There were numerous discussions this past week about the “black vote”. South Carolina was the first state whose democratic primary was reliant on it. Who ever won the black vote, would win the primary. Though there were rumors that Bernie Sanders was gaining steam in South Carolina, those rumors were put to an end with Clinton’s landslide victory on Saturday.
According to the entrance polls, more African Americans voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries than they did for President Obama in 2008. In 2008, 55% of voters were black, but now 61% of voters are African American. In 2008. 78% of voters supported Obama and 18% going with Clinton. However, this time, 84% of black voters went with Clinton and 16% for Sanders. (CNN)
As a black woman, this coverage around the black vote was baffling. White men and women trained in journalism not political science giving commentary on who black people will vote for seemed strange and absurd. Meanwhile, black voters are actually plagued with voting for the lesser of two evils—a white liberal with a colorblind approach to economic policies and a Republican turned moderate who helped to pass one of the worst crime bills and called black children “super predators.” I don’t think that anyone, especially someone white can predict who black voters are going to support, because I don’t even know.
Nevertheless, there are many working theories for the enormous support of Hillary Clinton from black folks. Some theorist argue that the “recall effect” is responsible for the support. The recall effect refers to the way name recognition affects voting behaviors. Therefore, if voters know the name, they are more likely to vote for the candidate. This is especially true for voters who have not been as engaged in the political coverage during the early parts of the election. Moreover, another theory that has been floating around is the idea that as Bill Clinton was named the first “black president” there is an unexplainable connection that the black community shares with the Clintons. (Bill Clinton was not the first black president, and I do not love the Clintons. They were and are harmful to the black community).
I do not think that these two theories account for the real reason of why African American are yielding so much support for Hillary. After working for Bernie, and reflecting, I want to offer another one.
I believe that the support for Hillary Clinton is not due in part to anything related to her, rather I believe that her positionality of working closely with Obama and rhetorically building off of his work from the last eight years is the reason there was a landslide victory in SC. The entire rhetoric of Bernie’s campaign has consisted of “revolution”; tearing down unequal systems to make them better for all (but mostly for white middle class men). With this revolution comes the destruction of everything Obama has worked to implement. White liberals insist that it is not enough. The black man in office has not done enough.
I feel differently. I argue that black people feel differently. We watched that black man struggle to pass a healthcare bill that would ensure that our closest loved ones, like my father, had health insurance. We watched that black man lower the national unemployment rate. We watched that black man improve educational opportunities. We watched the black man establish a council on Women and Girls to examine the issues facing black girls like me.
For Bernie and his supporters to not notice the quiet revolution that has been happening in the White House for the last eight years is painful, and pompous.
Black people have seen the changes. We want someone to continue Obama’s legacy and it seems like that person is Hillary Clinton. Black people are in formation, and man did we slay at the polls on Saturday!