As the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination fight hurtles toward the March 17 Illinois primary, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders faces his biggest hurdle yet.
African American voters have been an elusive prize for the Democratic socialist from Vermont since his 2016 presidential go-round.
His chief opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, made an astonishing Super Tuesday turnaround fueled, in part, by black voters.
In Texas, Biden took 58 percent of the black vote, compared to 15 percent for Sanders, CNN exit polls show.
In North Carolina, Biden had 62 percent of their vote to Sanders’ 17 percent. In California, Biden 37 percent, Sanders 15 percent.
To win the nomination, Sanders must cut deeply into Biden’s African American edge.
So Sanders is pulling a fast one in a last-ditch ploy to woo former President Barack Obama’s fervent and loyal base.
“Feel the Bern,” the 30-second commercial released last Wednesday by the Sanders campaign, is peppered with images of Obama and Sanders walking into the White House and sharing camaraderie.
You hear Obama’s voice exhort, “Bernie is somebody who has the virtue of saying exactly what he believes. Great authenticity, great passion and is fearless.”
There’s an image of Obama speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, exclaiming, “That’s right. Feel the Bern!”
On Wednesday, David Axelrod, Obama’s former senior adviser, tweeted, “The day after a very tough day in which black voters broke heavily against him, @BernieSanders surfaces ad featuring past praise from @BarackObama, with whom he wasn’t particularly close.”
Sanders’ new ad is a clever but a highly misleading cut-and-paste job, as judged in a fact-check by CNN Politics.
The opening soundbite, CNN notes, omits key words from Obama’s comments, made in a January 2016 interview with Politico.
Obama actually said, “Bernie is somebody who — although I don’t know as well because he wasn’t, obviously, in my administration — has the virtue of saying exactly what he believes, and great authenticity, great passion, and is fearless.”
The deceptive ad suggests Obama has endorsed Sanders in this race. Obama has not and won’t until one candidate accumulates enough delegates to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination.
Biden also talks up Obama in his own ads, but he was Obama’s vice president for eight years. They are close, personally and ideologically.
Black folks know Obama is not feeling any “bern.”
Biden has cornered the market of support from black elected officials and civic leaders. As of this writing, his roster of endorsements includes Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, U.S. Reps. Danny K. Davis and Robin Kelly, Secretary of State Jesse White, and nearly two dozen other African American elected and civic leaders.
With the exception of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who endorsed Sanders, the Vermont senator has few such heavyweights in his corner. His endorsers include Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates, and a smattering of aldermen and state legislators, including 20th Ward Ald. Jeanette B. Taylor and state Rep. Carol Ammons, of downstate Urbana.
Black voters won’t fall for the okey-doke.
They know that Sanders’ footprint on issues of concern to African Americans was virtually invisible before he launched his 2016 run.
They know that Sanders has been a frequent Obama critic and even considered challenging the president in the 2012 presidential primary.
They know where Obama stands. They know that when the time comes, Obama will be standing with Biden.
And crucially, they know, better than any other Democratic constituency, that electability matters most in 2020.
Follow Laura Washington on Twitter @mediadervish
Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org