Populism in National and State Politics

This year’s populist backlash in national politics has led some to draw comparisons between perceived establishment and anti-establishment politicians at the state level. While mutual endorsements between politicians on the national level and state level affirms the idea that elections such as the gubernatorial race in New Jersey are a microcosm of what occurred in the Democratic primary, the differences between federal and state politics are stark. From everything to the party apparatus and media environment, to turnout and policies, state and national elections are influenced by different factors. Two areas where the populist comparisons fall short are policies and civic engagement.

Policy implications at the national and state level differ greatly, especially when the country or a state is struggling economically. New Jersey is a state that is solidly Democratic in terms of national politics, that has had a majority Democrat state legislature more or less for the past few decades. Defining progressive policies such as a progressive tax system, where taxes are higher on the wealthy, may sit well for the national public, but they are not necessarily advantageous at the state level. Although there is considerable disagreement among economists on state fiscal policies, there is evidence that New Jersey loses revenue due to fleeing wealthy residents. As pointed out by liberal organizations, only a handful of millionaires in New Jersey leave specifically for lower taxes, but they have a disproportionate impact, as they contribute more revenue. Even by the more conservative estimates from liberal organizations finding that the revenue is a small percentage of state income, the dollar amount is still in the millions. The progressive tax proposals of Bernie Sanders at the national level however, have a different effect as the highest earning taxpayers are more constrained in trying to pay less. We don’t hear too much of rich Americans simply revoking their citizenship and moving because of taxes. What this means is that it is arguably more difficult for a left-leaning populist figure to run on the same exact platform as the one who did on the national level. The federal government has more authority and influence than state governments in terms of enforcing policy.

Political organizing is another area where populism at the state and national level diverge. The rise in populism in 2016 maybe a result of the public feeling that they can not create real change. Recent research suggests that skepticism towards the elitist nature of our political system has some merit. The research coincides with the intuitive idea that it is difficult for ordinary citizens to have an impact on national politics and policies. Populist candidates fill this void, by claiming that they will better represent ordinary citizens’ interests. At the local and state levels, populism has less of an appeal and should in theory. On the national level, populists close the gap in democracy between the people and the system, whereas voting for who’s on your school board has a more observable and direct impact. Statistically speaking, a single vote matters more in local and state elections, which are often close, and have no electoral college that decreases the significance of a vote.

Populism appears to naturally grow in an environment where the public feels democracy is not representing the will of common people. The political environment of state elections is one where the absence of features such as the electoral college makes people feel that democracy is more direct. When the citizenry feels a democratic system is becoming increasingly indirect, populist candidates gain more traction and electoral success. It is much easier to claim the whole “system is rigged” when one reads about the hundreds of millions of dollars spent in national elections, and backdoor deals to appease donors and other hidden constituents such as interest groups and lobbyists. While it has yet to be seen if progressive populism can transform into a serious movement at the state and local levels, it is undoubtedly easier to influence state and local officeholders over politicians in Washington. This ability to hold state politicians more accountable to promises and populist values lessens the need for populist candidates at the state level.

Gun Violence in Black and White

Gun Violence in Black and White

The rate of gun homicides has declined dramatically in the last 20 years. Here we observe this:

gun violence  urban gun

Vox author German Lopez dissects the typical liberal reaction to mass shootings, after the tragedy that recently occurred at UCLA. While Democratic voters are undoubtedly acting in good faith in wanting stricter gun laws right after mass shootings, these incidents represent about 1% of gun deaths. Two articles that I came across address how privilege renders many Americans numb to the stark reality of black victims of gun violence. The black-white gap in gun deaths is simply astounding as the statistics for the type of deaths are in reverse:


The data shows that 77% of white gun deaths are suicides, but 82% of black gun deaths are homicides. Black people are 13% of the population, but are over half the victims of gun homicide.  How could this public health crisis that has sparked such moral outrage remain for so long? And more daringly, why does discussion about gun control appear to be centered around white victims when black victims are a disproportionate share? (This is not to say white lives don’t matter, and no offense was intended as this is not what I’m implying)

There are several explanations, one of which seems to be the most obvious. White people are the majority, which I consider a fair reason. (To an extent) But more unfortunately, “black on black crime” is seen as an inner-city issue regarding culture. The famous line is often invoked by conservatives to counter arguments about racial inequality. As countless authors have demonstrated, it is a myth that black people don’t care about crime in their communities.

