THE BLOG
07/17/2015 09:44 am ET Updated Jul 17, 2016

Why Rapper Killer Mike's Endorsement of Bernie Sanders Spells Trouble for Hillary Clinton

H.A. Goodman

Polls are ever-changing, but Americans will never long for a king or queen. When Run the Jewels rapper Killer Mike tweeted "I cannot support another Clinton or bush ever," he echoed the sentiments of Americans throughout the country tired of entrenched political factions in Washington. As for why political dynasties are ruinous to any democracy, the Atlanta rapper says, "I am beginning to see American political families like monarchs and I have no affection for monarchs." This sentiment, in addition to the reasons Killer Mike has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president, can't be accurately assessed by opinion polls or political wonks.

In fact, it could spell trouble for the Clinton campaign and Democratic strategists enamored with poll driven forecasts. When a recent analysis says that Bernie Sanders is popular primarily among "white liberals," the aggregate data used to make such a claim ignores the fact that black children face a 38% poverty rate and African-Americans as a group face a 27% poverty rate. This analysis questioning Sanders's appeal to minority voters also ignores a finding from Pew Research that states, "In 2011, the typical white household had a net worth of $91,405, compared with $6,446 for black households."

In terms of wealth inequality, one candidate in 2016 has been referred to by POLITICO as "Wall Street Republicans' dark secret," while the other "Goes Biblical" on income inequality. As for tackling Wall Street and income equality, Hillary Clinton for some reason hasn't endorsed a renewed Glass-Steagall Act, while Bernie Sanders has long supported a reinstatement of Glass-Steagall. Therefore, it's safe to say that voters experiencing the injustice of economic disenfranchisement might side with Killer Mike's choice of candidates in the long run; especially when more people become aware of the differences in economic policy between Clinton and Sanders.

Also, the fact that an artist known not only for his music (he's been on Real Time with Bill Maher, CNN, and has been vocal about politics) but also for his stances on Baltimore, Ferguson and racial injustice in America has endorsed Bernie Sanders illustrates an awakening in American politics that numbers can't accurately assess. The fact that Killer Mike posted a photo on Instagram of Sanders and Clinton (one was a civil rights advocate and the other was a Young Republican and "Goldwater Girl," but eventually a supporter of Eugene McCarthy) in the 1960's highlights a willingness to dig deeper into the true nature of opposing politicians. It also illustrates a growing discontent among many Americans about a political class that shrugs its shoulders regarding Ferguson, yet expects 45 million Americans to still vote Democrat.

First, Killer Mike's statements about dynasties aren't a fringe viewpoint. Martin O'Malley recently declared, "Let's be honest here, the presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families." In addition, Gary Hart agrees with this assessment and in a Time article titled Dare We Call it Oligarchy?, the former Colorado Senator explains how electing political families could be viewed as detrimental to democracy:

If the presidency were to pass back and forth between two or three families in any Latin American nation we would call it an oligarchy...

Our Founders created a republic and, being keen students of the history of republics beginning with Athens, they knew that placing special and narrow interests ahead of the common good and the commonwealth was the corruption that destroyed republics. They feared this kind of corruption as the greatest danger to America's success and survival...

By this standard, today's American Republic is massively corrupt. Every interest group in our nation has staff lobbyists and hires lobbying firms...

The net affect of the money machine -- lobbyists, fund raisers, and campaign consultants -- is to severely narrow the field of those who can compete for office, especially national office. If the national presidency were to pass back and forth between two or three families in any Latin American nation we would call it an oligarchy.

When political power in America is seen as a monolith that functions under the guise of a two party system, observers like Gary Hart, Killer Mike, and people weary of dynastic control of politics begin to wonder if America could lead one day to oligarchy. Symbolizing a counterforce to the entrenched political establishment in both parties, Bernie Sanders's ascent during this recent election cycle now has cultural voices like Killer Mike singing his praises -- a phenomenon that jaded political strategists could never imagine might influence an election.

So what, you might say?

Well, when Hillary Clinton waits nearly three weeks after the Ferguson protests, long after the flames had subsided, to issue a statement on this polarizing moment in U.S. history (causing a POLITICO reporter to tweet, "Notable that after weeks of rest in the Hamptons, Clinton's come out swinging. The #Ferguson comment was prepared"), many onlookers see such hesitancy as political opportunism. Clinton might very well have been the political equivalent of Iggy Azalea; eager to benefit from the support of African-Americans, but not so eager to risk sacrificing a carefully crafted image in the quest for such support. This lack of loyalty to a group that votes consistently over 90% for Democratic presidential nominees, also comes years after a controversial "3 AM commercial" (Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson wrote in The New York Times that after watching the commercial, "I couldn't help but think of D. W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation") and Bill Clinton responding "I am not a racist" after comments on the 2008 campaign trail.

In America, political wonks and number crunchers fuel the soap opera of elections, but rarely provide an accurate forecast for when the first African-American president will be elected, or when millions of voters have grown weary of political dynasties. It's difficult to place too much faith in opinion polls when a 2007 Quinnipiac poll showed Hillary Clinton far ahead of any challenger and Barrack Obama battling Rudy Giuliani in approval rating. Fast forward to 2014 and a poll from NBC News/Wall Street Journal noted that Hillary Clinton was the early 2016 frontrunner with 50% of Americans willing to vote for the former Secretary of State.

Now in 2015, questions about trust have begun to affect the Clinton campaign and another Quinnipiac poll shows that while 6 in 10 voters felt Clinton had "strong leadership qualities," a majority of those same voters (53%) according to The Washington Post believed "she was not honest and trustworthy." Also, CNN revealed that a Quinnipiac Swing State Poll finds that "voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania are skeptical of Clinton's trustworthiness." Recent findings in the erosion of Clinton's image as the clear-cut Democratic nominee also relate to other surveys.

A July 16th AP-GfK Poll states, "Americans View Clinton, Republicans Unfavorably" and a July 15th GOP poll finds that "Clinton trails in battleground states." Within this same time period, a Monmouth University poll explains that Bernie Sanders continues to narrow the gap and Salon noted that, "Bernie Sanders narrows the gap as Hillary Clinton's lead declines by double digits." What was once thought of as an impossibility is taking place, even as naysayers say it might be short-lived, and Bernie Sanders can't possibly continue to stun the experts.

Furthermore, some things can't be forecasted by number crunchers, political strategists, and pundits eager to jump on the bandwagon of political power. When grass roots organizations supporting Bernie Sanders in 2016 have names like Limbaugh's Hometown ("if we can organize in hometown of Rush Limbaugh nothing can stop us"), support for the Vermont Senator is coming from politically astute voters cognizant of the partisan divides in American politics. It says something about the upcoming election that Bernie Sanders has raised $15 million in just two months, without the help of billionaires or a super PAC, and primarily from people who contributed $250 or less.

As a result of a groundswell of enthusiasm that money can't buy, Sanders has surged in both Iowa and New Hampshire, cut into Clinton's lead (something unimaginable even several months ago), and can realistically win both the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary, as well as the presidency. Killer Mike's endorsement of Sanders might not be part of any aggregate data and number crunching used to forecast election results, but it represents something far more relevant. Many voters are tired of Republicans and Democrats who vote for the same wars, support the same drones that often times kill innocent people, and look the other way when it comes to income inequality. These people will be searching for alternatives to political dynasties and vapid, carefully crafted promises in 2016. They might eventually be searching for the same candidate endorsed by Killer Mike and Americans filling arenas and venues throughout the nation: Senator Bernie Sanders.