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Laura Washington: Blacks don’t trust Clinton with Obama’s legacy

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Friday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Follow @MediaDervishAs the presidential campaign closes out, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is grappling with myriad reports that African-American voter registration and turnout is flagging.

The black vote is the Democratic Party’s most loyal, most reliable base. The African American vote helped Clinton stave off U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ insurgent primary challenge. The black vote helped make her husband president.

Now, the desultory response of black voters may account for Clinton’s concerns about swing states, like Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.


Follow @MediaDervishIt’s making Clinton very nervous. She has unleashed an arsenal of surrogates to ramp up turnout. Her not-so-secret weapon, President Barack Obama, has been stumping hard.

“The African-American vote right now is not as solid as it needs to be,” Obama lamented last week on the black-oriented “Tom Joyner Morning Show.”

He says, “my legacy’s on the ballot.”

Problem is, black voters don’t trust Hillary Clinton with Obama’s legacy. They haven’t forgotten the vile tactics she deployed against Obama in their 2008 tussle.

Some Clinton allies argue the real culprit is voter suppression. Last week, the North Carolina NAACP filed a federal lawsuit demanding a court injunction, alleging that state and various county boards of elections were illegally canceling the registrations of thousands of black voters. “The Tar Heel state is ground zero in the intentional, surgical efforts by Republicans to suppress the voice of voters,” the Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP said in a press statement.

Such shenanigans were around long before black folks earned the right to vote. Voter access measures like early voting, have expanded in crucial voting states like Florida.

Hillary Clinton’s problem is really “candidate focused,” asserts Valerie Johnson, an associate professor of political science at DePaul University who studies the black vote. “A lot of people, especially African American voters, are tying Hillary with some of the problems associated with Bill (Clinton), like welfare reform and the ’94 crime bill.” Those Clinton administration policies, they believe, have had a lasting and deleterious impact on black communities.

And black millennials don’t buy what Johnson calls “respectability politics.” That is a “black middle-class ideology that says that instead of challenging the system … you just go along to get along.”

In other words, voters should accept the lesser of two evils.

Johnson estimates that in 2016, black voter turnout will clock in at around 11 percent of the electorate, down from 13 percent in 2012.

Perhaps they are listening to Clinton’s dyspeptic opponent.

Donald Trump has appealed to African Americans by arguing that Clinton and the Democratic Party have taken their votes for granted and delivered nothing in exchange.

Black folks are “living in hell,” Trump says. We may as well vote for him, he says. “What have you got to lose?”

Those are insulting, evil words, but too many of us do live in gang-infested war zones, in fear of the police, languishing in failing schools, jobless, and even more hopeless.

Trump’s pitch “probably resonates with black people, not that they are going to vote for him,” Johnson said.

GOP nominee Mitt Romney won 7 percent of the black vote in 2012. Trump’s take will be “minuscule,” around 4 or 5 percent, tops, she predicts.

In a Donald Trump presidency, we’d all have a lot to lose.


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