African-American voters carried Clinton to an overwhelming victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, in the state’s Democratic presidential primary. African-Americans typically make up the majority of South Carolina’s Democratic electorate and, according to CNN’s exit polling, Clinton won with the support of 84 percent of the state’s black community.
Sanders, on the other hand, struggled to gain traction with black voters in South Carolina, hampered by the very thing that has lifted him elsewhere: his position as an outsider and newcomer on the state’s political scene. Attempts at outreach came late and were described by some local African-American leaders as ham-fisted.
A source told Yahoo News that an influential member of the state Legislature received several direct appeals from Clinton asking for an endorsement. They were taken aback when the Sanders campaign reached out and the call came from the senator’s wife rather than Sanders himself.
Darby, the vice president of the NAACP’s Charleston branch, said he’s seen a “clumsiness” in Sanders’ “approach to the leadership” in South Carolina’s black community.
“Let me put this very carefully,” Darby began, “Sometimes my good and well-meaning liberal brothers and sisters get the feeling that they know what’s good for black folk. … They don’t try to reach out. They don’t try to check in and affirm, ‘Do you really think that this is good for you too? What do you think of our plans? … I’ve picked up little whiffs of that in the Sanders campaign, and I don’t think it’s served them well. … You have to meet people on their terms.”
Darby said the only contacts he received from the Sanders campaign came from people who were “white” and “out of state.”
“Nobody really local reached out to me. These were folks that were brought … into South Carolina from the campaign. … This was not African-American outreach. This was white outreach,” Darby said.
Dot Scott, the president of the NAACP’s Charleston branch, was similarly critical of Sanders’ team. Scott, who admitted being family friends with Clinton’s South Carolina state director, said she only had one contact with the Sanders campaign, and it went “sour.”
Like many South Carolinians, Scott has received calls at home from phone bankers. She said one of these entreaties from the Sanders campaign led her to go off on a 10-minute tirade and demand an apology.
“One of my experiences that I think I won’t forget for a long time is a call that I got from the Sanders campaign. This person that called asked me was I voting for Sen. Sanders. I said no. I was voting for Secretary Clinton. The phone went silent for a little bit,” Scott recounted. “You could hear this person struggling to come up with what they’re going to say next. … They call that a real pregnant pause, nine months’ worth of pregnant pause. And he finally came back and he says to me, ‘You know, Senator Sanders is for welfare.’”
This did not provoke a positive reaction from Scott.
“I lost it. So you’re going to assume either from my voice or from my selection that the most important thing that Sen. Sanders is going to be working on that would interest me is more welfare?” Scott said. “I went on to read him the riot act. Listen, I’m not only a college graduate; I’ve got a masters. My daughter is a college graduate. I have never had one ounce of welfare before. I ain’t never lived in public housing. None of those things.”
According to Scott, the Sanders supporter who called her “didn’t know what to say.”
“By the time he hung up, it was ten minutes later,” she said. “I got one of the managers to call me back and apologize.”
Scott made it clear she does not believe that is something “Sanders would tell them to say” and added that the call probably came from a volunteer or low-ranking staffer. Still, she said it is the only contact she has had with the Sanders campaign, while Clinton’s team has made much more substantive outreach.
I think this all speaks for itself. In addition to its obvious intellectual limitations, “class not race” is not a viable means of securing the Democratic nomination in 2016.