Hillary Clinton crushed Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina primary. This supports the idea that Bouie articulates (hat tip to LGM commenter altofront for the link), that Black voters are Clinton’s earned firewall. In spite of some notorious missteps, bad policy outcomes, and racist campaigning, the Clinton’s remain popular at all levels of the black community. (Read Bouie’s article to understand why: Short answer, decades of engagement. Perfection isn’t as important as sustained engagement, it seems!)
For me, what’s striking about this result is that it is a clear demonstration of the power of primary politics for influencing party direction. Actually, the whole 2016 primary has demonstrated this: Strong support for Sanders has pulled Clinton to the left while blacks flexed their muscles without threatening the general election.
Back in 2000, the idea that “reliable” democratic voting groups had little power since they could be taken for granted was common. Indeed, one variant of “heightening the contradictions” logic suggests that throwing an election is the only way to be taken seriously. But 2016 (and, indeed 2008) reveals this as nonsense. The most effective vote SC blacks will cast this election was the one they just did. SC is a safe republican state. Blacks are a reliable Democratic voting block. Yet, it’s clear that no presidential hopeful can ignore the black community (esp. in SC). It has to be part of your plan. It really wasn’t part of Sandars’.
Lefty voters should take this on board. Forging good connections with key groups is what you need to do to win. And that’s how it should be. Being a coherent and reliable group is what you need to do to have influence.
This result represents a huge success on the part of the Democratic party. Even if you were a Bernie fan or dislike Clinton, if you are a Democrat, you should celebrate the exercise of black voting power. A Democratic party with a totally marginalised or ignored black vote is a situation devoutly to be avoided.
Update: Molly Ball’s article in the Atlantic is worth reading:
The vote here also has far-reaching implications for the future of the Democratic Party, which increasingly relies on minority voters to win national elections. In the era of America’s first black president, black voters are the Democrats’ heart, soul, and bellwether, and Clinton’s general-election hopes will hinge on her ability to convince them she is Obama’s heir….
There was a pervasive sense that any bad blood with the Clintons was firmly in the past, and that voters saw Hillary Clinton as someone who understood their struggles. “This whole month, in our church, we’ve been preaching forgiveness,” Ruth McKinney’s husband, Jim, a retired insurance agent, told me. “If President Obama and Bill Clinton could mend fences, anybody can. Am I going to stay mad at you all my life because we have a rift? No, of course not!”