I think other answers, such as the perception of black gun violence being more complicated are more plausible. As evidenced by conservatives’ insincere use of “black on black crime”, talking about problems in the black community is difficult. Besides the explanations of poverty, unemployment, and general lack of opportunities, space maybe the best explanation. The combination of poverty and unemployment in a densely populated area (specifically urban) sounds like a recipe for disaster. The “culture of violence” theory posited by conservatives is broken down by research regarding income, unemployment, and geography.

Continue reading “Gun Violence in Black and White”

Black Votes Matter

(Note: Polling data was released three days after this post was published showing that black millennials voted for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton.)

There are various explanations as to why Hillary Clinton has maintained solid support among black voters this primary season. The stated reasons range from black pragmatism and the Clintons’ popularity with black people, to Sanders being out of touch with black voters, and the more provocative party capture thesis, which I have put forth. (Along with many others) With all the data showing Sanders under-performing with non-whites, perhaps the most interesting set of data concerns millennials. Here we observe this:

black millenials

The ratings from millennials do not correspond with the ratings from their elders:

Democrats' Views of Bernie Sanders, by Race/Ethnicity, January-February 2016

Democrats' Views of Hillary Clinton, by Race/Ethnicity, January-February 2016

Sanders has a higher favorability rating among black millennials than Clinton. Additionally, Sanders has outperformed Clinton among black millenials. Unfortunately, younger voters don’t vote at the same rate as everyone else, and by a wide margin. Take the New York primary for example, where voters under 30 only made up 18% of the electorate as opposed to the 45-64 demographic which made up 40%. Black youth turnout in particular is low, another fact ignored by Sanders critics. (*See expanded counterargument below.)

The age breakdown of black political opinion tells a slightly different narrative than the monolithic black vote story the media generally pushes. Why Sanders does better with young black voters such as me, is up for debate as there are many reasons. One organization, Black Lives Matter, has arguably been the most impactful protest movement on politics since the Civil Rights Movement. Demonstrations have changed to campaign interruptions, forcing candidates such as Bernie Sanders into having a more aggressive agenda combating structural racism. In what I would say is a strategic move, the organization has not formally endorsed a candidate, as members have exerted pressure on Secretary Clinton to come to terms with past policy positions on criminal justice and race.

This maybe one reason why young black voters don’t have as high of an opinion of Hillary Clinton as their parents. The protest sentiment in the millennial generation has been strong, drastically changing views on racial inequality. This is true especially for millennials born after 1990: the demographic has become well acquainted with decentralized protest movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, the former of which has the same class rhetoric as Sanders. (Think of the infamous “1%”)

Sanders has much more of a populist and grassroots campaign than Hillary Clinton’s establishment “connections” campaign. This raw progressive feel to the Sanders campaign makes it to a small degree like Obama’s in 2008. What makes Sanders seem more accessible to young voters is how closely he resembles these grassroots progressive movements, as he allowed a black woman to interrupt him and take the mic during a rally. A hard-head like Trump would have certainly engaged in a physical and verbal power struggle with any protester that did that. Black millennials Feel the Bern because like their white peers, they are seduced by Sanders’ populist appeal. Black Lives Matter has forced both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to answer to their support of the Violent Crime and Control Act of the 90’s, or the “crime bill.” But as I have noted, their rhetoric and reasons at the time differed greatly.

This may play some role in why the younger black “protest generation” supports Sanders more and Hillary Clinton less than the older black cohorts. Terms like “super-predator” have done some damage to Hillary Clinton’s reputation with black folks. Activists have seized on any opportunity to challenge both candidates in proving that black voters and lives matter. It is not just activists who have challenged politicians either. Black intellectuals such as Ta-Nehisi Coates have as well, as he wrote a damning critique of Sanders’ racial views despite his support for him. No matter how tough the scrutiny though, it is of my opinion that the black community should hold all politicians accountable to their promise of ensuring black progress and prosperity. No matter how “well they get things done”, or how progressive they proclaim to be, the decisive yet precious black vote should never be taken for granted.

