Commentary: Clinton Keeps Black Lives Matters votes from Sanders

by Placerville Newswire / May 02, 2016 / comments

[By Juan Williams] The biggest loser in American politics in the last month is the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

In a year of populist passions, history will show that Sen. Bernie Sanders’s anti-establishment campaign was unable to beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s more centrist politics because he never won over black voters.

And Clinton’s success with those critical black voters occurred despite non-stop static from the BLM movement.

In its deep skepticism about Clinton, the BLM movement separated itself from the Congressional Black Caucus and local black politicians nationwide who overwhelmingly supported her. They blew any chance in this cycle of building toward real political power and a 21st century civil rights movement.

That was obvious when the first BLM activist to run for a major political office came in sixth last week in a Democratic mayoral primary in Baltimore, a city still roiled by the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man, while in police custody.

Now, even the first black President of the United States feels free to speak dismissively of the failure of the movement.

President Obama, after noting that he started his political career as a community organizer putting pressure on establishment politicians, recently described the BLM movement’s tactics as a vessel without a destination.

In today’s movement, Obama told a town-hall audience in the United Kingdom last month, “too often what I see is wonderful activism that highlights a problem, but then people feel so passionately and are so invested in the purity of their position that they never take that next step and say, ‘How do I sit down and try to actually get something done?”’

Obama’s comments track closely with Clinton’s now-famous confrontation with BLM activists in New Hampshire last summer. She was asked if her “heart” had changed on race issues since she had been in public life and whether “those mistakes that you made can be lessons for all of America…on how we treat black people in this country.”

Clinton was not buying it. She wanted to see an agenda from the activists – but they did not have one.

"You can get lip service from as many white people as you can pack into Yankee Stadium and a million more like it, who are going to say, 'We get it, we get it. We are going to be nicer,'" Secretary Clinton told a young BLM activist. "That’s not enough, at least in my book."

Later she added: “Look, I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources…You are not going to change every heart.”

One of BLM’s major gripes against Clinton and her husband, President Bill Clinton, is their support of the 1994 crime bill that increased the number of police on the street, increased sentences and put more black criminals in jail.

The activists are particularly incensed that Secretary Clinton once used the phrase “super-predator” to describe some criminals. Many people felt it was a racially loaded term. She eventually said she regretted using that word.

But when President Clinton was heckled and interrupted by BLM protesters at a recent rally for his wife’s presidential campaign, he didn’t hold back.

"You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter," the former president told the protesters. "I talked to a lot of African-American groups [before proposing the 1994 crime bill]. They thought black lives mattered; they said ‘take this bill because our kids are being shot in the street by gangs.’ We had 13-year-old kids planning their own funerals."

President Clinton also noted that, at the time, a majority of the Congressional Black Caucus backed his crime bill. So did locally-elected black politicians concerned with drug dealers and gangs destroying black neighborhoods by driving out retail business and sinking real estate value due to fear of violence. President Clinton also cited numbers: the bill led to a “25-year low in crime, a 33-year low in [the] murder rate…a 46-year low in the deaths of people by gun violence…”

Then a furious President Clinton added: “I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out …to murder other African-American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens. [Hillary] didn’t!”

The next day the former president, after apparently being scolded for being too tough, said he should have done a better job of listening to the activist. But the truth of his statistics and his recollections about the threat of crime in black communities seem to have done no damage to his wife’s campaign. He won the debate in black America.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is making it clear she is not out of touch with black voters who share the activists’ concern over racial inequities in the criminal justice system.

For example, Mrs. Clinton gave a firm “yes” when a black voter asked her at a town hall last week: “If you are elected president of the United States, are you willing to make billion-dollar investments in restoring the lives of people and communities that have been adversely impacted by the 1994 crime bill?”

So far, that tough-but-pragmatic line from the candidate has struck the right balance and allowed the Clinton campaign to reap black votes.

The Black Lives Matter movement deserves credit for changing complacent public attitudes about police mistreatment of black people – up to and including shooting unarmed citizens dead. But interrupting Clinton and Sanders — even grabbing their microphones — did not deliver on racial equality in the criminal justice system.

And arguments over a 22-year-old crime bill don’t help people find jobs, get better schools for their children or make neighborhoods safer.

For that, you need real political power — and that’s why voters moved toward Hillary Clinton.


Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel. His latest book, "We The People," published by Crown, is out now.