THE BLOG

On Hillary Clinton's Overwhelming Support Among African Americans

02/04/2016 01:15 pm ET | Updated Feb 04, 2016
  • Larry Harris Jr. DC native, Tufts grad, Harvard grad, social entrepreneur and Monitor alum
Hillary Clinton

I have no doubt that many African Americans view Hillary Clinton favorably because they have fond memories of her and her husband stemming from the 1990s. President Clinton was, of course, once known as our first Black president.

Good feelings toward the Clintons extended to 2007 when Sen. Clinton held a lead over Sen. Barack Obama in primary polling largely due to her support from Black women. We all know how that went though: Clinton compared herself to LBJ and her support from Black voters evaporated. Obama went on to win the nomination and presidency with strong support from Black people.

Eight years later it seems Clinton has ameliorated her relationship with the Black community. In August, the Huffington Post reported a Gallup survey in which Sec. Clinton enjoys an 80 percent favorability rating from African Americans compared to 23 percent for Bernie Sanders. A disparity such as this makes it extremely hard for a candidate like Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination.

But, my question is: Why do Black people continue to support Clinton when Sanders is clearly a better candidate on our issues?

I want to start to try to answer that question by pointing out the Clintons truly dubious record on Black issues. I'm sure many of you know what I'm talking about, but just in case you don't here is a list of some of my qualms with the Clintons:

  • signed into law the 94 crime bill, which greatly increased mass incarceration
  • signed the GOP's welfare reform bill into law
  • signed the law that unraveled Glass-Steagall leading to the mortgage crisis, which greatly impacted Black home ownership; still oppose reinstating Glass-Steagall
  • wants to move pot to schedule II on the controlled substances list with cocaine

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders has made many strong statements about his plans for Black Americans:

  • wants community policing in cities like Boston used in the Boston Miracle to drive down crime and improve relations between people and police
  • supports Glass-Steagall to break up the big banks and prevent Wall Street from negatively impacting savings banks
  • wants to raise the minimum wage to15 an hour; nearly 5 percent of African Americans earn the minimum wage or less  --  that's higher than for any other race or ethnicity
  • wants to move pot completely off the controlled substances schedule and get the federal government out of the way on marijuana; Blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for pot possession than Whites

To me, the choice is clear. And the difference now between Hillary and Bernie's African American support is largely driven by a lack of information. Black people need to know more about Bernie and more about the Clintons' record. I was surprised when Sanders won every one of Deray Mckesson's Democratic Primary polls on Twitter.

The race between Clinton and Sanders is apparently not close when you're talking about young Black people. The question is: when will older Black people catch up?

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