(*Counterargument: One could argue he should have been able to excite his base more, but it is hard to overcome the astonishing 58% black millennial turnout for the first black president in 2008, the highest black youth turnout in history. Black political apathy among millennials is rooted in the reality of vast racial inequality at the end of the second term of the first black president. Cynicism towards our two-party system is summed up by this question: If institutional racism exists during the era of the first black president, what could a white progressive do to dismantle it?)

(Update: A new Reuters poll was recently released, surveying the racial attitudes of supporters of the candidates in 2016. Sanders’ supporters were the least racist in terms of anti-black racism, with Clinton supporters at times being more racist than Republicans such as Kasich in categories like criminal stereotypes. As many have claimed, Sanders might have been awkward with black voters, but his supporters certainly were the most consistent in rejecting racism despite their struggling explanations for the black vote. Maybe millennials are dramatically less racist after all, or at least liberal millennials.)

The Role of a Politician’s Identity: Intellectual Wars on the Left

The intellectual frameworks that feminism and Africana studies present to progressive politics inform Democratic politicians of the rhetoric, policies, and practices necessary to achieve racial and gender equality. Much like how labor movements and socialists have shaped the left, black, feminist, and black/feminist scholars are responsible for making the Democratic Party the “party of minorities, women, and marginalized groups.” I briefly discussed this perception of the Democratic Party in Race and Political Context: The “First Black President” Reconsidered. One of the challenges for politicians on the left whose identity falls into one of these marginalized categories, is demonstrating the extent to which they advocate for their group.

Senator Cory Booker had his racial identity challenged when running for mayor of Newark. His opponent, incumbent mayor since 1970, Sharpe James, referred to him as “the faggot white boy.”  Attacking a candidate’s racial, gender, or religious identity, in my opinion, is morally repugnant and should be off limits in even the most vicious attacks. It is unacceptable that Republican politicians claim that female politicians “play the women card” and wouldn’t get 5% of the vote if they were men. It insults not only the candidate, but voters who make educated political decisions. There does exist however, an appropriate way for one to assess a politician’s relationship with their marginalized identity. I openly admit, that as a black person, it is extremely uncomfortable for a white person to engage in such criticisms of a black politician. As I examine Hillary Clinton’s relationship with feminism, I will try my best to restrain my criticisms, as those who are not white men understand that feeling of violation or misunderstanding that minorities and women experience when assessing candidates that descriptively represent them.**

**(Side note: For a white person to attack a black politician the way Cornel West has, calling Obama a “Republican in Black Face”, would be racist and exemplifies why people should tread lightly in their identity critiques. The sensitivity of this issue is defined by the implications of identity based criticisms. A white politician questioning Cory Booker’s blackness is profusely much worse than a black politician doing the same.)

Ta-Nehisi Coates took the first black president to task on how he addresses black people, specifically black men. Coates rightly notes that some of the president’s comments on the black community mirror conservative dogma on black cultural pathologies. Other black political commentators such as Michael Eric Dyson have also criticized Obama among other black politicians and figures. Such black intellectuals reject the emphasis on blaming the black community for its own problems. Dr. Dyson accuses Obama of “racial procrastination”, claiming that the president has been slow to respond to racial issues, and in affirming the concept of black empowerment. These scholars however, realize that black politicians operate under the constraints of white supremacy. This means that black politicians run the risk of getting attacked in a way described in the prior paragraph, or accused of political favoritism, helping others who share their identity.

Similarly, female politicians such as Hillary Clinton operate under the constraints of patriarchy. As I said before, I as a man feel that it is out of place for me to delegitimize Hillary Clinton’s feminism, to belittle her identity as a woman. But I do recognize and understand feminist critiques of Clinton. Just as black scholars have critically analyzed Obama, feminists have expressed concern with the way Hillary Clinton articulates her policies and views.

Hillary Clinton’s rhetoric on abortion for example, has generated the ire of pro-choice feminists. On abortions she has said they should be “safe, legal and rare, and by rare I mean rare.” Dr. Tracy Weitz states the consequences of what this means:

“…rare suggests that abortion is happening more than it should, and that there are some conditions for which abortions should and should not occur…It implies that abortion is somehow different than other parts of healthcare…We don’t say that any other medical procedure should be rare.”

