With less than two months to go before the first primary, both campaigns are receiving high profile endorsements and raising loads of cash. Some of these endorsements are particularly beneficial: Killer Mike’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders definitely increases his political appeal and name recognition with the African-American community. More important, Killer Mike’s endorsement helps Sanders reach African-American youth. While his other endorsements from prominent African-American leaders like Cornell West were strong, older generations were more likely to know those figures. I’ll get more into the significance of this endorsement later in the blog.
Another thing to note: Clinton’s ostensibly enormous lead over Sanders in the last few weeks has been growing. However, as many know, the polls are conducted on landlines, skewing the polls towards older and more conservative voters. Sanders’ support from millennials is somewhat suppressed by their use of mobile phones (remember, many polls do not include cell phone users). The refusal rate by landline users also skews polling data (only 10% of polls are completed due to the low participation rate). At this moment, Sanders’ progressive challenge from the far left is not so different from Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential run as their respective levels of support were similar. Take a look:
As a matter of fact, Sanders’ support in early December is five points higher than Barack’s at same time in ’08 (31-26). But, Clinton’s lead over Sanders, when compared to Obama, is a bit higher (58-42). The parallels are striking: Obama challenged Clinton from the left and was victorious – that is, with corporate support of course.
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what Sanders’ needs to clog the Clinton political machine.
1) Obtain Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement.
A while back, Warren made it clear that she supported Hillary’s run for president; more recently however, Warren refrained from disclosing her endorsement when pressed on the Democratic primary. It’s assumed that Warren is letting the campaign play out before she chimes in – presumably to see which candidate aligns more closely with her political ideology. Nonetheless, I see it as a change of heart, in a sense at least. I mean, did Warren expect Sanders to perform so well during the early stages of the presidential race? I’m not so certain. Sanders is a self-described Democratic socialist and arguably the most progressive member in the Senate. With less than half of American public saying they would support a socialist, Warren’s endorsement would better suit a Democratic contender with the strongest chance of winning the White House.
However, recent polling has shown something rather spectacular: Sanders is leading the Republican frontrunners at a higher margin than Hillary. Do these polls reveal Hillary’s mainstream vulnerability? Democrats, even ones very loyal to Clinton, are still wary of her email scandal (not in to relation to Benghazi.) The “wait and see game” has party leaders presumably on edge. Does Warren feel the same way? What exactly is she waiting for? Her endorsement, if Clinton’s email scandal proves to be more than a Republican witch-hunt, could propel Sanders to the top of the polls. Incidentally, endorsing Sanders could actually open up the door for Warren in 2020. Uniting the progressive base with her endorsement may prove to be beneficial to Warren’s political future: let’s figure Sander’s is still a member of the Senate, assuming he loses. Endorsing Sanders now could ensure that his following – a following that is growing rapidly – would return their support for her. Bear in mind, even if Sanders loses, his brand and support will stick with him for years.
This endorsement could prove vital in a number of ways, especially in regards to improving his standing with females – a demographic that Clinton is expecting to win over with ease. For now, it’s a wait and see game, but this endorsement could help Sanders close the gap in the polls.
2) Obtain more endorsements from high profile African-American performers and leaders
The rapper Killer Mike’s endorsement is a good start as it improves Sanders’ name recognition with younger African-Americans, but he still needs to reach out to more of these kinds of figures. Getting young African-Americans to the polls is key to Sanders’ winning more ethnically diverse states. And while African-American youth turnout was high for the last two elections, that was largely because an African-American was running for office. Today, youth of all backgrounds are active on social media, and they follow prominent cultural icons they identify, or wish to identify, with. Thus harnessing this influence by partnering with more of these kinds of public figures can only help propel Sanders’ campaign and widen his appeal across various demographic lines.
In 2007, Obama was considering a presidential run. Before he officially declared, the rapper Young Jeezy released a song entitled “My President” that included politically-charged lyrics and a clear agenda to push Obama to run. At that time, Young Jeezy was one of the most popular rap artists, and his song – even if quantifying its effects on the election isn’t certain – spread through the airwaves and internet. It likely had an impact in terms of shaping Obama as a representative of young African-Americans.
It’s imperative that the Sanders campaign reach out to well-known African-American entertainers to receive endorsements. His staff, or Sanders himself, need to set up private meetings – which will include flying across the country (in coach of course) – to have face-to-face meetings in order to highlight his progressive record on race relations. Simply expecting endorsements to come your way is a recipe for disaster. Remember how Sanders dealt with the Black Lives Matter protest? Sanders met with the group in person and also hired a prominent figure within the movement to work on his campaign. It’s simple: personalize endorsements with genuine encounters – having breakfast with Killer Mike at a famous restaurant in Atlanta is an example of this. Sanders even tried to highlight his street cred in a photo with Killer Mike.
Sanders’ ability to obtain famous African-American endorsements should frighten the Clinton camp as his record is more in line with historical struggles of African-Americans. Most important, these endorsements could create excitement among African-American youth for the political process once again, in a post-Obama world.
The next installment should be published in the next couple weeks.