On Monday morning I read a very good article on the New York Times that sums up my indifference to the Democratic party going into 2016. As a black Millennial, I feel that neither Bernie Sanders or Hilary Clinton is really speaking to me as a part of that voting bloc–one that the Democrats cannot afford to lose, whether they realize it or not.
If 2012 proved anything, it is that when black Americans vote, our vote can make a difference. After Obama was re-elected, article after article talked about how critical the black vote was to his re-election. But what those articles did not point out (of if they did, I did not see them) was that it was younger voters that were so critical to the Democrats keeping the White House. Obama’s rise to political prominence brought a new wave of engaged black voters to the polls. In 2008, 20% of first-time voters were black and of those, 70% were under 30. Four years later black voters proved critical for Obama winning seven key states, including Ohio, Florida and Virgina. Of the black voters who cast a ballot, nearly half were under 45 years old.
Now, in the first post-Obama presidential election, the Democrats are in serious danger of losing this bloc. Not to the Republicans but to indifference, and historically a higher voter turnout favors the Democrats. I do not want a Republican to become the next President of the United States, but I also don’t feel either Bernie nor Hilary deserve my vote. If the election were held today I would likely stay home.
What Bernie and Hilary do not understand is, the old tactics of wooing black voters does not work anymore. Mentioning your marches with Martin Luther Kind Jr., meeting with Civil Rights leaders of his era or photo ops with black celebrities will not work. Black millennials realize the Civil Rights movement did not do what we were taught in elementary school to believe it did. If it did, we would not be where we are now. We want real, concrete solutions to stop black men and women being gunned down by the police like animals, to reduce the racial gap between unemployed black and white millennials, particularly the educated and real criminal justice reform. But neither Hilary nor Bernie are responding to this at all.
My problem with Hilary is she’s relying on the Clinton name to win her black support. Famously touted as the “first black president” before Barack Obama entered the presidential race in 2008, now his policies during his presidency have come under criticism, particularly the “three-strikes law” that the former president admits regret signing into law because it made the problem of mass incarceration worse, especially for African-American males. Apologizing now frankly is too little, too late and doesn’t illustrate why black Millennials should trust her as Chief Executive.
Aside from his concerning stance on gun control, my problem with Bernie is he thinks his record automatically earns him black support. Let’s look at his record shall we? Bernie Sanders is known for being a champion of economic justice. Makes sense since that he’s a socialist. But socialism does not preclude racism, look at Adolf Hitler. Now I don’t believe that Bernie Sanders is racist but I think he fundamentally misunderstands racism at its core and always has. For African-Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and Asians, racial injustice is the root of economic injustice, not the inverse. Racism cannot be cured by making the pot bigger for everybody. The United States was literally conceived in racism. When the country became the largest economy in the world, black people (and Native Americans) were still economically marginalized, something ignored to this day. In refusing to acknowledge this, Bernie Sanders is not much better than the Republicans in black Millennials’ eyes.
With both Hilary and Bernie the disconnect is clear. Neither candidate understands that what brought African-Americans to the polls come Election Day will not work in 2016. We’ll just stay home which makes it more likely that a Republican will win the White House.