It would be asinine to compare Republican anti-abortion rhetoric to what Hillary Clinton has said, but it is clear that there is a degree of stigma that she articulates. I realize and accept that just like Obama’s relationship with white voters, Hillary Clinton wants to maximize her chances by not angering men, or conservatives. It is unfortunate that the constraints of patriarchy, just like those of white supremacy, force female politicians into holding their tongue on certain issues. But the question becomes, could Hillary have avoided saying that? Could she have avoided saying that much like Obama could have avoided saying:

“If Cousin Pookie would vote, if Uncle Jethro would get off the couch and stop watching SportsCenter and go register some folks and go to the polls, we might have a different kind of politics,”

Admittedly, my colleague Jack makes some great points against feminist Gal Collins, in Billary. But as I noted previously, a good amount of male voters will only see Hillary Clinton through a lens that only captures the success of her husband. Conversely, as Trump has foreshadowed, the negatives of Bill Clinton’s administration will also be used against Hillary. As Jack rightly proclaims, Hillary Clinton is not responsible for her husband’s policies. Unfortunately however, as we have seen with liberal attacks against Hillary Clinton that unfairly tie her to her husband’s policies, Republicans will undoubtedly do the same. By clinging to Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton will get a boost in the polls. But even with Bill Clinton’s popularity, it is still unclear if this will be as effective and practical as conventional wisdom says it will be, especially with a loose cannon such as Donald Trump being her opponent. The free-trade bashing demagogue will certainly go after Bill Clinton’s most famous trade policy, NAFTA. That along with Hillary Clinton’s  support for free trade deals makes for a much more precarious election.

Returning to feminism, and the specific issue of Hillary Clinton utilizing Bill Clinton, Jack says that on misogyny “If she can cancel some of that out by appealing to people who think Bill will be running the White House behind the scenes, all the power to her.” But for many feminists, this area is just one of many where Hillary Clinton appears to be lacking. Jack says that “The ultimate feminist move for Hillary Clinton is to become the first female President…”, but several other groups of feminists would beg to differ.


Because of the long argument in the comments section, here’s a summary of the complicated points of the post:

My thesis: people outside of a marginalized group need to be careful and sensitive when discussing certain issues relating to the group, and additionally aren’t allowed to comment on *certain* things. Additionally, marganlized (black, women, gay, etc) perspectives have inherently more value when discussing their marganlization.



For Jack in the comments section, besides the Ras Baraka video I posted, this would be another example of something a white person shouldn’t say regarding blackness, as I stated in my existential argument. Note that it would be acceptable for a black person to say this, but not a white person.

Additionally, a white person criticizing Beyonce for not being vocal on racism since the start of her career is another example of the privilege bias. A person outside of a marginalized group can be an ally of the community, not a part of it.


To better illustrate everything I said in this article, specifically the added conclusion with Beyonce, if the white author added to her article and stated that Catherine Pugh, the black woman running for mayor, would be a bad politician for the black community because she didn’t address race enough, that would be an inappropriate thing to say. As a white person she cannot make those value based judgments for the black community. If Pugh won the mayor race and black vote, it may mean that symbolic successes such as descriptive representation are valued by the black community in a way that she can almost never understand. This point is similar to the historic election of Obama, the first black president, considered “deracialized” or having a “post racial, colorblind campaign.” A white person in 2008 saying Obama should not be elected by the black community because of a lack of race specific appeals has no say in the internal struggles of the marganlized community. As I said quoting this tweet:

Here’s a prime example of the paradoxical and paternalistic nature of outside support of marganlized groups


Low Expectations

“What about Clinton’s attempt to connect then Senator Obama to Reverend Wright. Was it a wrongful (racial) smear campaign?”

Jack seems to miss the fact that Obama denounced Reverend Wright as early as March in 2008, but it was a continuing theme throughout the Clinton campaign well after his denunciation. To further explain how this was racial (Jack seems hesitant to use the word although he would use sexist for Clinton) Clinton “used guilt by association to further “other” Obama as un-American and downright scary to white people.” This makes perfect sense when realizing Clinton attempted to unfairly tie a black politician, who is considered to be “deracialized” , to a black nationalist movement.

And on the term superpreadtor, a key point of my original piece, Let us as Marco Rubio says dispel with this notion that it was not racist. When considering crime rates in the black communities it’s intuitive to realize black juveniles were painted with the same brush as black men. Although juvenile crime was on a steep decline, vicious stereotypes of black youth remained. From Northwestern Law professor Steven A. Drizin:

“Inescapably, superpredator dread had a racial component. What the doomsayers focused on, in the main, were young male African-Americans.”

