By George E. Curry, Media Columnist
Most racial, ethnic, religious, and political groups in the United States vote for people who appear to represent their best interests. Yet, when African Americans do the same thing, many people seem surprised – including some Blacks.
Blacks realize what is at stake in this election and have ignored the naysayers who thought just because Barack Obama’s name is not on the ballot this year, Blacks would stay home. Not only are they not staying home, we’re seeing in the Southern states – where more than half of all African Americans live – that Blacks are voting in record numbers.
African Americans in South Carolina got the Clinton juggernaut rolling.
As the New York Times observed, “She has won South Carolina in a rout, 73.5 percent to 26 percent, exceeding Mr. Obama’s own 29-point victory in 2008. She did it the same way that Mr. Obama did: with overwhelming support from Black voters, who favored Mrs. Clinton over Bernie Sanders by a stunning margin of 87 to 13, according to updated exit polls – a tally that would be larger than Mr. Obama’s victory among Black voters eight years earlier. Black voters represented 62 percent of the electorate, according to exit polls, even higher than in 2008.”
No, they weren’t “feeling the Bern” in South Carolina.
Nor were they feeling it on Super Tuesday in the six states where Blacks have an above-average share of the Democratic vote – Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas and Texas.
Sanders chose to campaign in five states with a higher proportion of White voters: Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Vermont, his home state.
Clinton holds a commanding lead in delegates and after the voting on Super Tuesday, Louisiana on March 5 and March 15 contests in Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio, she could amass so many delegates that Sanders will be left with no viable option except to end his long-shot candidacy.
Being for Hillary Clinton did not mean Blacks were against Sanders. As I have noted in this space, both Democratic candidates have A-ratings on civil rights. Each would appoint Supreme Court justices in the mold of Thurgood Marshall rather than Clarence Thomas. And each is attuned to the many issues facing Black Americans, including income inequality, unemployment, and a deeply flawed criminal justice system.
The difference is that Hillary Clinton has a long relationship with Blacks, doing civil rights work in the South and going to work for the Children’s Defense Fund after graduating from law school. Bernie Sanders’ claim to fame is that he joined Dr. King and other civil rights leaders in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
That was nearly 53 years ago. More than half of all African Americans were born after the March on Washington. To them, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s is as remote as the Civil War of the 1860s.
Vermont is less than 2 percent Black. It hasn’t helped that major Black leaders there say they have been invisible to Sanders.
Salon.com noted, “There are nearly 10 times more Black people locked up in Vermont’s jails and prisons on a given day than there are free in its streets. Black Vermonters make up just 1.2 percent of the state’s general population, but 10.7 percent of its incarcerated population.”
If Sanders was that concerned about the criminal injustice system, he could have been more outspoken about the issue at home.
One of Hilary’s problems is that she gets blamed for the actions of her husband when he was president. He and Vice President Al Gore were instrumental in moving the Democratic Party more to the right prior to his election and his policies on mandatory sentencing and so-called welfare reform were harmful to many African Americans. She gets the blame for his failures as well as the esteem in which many Blacks still hold Bill Clinton.
But this race is not about the past – it’s primarily about the future. And there is no more important issue awaiting the new president than appointing at least two, possibly three, Supreme Court justices. But to do that, one must first get elected. Again, Black voters feel that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a better chance of getting elected than Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist.
On the other side of the aisle, Republicans are tripping over one another trying to derail Donald Trump. GOP candidates who have shown zero sensitivity toward people of color and pretending to be so offended that Trump did not immediately reject the support of former Klansman David Duke.
Every Republican presidential candidate has tried to Velcro his campaign to the legacy of Ronald Reagan, one of the most anti-civil rights presidents in modern history. Not one of them has said a word about the former president’s decision to kick off his 1980 presidential campaign at the Neshoba County Fair, just a few miles from Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers – James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner – were murdered in 1964. That’s not surprising because the remaining candidates are trying to appeal to the same crowd.
George E. Curry is President and CEO of George Curry Media, LLC. He is the former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA). He is a key- note speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at twitter.com/currygeorge, George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook, and Periscope. See previous columns at http://www.- georgecurry.com/columns.