Sunday, June 12, 2016

Clintonites agree: my analysis of black votes is obviously correct!

Jacobin has reprinted my third article on black voters and the Democratic primaries, The Democratic Mandate That Wasn't. So far, its reception among Clintonites has been fairly consistent:


Bouie is dismissing Clinton's lack of support among black Americans as some kind of obvious truism - which might be understandable if he had not spent the last year writing things like this:
Why are black Americans loyal to Hillary Clinton? What has she, or her husband, done to earn support from black voters? ...For more than 20 years, Bill and Hillary Clinton have engaged with black voters, black leaders, and black communities....Hillary Clinton has worked to mend her rifts with black leaders and black voters...With expansive policies for economic equality, Sanders might have real appeal for black Americans. But it takes more than good policies to forge a political connection. It takes hard, dedicated work.
Factually, black Americans are not loyal to Hillary Clinton. About 88% of black Americans either voted against her or sat out of the primaries. This puts Bouie's conjecture about the support she did win in a very different light. The Clintons may have spent the last two decades making publicity stunt church visits - but evidently, out of every eight people sitting in every pew, she only convinced one of them to vote for her. It's not difficult to understand why this is. Bouie (who correctly understands this dynamic as a relationship with both Clintons) continues:
To a large degree, Clinton’s black outreach—premised on his background and his cultural familiarity—was symbolic...On the other hand, however, he never promised to directly address black interests and he—after winning the nomination—tried to distance himself from black activists (e.g. the “Sistah Souljah moment”). But symbolic politics is potent, and black voters stuck with Clinton through the general election.
This analysis is pretty defensible until the very end. If anything, the general Clintonian failure to turn out more black voters is evidence that symbolic politics are not potent. Turns out that dabbing with Ellen and tweeting the word "intersectionality" ad nauseum doesn't mean much when you're also destroying the welfare state and promoting non-solutions to police violence.

Perhaps black Americans are just smarter and more pragmatic than Clintonites give them credit for, and aren't going to be overly impressed with pandering symbolism that does nothing to substantially improve their lives. This is a pretty obvious and common sense attitude to take, which is a major reason why most Americans don't get involved with the primaries. Bouie gets that this is true, but until he grapples with why it's true, he's not going to have a good explanation for the landslide majority of black voters who didn't support Clinton.