poll showed Black voters favored Hillary Clinton over Sanders. Clinton scored a 72 on the favorability scale, while Sanders only scored 58.
Sanders, who has proposed free college education and universal education, policies popular with millenials, also performed poorly among younger Black voters. According to The Washington Post poll, Sanders scored a 60 on the favorability poll among Black voters aged 18-29, while Clinton scored a 66.
Although Sanders is a veteran civil rights activist and has often talked about the problems of the criminal industrial complex and police brutality, he has struggled to gain traction with Black voters. Last year, Black Lives Matter activists stormed the stage and disrupted his speech in Seattle. More recently, while speaking at a Black Forum in Minneapolis, panelist Felicia Perry accused Sanders of being afraid to use the term “Black.”
Sanders also faced criticism when he refused to come out in support of reparations, saying the issue would be “divisive” in Congress. Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates accused Sanders of not fully understanding the importance of reparations to Black people or the debt the country owes them.
“Sanders’s anti-racist moderation points to a candidate who is not merely against reparations, but one who doesn’t actually understand the argument,” wrote Coates in an Atlantic article. “To briefly restate it, from 1619 until at least the late 1960s, American institutions, businesses, associations, and governments — federal, state, and local — repeatedly plundered black communities. Their methods included everything from land-theft, to red-lining, to disenfranchisement, to convict-lease labor, to lynching, to enslavement, to the vending of children. So large was this plunder that America, as we know it today, is simply unimaginable without it. Its great universities were founded on it. Its early economy was built by it. Its suburbs were financed by it. Its deadliest war was the result of it.”
However, during a Democracy Now! interview, Coates later admitted he would choose Sanders over Clinton.
Clinton is counting on her long-term ties to the Black community to gain their votes. However, Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, has said that Black voters shouldn’t throw their weight behind Hillary Clinton. Alexander blamed Bill Clinton for supporting harsh drug sentencing in the 1990s and expanding mass incarceration of Black men.
According to CNN’s Poll of Polls, which amasses data from five other national polls, Clinton has a narrow lead over Sanders. CNN also said Clinton leads Sanders 56 percent to 32 percent in South Carolina, which is significant because about 30 percent of the state’s Democratic voters are Black. The Post said Sanders has done well in states like Iowa and New Hampshire which have large white populations.
Los Angeles-based political analyst and author Earl Ofari Hutchinson has always doubted Sanders’ ability to win over Black voters and secure the Democratic nomination.
“Hillary will be the Democratic Party nominee. She has the experience, name ID, the blessing of the party establishment, a mountainous campaign war chest, and will win the key primaries,” said Hutchinson in an interview with Our Weekly. “She will get nine out of 10 Black votes, because of her civil rights history, activism and Bill.”