James Shott / February 16, 2016

Hillary Seeks to Lock up the Black Vote

Can the wife of the “first black president” maintain her firewall?

As the presidential campaigns move to South Carolina, Democrat hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders seek to endear themselves to black voters. Sanders began by having tea with Al Sharpton. How will Hillary proceed?

Following her dramatic loss to Sanders in New Hampshire by 60% to 38%, she hired a press aide from the Department of Education as her new director of black media to help protect and grow the early double-digit lead she held in South Carolina.

Hillary praises Obama and his presidency, all but promising that she will continue in the same vein if she can win the primary and general elections, and escape legal issues from her disastrous tenure as secretary of state. And since black Americans overwhelmingly support the Democrat Party, this might seem smart.

However, getting broad support from the black community should not be automatic or even very easy for her, given what happened in South Carolina in 2008. There, she was beaten badly by Barack Obama as she gave her all in the attempt to prevent him from becoming the first black president of the United States (well, the first if you don’t count Hillary’s husband). Will black voters remember that?

Furthermore, the reality of the negative effects Obama’s presidency has had on the black community gives reason to think that pledging to follow his policies might be a big mistake.

Having noticed how poorly black Americans had faired in Obama’s first term, PBS’s Tavis Smiley told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in 2013, “The data is going to indicate, sadly, that when the Obama administration is over, black people will have lost ground in every single leading economic indicator category.”

Indeed, while the national unemployment rate has dropped since Obama took office, the jobless rate for blacks has hardly moved, and remains a good deal higher than for other demographics. Further, the poverty rate for blacks sharply increased in 2014, rising from 12% in 2008 to 16.1%.

Median income declined by 3.6% for white households to $58,000, but fell 10.9% to $33,500 for black households, according to Census Bureau reports.

Realizing that things have not improved for black America since then, Smiley repeated his 2013 assessment last month on HuffPost Live: “Sadly — and it pains me to say this — over the last decade, black folk, in the era of Obama, have lost ground in every major economic category.” Smiley said black America got “caught up in the symbolism of the Obama presidency,” and made two mistakes. They did not accurately evaluate his policies, and they reacted against GOP criticisms of Obama and Republican opposition to his policies.

With these highly negative results for black Americans from the administration of the first black president of the U.S., will Clinton’s tactic of praising Obama and implying she will follow in his footsteps really work to attract the support of black Americans?

Perhaps it is with this in mind that the Department of Justice has initiated legal action against Ferguson, in the aftermath of the justified shooting death of Michael Brown in 2014. Ferguson’s City Council voted unanimously to approve the Justice Department’s settlement to reform the city’s “unjust” policing practices — but “subject to certain conditions.”

The DOJ responded to the city’s request to alter the agreement by filing a lawsuit against Ferguson, just in time to agitate the black vote in the southern primaries. Make no mistake: Timing is everything. The DOJ’s actions will benefit Clinton throughout the southern primaries, as blacks are reminded once again of injustice. Never mind that Ferguson (and every other city in which Black Lives Matter is fomenting discord) is run by Democrats.

There are other signs that a Hillary victory might be being engineered behind the scenes, such as in the New Hampshire primary, where despite a massive victory by Bernie Sanders, he and Hillary came away with the same number of delegates.

Last Thursday, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) PAC endorsed Hillary, saying she had done the most to support the Democrat Party and also to support blacks seeking office. “The partner that the CBC PAC has had over the years to elect Democrats has been Hillary Clinton,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks, New York Democrat and chairman of the CBC PAC. Hillary won the endorsement of 90% of the PAC, with no members voting for Sanders and some abstaining.

The CBC PAC endorsement is a definite plus for her, but if black Americans realize that Obama’s policies have worked so dramatically to their detriment, raising the black unemployment rate and pushing more black citizens into poverty, the highly desirable black vote may not accrue to her.

And things could get worse for the nation, and much worse for the black community, as Obama’s policies, which have failed to produce a recovery to the 2007 recession in seven years, have brought the country to the brink of another recession that will undoubtedly produce very unpleasant circumstances for black Americans.

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