Denying the racial aspect of the term is exactly why people like Bill Clinton “almost want to apologize” for saying to Black Lives Matter protesters they don’t care about black lives taken by black on black crime.

Jack claims that “No, “the strangle hold [sic] the Democratic Party has on the black vote, party capture” does not force black voters to vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Bernie Sanders.” He misunderstands how party capture plays into the hands of the Clinton brand, the brand I described before. Black Political Professor Vincent Hutchins articulates how establishment loyalty fuses with brand loyalty as it relates to party capture:

“Because of sharp racial divisions in the South—sharper than they are in the Midwest—blacks have a firm recognition that the Democratic Party is identified with their group,… Blacks in the South may have a harder time supporting an avowed socialist from Vermont, who only recently embraced the Democratic Party, in part because their identification with the Party brand historically has reigned supreme.”

In this Vice video (12:40), a black man says that “if she[Hillary Clinton] ever get in the chair, Bill gonna be back in the white house, so Bill gonna be pushing buttons from behind.” Interestingly black men such as my father also have said this regarding a Hillary Clinton administration. Some may object to this line of thinking, assuming it is sexist, but it is not unreasonable to surmise that many people, especially men, think that Bill will be running the show behind the scenes. This is what I mean by the Clinton brand. Hillary benefits from her last name.

(Update: Hillary Clinton has said  “My husband, who I’m going to put in charge of revitalizing the economy, ’cause you know he knows how to do it,” This comment proves that the Clintons are a package deal, the premise of my argument that they are brand by their name. The comment is also a sobering revelation in regard to Jack’s claims in Party Capture? Try Again.


To reiterate from my original post, the Clintons are the establishment Democrats, who were popular during times of conservative dominance. Jack cleverly cites polling data on African-Americans’ overall job approval rating of the Clinton administration. This however, misses the mastery of racial pandering aspect. Bill Clinton “As president, when it came to black people, Bill Clinton was a magician. He could conjure from his political top hat racial rabbits that pleased the black crowd and made them go “ahh.”

The most prolific black female writer in contemporary times, Toni Morrison, critically examines the black affinity for Bill Clinton in her famous New Yorker essay:

“Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.”

Read further to hear a scholarly black voice on the “first black president” phenomena.(Warning: this article darkly contrasts with what Jack implies)

When evaluating Bill Clinton, I juxtapose playing the saxophone in Aresnio Hall, with maintaining the 100 to 1 crack cocaine ratio, even after reading official reports that showed it was the most heinous racial disparity in the criminal justice system. I look at how one can simultaneously compete for white votes, while at the same time ensuring the black vote is secure.

My colleague cites poll data of the general rating of Clinton by black people, but does not go into any depth about polls specifically regarding racial remarks, and polls that present said remarks for the several African-Americans who did not hear them. As I have said before, it is undeniable that the Clinton name rings bells in the black community. I never once denied this support as Jack misleadingly claims, but just like the black politicians whose comments display objections to the Clintons’ remarks, I reasonably believe if more black people heard these comments they would agree with me, and a whole host of black political commentators.

The closest data we do have on Hillary Clinton specifically during 2008 shows her favorability among black people dropped 26 points, and unfavorability rose 26 points:

This is a much better indicator of how we(black people) felt about her campaign, than the job approval rating of her husband.

Jack misunderstands black autonomy. Even if he could prove with 100% certainty that  “(even other most black people) legitimately disagree.”with me, it does not necessarily reflect poorly on my black judgement. Disagreeing with the majority, the monolith that the black community is portrayed as, is exactly what white liberals like Jack don’t comprehend, as I said in my original article.

Jack claims that for the majority of black people “But to ignore their support when the issue at hand is racism? That’s a rather glaring omission.”  Black leaders such as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Nat Turner, and W.E.B. Dubois had different opinions on race than the majority of black people at the time, and we all know how misguided they were in their fights against white supremacy.





Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

“When arguing that Clinton played fast and loose with race, you have to grapple with the fact that most African Americans support her. But this essential fact is either ignored or, to be charitable, “creatively” explained.”

