Fresh off the less than diverse states of Iowa and New Hampshire, Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are pulling out all the stops ahead of the South Carolina and Nevada primaries, hoping to draw in more black and Latino votes. A new Bernie Sanders campaign ad features Erica Garner, the daughter of late Eric Garner, who died in a police chokehold in Staten Island, N.Y. In the short video, Garner voices her support of Sanders, in stark contrast to her grandmother—Eric Garner’s mother—who has publicly supported Clinton. Garner’s mother and daughter represent a schism within the black community, a generational divide of support on either side.
The Reverends Emmett G. Price III and Irene Monroe joined Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on Boston Public Radio for their regular Monday feature, All Revved Up. “That’s the problem with this fallacy of the black vote,” he said. “There is no black vote.”
In past primaries this year, the major divides between Clinton and Sanders supporters were based more on age than on race. Entrance surveys in New Hampshire showed that voters age 45 and older voted mostly Clinton, while younger voters went for Sanders. “The question is, how do you saturate black communities, plural, with your platform, so that you garner their attention,” Price said. “But there is no black vote. Black folks are as diverse as anybody, you have black republicans, a la Clarence Thomas and Dr. Ben Carson, and then you have a whole plethora of folks. Yes, we should expect that there is this wide palate, which is exciting. Blacks in South Carolina are not like blacks in New York.”
According to Monroe, the sort of ‘old guard’ of the black community; including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, academic and author Michael Eric Dyson, former Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety Andrea Cabral, view history differently and represent a very different perspective. “That guard is the black political caucus, it is John Lewis, it is Al Sharpton...it’s interesting, because they have children,” Monroe said. “It’s usually children that make us look to the future, and Hillary, interestingly enough, represents the status quo, and Bernie, a 74 year-old guy, represents the future.”
There is no black vote. Black folks are as diverse as anybody...you have a whole plethora of folks. Yes, we should expect that there is this wide palate, which is exciting. Blacks in South Carolina are not like blacks in New York.
While Hillary Clinton holds a big lead in South Carolina polls now, Monroe says she may not have it in the bag. “South Carolina is very pivotal, because Bernie has a lot of folks on the ground,” she said. “The folks that are on the ground doing the work are Black Lives Matter folks.”
Author Ta Nehesi Coates and law professor Michelle Alexander, two young black influential voices, have both come out in support of Bernie Sanders. Author and essayist Alice Walker, from the generation of Gloria Steinem (famously and definitively in the Clinton camp) describedSanders as “a breath of fresh air in America’s bought and sold politics.”
“Alice Walker really makes that split between that generation and Gloria Steinem, because Gloria Steinem is the actual godmother of Alice Walker’s daughter,” Monroe said. “There’s a serious split down the middle here, Bernie versus Hillary.”
According to Price, Hillary has been a presence, whereas Sanders is introducing himself for the first time to a younger generation. “They don’t know him from Vermont, they don’t know him from his legacy and whatnot,” Price said, “but they know Hillary Clinton as the “wife of,” as the “senator from,” and so there’s this motion.”
A skit on Saturday Night Live from this past weekend shows fickle voters debating whether to vote for Clinton, who they considered qualified, or Sanders, who had a good “vibe.” Kate McKinnon, as Clinton, glides down from the ceiling, singing Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me. “The thing about this skit,” Monroe said, “is that we like her, but there’s something about her… it’s just not heartfelt, for a lot of folks, when it comes to Hillary.”
But could that just be a gender-related qualm? “There is an element of sexism here,” Monroe said. “Are we more exacting? ...some of the stuff we large against Hillary is correct, but Hillary the person, for many people, is just terribly problematic.”
“Hillary needs a reboot,” Price said.