Hillary Clinton's allegedly formidable advantage among minority voters in South Carolina, Nevada, and elsewhere is being questioned—and tested—as people of color are increasingly coming forth to reject being treated as a political "firewall" for her campaign.
Following Clinton's significant loss to rival Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire on Tuesday night, campaign manager Robby Mook sent a memo to supporters suggesting that Clinton's "high levels of support in the African American and Hispanic communities" should all but guarantee her the Democratic nomination.
"It will be very difficult, if not impossible, for a Democrat to win the nomination without strong levels of support among African American and Hispanic voters," Mook wrote. "Hillary's high levels of support in the African American and Hispanic communities are well known. She has maintained a wide double digit lead over Sen. Sanders among minority voters in national surveys and in states where African American and Hispanic voters make up a large share of the electorate. That type of support was not created overnight; it has been forged over more than 40 years of fighting for and alongside communities of color. They know her, trust her and are excited about her candidacy."
The release of the memo spurred wide rebuke from voters, including New York Daily News columnist and Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King, who wrote online: "Hey Black & Latino voters, Did YOU get the Hillary memo asking you to save her campaign?"
King, who openly supports Sanders, has previously said that he "fundamentally reject[s]" the notion of an African American firewall and finds it "insulting on its face."
As the Huffington Post pointed out, others swiftly followed suit, specifically highlighting the former secretary of state's support of the 1994 crime bill passed during husband Bill Clinton's presidency.
— Tori Griffin (@torigriffin) February 10, 2016
@politicoroger tell hillary we are not her firewall we know it's not about Obama legacy it 3rd term Clinton presidency
— richdoll (@richdoll54) February 10, 2016
— JadeinNM (@Jadeinnm) February 10, 2016
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Meanwhile, Michelle Alexander, author of the groundbreaking book "The New Jim Crow," published a column in The Nation on Wednesday—titled Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote—which directly questions the assumption that the black vote is "in her back pocket" as the primary season moves forward.
Pointing to Clinton's historic tough-on-crime stances as well as her support for policies that expanded mass incarceration, escalated the War on Drugs, and crippled the welfare system, Alexander writes that it seems black voters "are eager to get played again."
"If you listen closely here, you'll notice that Hillary Clinton is still singing the same old tune in a slightly different key," she continues. "She is arguing that we ought not be seduced by Bernie's rhetoric because we must be 'pragmatic,' 'face political realities,' and not get tempted to believe that we can fight for economic justice and win. When politicians start telling you that it is "unrealistic" to support candidates who want to build a movement for greater equality, fair wages, universal healthcare, and an end to corporate control of our political system, it's probably best to leave the room."
Alexander notes that "this is not an endorsement for Bernie Sanders," however, she adds that "there is such a thing as a lesser evil, and Hillary is not it."
On Wednesday, Sanders had breakfast with Rev. Al Sharpton, a leading figure in the African American community. The Daily Beast's Goldie Taylor notes that "by meeting with Sharpton at Sylvia’s Restaurant—the very place then-Sen. Barack Obama sat down with the preacher in 2008—Sanders is sending a message to Clinton forces: Don’t sleep."
In South Carolina, where as of January 21, Clinton held a 63 to 33 percent lead over Sanders, the senator from Vermont senator has proved himself increasingly capable of winning support from the state's sizable and influential black electorate.
What's more, as the Boston Globe reported this week, "He is airing ads on black radio stations about his record of fighting racism, from his college years to his career in the Senate, and in favor of criminal justice reform. His campaign is paying more than 100 black organizers $15 an hour—the national minimum wage he is advocating for—to go door to door. Half of his South Carolina team had previously worked on Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns."
Longtime state legislator Gilda Cobb-Hunter said, "What Sanders is doing here has forced the Clinton campaign to step up their game and understand that they cannot take the voters of this state for granted."