In an attempt to defend the Clintons against black scrutiny, Jack relies on the fact that the Clintons receive a majority of the black vote. But this is precisely what Africana studies classes critique. He fails to address the concept of electoral capture, which was central to “Race and Political Context: The “First Black President” Reconsidered”  I invite Mr. Landry to challenge the claim that the Clintons used race in negative ways. When I described the “New Democrats”, I proved that it was the agenda for Democrats to distance themselves from minorities. Jack was predictably surprised when I “even claims that Bill Clinton even mastered the art of pandering to both black and white people in the same election!” Instead of addressing how Bill Clinton, a “New Democrat” was ” a centrist candidate more attuned than his immediate predecessors to the concerns and values of the white, middle-class voters who had deserted the party in its losing presidential campaigns in the 1980s.” or how  “attacking the liberal fundamentalists, the DLC is signaling to swing voters in the white, middle class that Democrats are not exclusively black, feminist, gay,and liberal.”, Jack recites the dogma of the “New Democrats”. That dogma is, be content and complacent. Don’t worry about the tone or rhetoric of politics.

Party capture is real, and it is quite sad that some subscribe to  “faux liberalism which leads one to conclude that throwing your most loyal constituents under the bus is acceptable”  And current positives don’t change the past. Being appointed to a senior position by a black president doesn’t mean you didn’t try to associate said president with Hamas. Having Jesse Jackson’s support doesn’t change the fact that he said to Mr. Clinton he could have “with one stroke of your veto pen, to correct the most grievous racial injustice built into our legal system.”, regarding his signing of the 100 to 1 crack cocaine ratio bill. Black scholars such as Michelle Alexander understand that yes, black voters voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, for the Clintons, but that by no means is proof that black scrutiny of them was absent. What is absent from my colleague’s analysis however, is electoral capture, the “New Democrats”,  and the racial rhetoric of politicians. He forgets that some voters of all races actually perceive the Democratic Party as the lesser of two evils. For the black voters that understand how the black community was slighted by the Clintons but vote for them regardless, it can be said that they “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.” That sin, which is still prevalent in GOP rhetoric regarding immigration(Mr. Trump), is playing with race for political gains. In no way did I imply that the Clintons concocted a racist plan to destroy black people, but I did emphasize the racial-ethical dilemma of a New York Times article that “concludes that the Democratic Party’s association with blacks would be a major liability in elections.” Why doesn’t my colleague discuss this dilemma, or discuss if there even was such a dilemma?

Jack makes the bold claim that most black people saw no race issues with the Clintons, by relying on the fact that black people voted for them. But where does that bring us? Not far when considering the strangle hold the Democratic Party has on the black vote, party capture. Here is what “Omissions”  omits: a substantive debunking of what is taught in Africana studies classes, a comprehensive analysis of the complex relationship between Democrats and the black community, and discussion about racial ethics.

To be fair, there is one thing that is not omitted. A double standard. The author appears to be very attuned to how the subtle elements of sexism against Hillary operate, but conveniently, these same mental faculties shut down when it comes to racism. It’s odd how Jack thinks “it’s rather obvious that it’s far easier for a male politician to be authentic and likable”, but has no idea how tying the first black president to the Nation of Islam affects authenticity. Hopefully Brother Malcolm can rise from his grave to cover the wounds that this faux liberalism is bleeding from.


Liberal Amnesia in the “Post-Racial” Age of Obama

In my post “Race and Political Context: The “First Black President” Reconsidered”, I ended with an allusion to Hillary Clinton’s use of race. My colleague Jack has an interesting post on Hillary Clinton, authenticity, and double standards, but I would like to substantiate those perceptions of pandering in this post. Although Jack seems to sarcastically dismiss “mastering the art of racial pandering”, Bill did in fact master the art of racial pandering. He actually mastered the art of racially pandering to the white vote, as I have described in “Race and Political Context.” Hillary Clinton also made a series of questionable comments during her campaign against the man who would become the first black president, despite claiming that “Neither race nor gender should be a part of this campaign.”

Barack Obama faced an unprecedented challenge in 2008, daring to think he would be the black man in the White House. The black community also began to believe in the “first black president” dream, after witnessing Obama maintain leads in the primaries of majority white states. Hillary Clinton sought to end that dream, abruptly snapping black voters out of their daze to let them know the first woman was on her way to the oval office. In the original post that started this discussion of black politics, Jack correctly notes that black voters ditched Clinton for Obama as evidenced by the South Carolina primary. Several black politicians expressed displeasure early on with the way Clinton handled race. In response to a comment Clinton made about how “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done,” prominent Congressional Black Caucus member Jim Clyburn reminded her that “We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics. It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone’s motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal.”



