Do the Democrats Understand America’s New Racial Politics?

In this Sept. 12, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama, accompanied by then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Rather than keeping him at arm’s length, Hillary Rodham Clinton is embracing President Barack Obama _ sometimes even literally. As she prepares for another presidential campaign, Clinton has aligned herself with Obama far more than she has disagreed with him. She had been expected to separate herself from the president to avoid appearing as though she’d simply carry out his third term.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)



WASHINGTON (The New York Times Magazine) — Last Friday, during a speech before a virtually all-black audience at the National Urban League Conference, the presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lauded the young African-American protesters who “have taken to the streets, dignified and determined, urging us to affirm the basic fact that black lives matter.” Clinton’s two Democratic opponents, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, spoke at the same event; they, too, invoked the hashtag slogan.

These recitations have been a compulsory ritual for Democratic candidates going on three weeks now, ever since Black Lives Matter activists interrupted an onstage interview with O’Malley at the Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix on July 18, confronting him with questions like “As leader of this country, will you advance an agenda that will dismantle structural racism in this country?” O’Malley’s faltering answer — “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter” — was met with boos, as was Sanders’s combative appearance after O’Malley left the stage.

The subsequent scramble to mollify African-American activists with rote incantations has prompted derision from conservatives. Still, beneath the Democrats’ fawning overtures lurks a reality that both parties understand well: In 2016, black votes matter, perhaps more than those of any other electoral group.




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