In South Carolina and on Super Tuesday, African-American voters came out overwhelmingly for the candidate favored to become the Democratic nominee–Hillary Clinton. According to Tavis Smiley, however, it would be a mistake for Clinton to believe she has African-American voters “on lock down.”
Even though Clinton has support from black establishment politicians, and probably the black president, Smiley says he sees no reason for Clinton’s campaign to get complacent.
To begin with, Smiley doesn’t necessarily believe that black voters will come out for Clinton in numbers similar to Obama’s 2008 election. Smiley also sees tension in what is sometimes called the black/brown coalition.
From Smiley’s op-ed in USA Today:
Second, the number of everyday black voters who we assume will dismiss Trump because of his anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attacks might well be inflated. While I certainly have had my say about Trump being a “religious and racial arsonist” (and he responded quickly on Twitter), not everyone in black America agrees with me. I have been taken by myriad conversations I’ve had with black folk who don’t find those comments by Trump necessarily or automatically disqualifying. In the coming days, we will see whether his initial refusal last Sunday on CNN to disavow the endorsement of David Duke, the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacy might anger black voters. Interestingly, almost two months ago, CNN ran a story about a white supremacist group doing robocalls for Trump in Iowa. He didn’t denounce them then and seems to not have suffered for it.
Third, though it is true that black/brown political coalitions have had strategic successes, it is also true that there have been plenty of other occasions where the interests of black and brown voters didn’t exactly align. In California where I live, Latinos are still smarting from the lack of black voter support in 1994 to help defeat the anti-immigrant Proposition 187. At best, it’s a big assumption to think that both the black political establishment and everyday black voters share the same sentiment on Trump’s anti-immigrant stance. Scary, but honestly, I’m not so sure.
When Trump, as opposed to Bernie Sanders, becomes Hillary Clinton’s opposition, it seems that all bets are off. And other brown people shouldn’t necessarily assume that African-Americans share their political outlook or policy agenda.