As the Democratic primary dragged on, Clinton became more desperate. Her veiled racial attacks underscore her desperation. Bernie Sanders has been called on to drop out of the 2016 primary because his attacks help Republicans, but Hillary Clinton gleefully joined Republicans in a racial smear campaign against Obama. The infamous Jeremiah Wright controversy was Obama’s race test of his 2008 campaign. Reverend Wright was a fiery black preacher deemed radical by white society. After it was revealed that Obama attended Wright’s sermons, Hillary Clinton, in a strikingly similar fashion as her husband did with the Sistah Souljah incident, attempted to paint a dark picture of a black man. In her own words:

“It is clear that, as leaders, we have a choice who we associate with and who we apparently give some kind of seal of approval to. And I think that it wasn’t only the specific remarks but some of the relationships with Reverend Farrakhan, with giving the church bulletin over to the leader of Hamas, to put a message in.”

Disregarding the fact that she should have condemned attacks that tied Obama to Wright which implied Obama was a “black radical”, Clinton went a step further by suggesting Obama had associations with the provocative Nation of Islam, and a terrorist group. This quote becomes more disheartening when considering the fact that the moderator gave her a chance to skip the question. Additionally, it is almost unimaginable that Democrats, in the racial climate of 2016, would say nothing on the racial attacks on Obama, asserting he was secretly a Muslim, not born in the United States, a communist, a Marxist, or a black president that would “hook his people up.”

 The most telling point in Clinton’s campaign however, was her electability argument. No, I’m not referring to how a candidate is a socialist, or communist, or Marxist, or being compared to Hitler because he hates minorities. I’m referring to race. After failing to condemn those in her campaign that said Obama wouldn’t win because he is black, Hillary Clinton began making the case herself. Regarding a report by the Associated Press, Clinton said it:

 “…found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me. …There’s a pattern emerging here,”

As the Clinton Camp doubled down on this, media publications such as the New York Times, which endorsed Clinton in 2008, were taken aback by the negative tone of the Clinton Campaign. The NYT Editorial Board put it politely:

“But we believe just as strongly that Mrs. Clinton will be making a terrible mistake — for herself, her party and for the nation — if she continues to press her candidacy through negative campaigning with disturbing racial undertones.”

The race-electability argument is a potentially racist argument to make. Firstly, by saying or even implying as Clinton did throughout her campaign, that white voters may not elect a black man, the scenario becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is similar to the idea of “your vote doesn’t really count” and then resulting in a situation with low or possibly no voter turnout. If people believe that a candidate can’t win because of their race, then they will not vote for the candidate because of their race. Also, if Bernie Sanders even in the slightest bit suggested that Clinton wouldn’t win because her gender is an election liability, Clinton and the “liberal media” would give Sanders a stern castigation.


Finally, while I don’t think the racial undertones in it are clear, Clinton’s widely criticized “3 a.m” ad has been examined by academics who study race and are acutely aware of its’ underpinnings. These scholars have some intriguing analyses of the ad.

There is much more to be said about how the Clintons fiddled with blackness in 2008. (See sources below) Through my analysis, I have demonstrated the role blackness played, or how Hillary played blackness rather, in the 2008 primaries. After all the racial drama on display in the 2008 election season, Secretary Clinton carefully strung the racial strings the Republicans played, in a shrewd way. Isn’t it quite interesting how Hillary Clinton saw Obama’s blackness as a weakness, attempted to use it against him, and then clings to him as a defense throughout the 2016 Democratic debates? Clinton said in a democratic debate that “…the kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans” How ironic that Clinton sounded similar to Republicans in 2008, acting as a political opportunist willing to use race as a wedge issue. White liberal commentators can be tone deaf to blackness in some ways. Perceptions of Hillary Clinton as inauthentic are in fact related to sexism. However, black complaints about pandering are not unjustified; when I reminded Jack and my audience that “Blackness is like a tree branch that extends to the heart and mind, with a powerfully vivid memory and heightened sensitivity at the root” we as black people always look at the past.


Additional sources:


(Jermiah Wright) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/26/us/politics/26wright.html