Democrats can finally exhale.
Minutes after Hillary Clinton announced that she is running for President of the United States in 2016, she immediately became the Democratic front-runner for the White House.
From First Lady in the White House, to U.S. Senator, to presidential candidate in 2008, to Secretary of State, Clinton is certainly battle-tested but doesn’t appear to be battle-weary.
“Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top,” Clinton, a new grandmother, says in her video Sunday announcing her second historic presidential bid.
“Every day Americans need a champion and I want to be that champion,” Clinton said. “You can do more than just get by, you can get ahead and stay ahead because when families are strong, Americans are strong.”
“So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote because it’s your time and I hope you’ll join me on this journey,” Clinton said in her video.
As Clinton, 67, prepares to hit the campaign trail Tuesday, one critical question reverberates through the Black community: Will African-Americans turn out enthusiastically for Clinton the way Black folks rallied in huge numbers around Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012?
In the 2012 election, 95 percent of black voters cast a ballot for Obama, significantly contributing to his re-election. Only time will tell if Black voters can mobilize with the same level of excitement around Clinton’s historic candidacy, but her campaign is already hiring key African-American political strategists and advisors in Clinton’s New York and regional offices in an effort to court Black voters and shore up Black support across the country.
The campaign is getting a head start by bringing African-Americans into the campaign early. That should silence any critics who would criticize Clinton for not hiring Black strategists.
Among Clinton’s African-American advisors are Karen Finney as Strategic Communications Adviser and Senior Spokesperson, Oren Shur as Director of Paid Media; Brynne Craig may serve as deputy national political director, Tyrone Gayle will head up one of Clinton’s regional press desks, Bernard Coleman will likely become the Clinton campaign’s director of Human Resources and Tracey Lewis, who was a Field Director for Clinton’s primary win in New Hampshire, will serve as primary states director; and Quentin James is the Black Americans director for “Ready for Hillary.”
In his new role, Quentin will mobilize leaders in the Black community around Clinton’s candidacy.
“I’m very excited to join Ready for Hillary and the amazing team they have assembled,” he said on the website. “Across the country, there is a tremendous amount of grassroots support in the Black community for a Hillary run for the White House, and Ready for Hillary is the place to gather and build upon that support.”
All of these aides boast a wide range of experiences in Democratic politics. Finney, for example, served as Deputy Press Secretary to Clinton when she was First Lady, after working on Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. Finney was a traveling press secretary on Hillary Clinton’s 2000 senate campaign and Communications Director at the Democratic National Committee from 2005-2009.
Are African American strategists already having an early impact on Clinton’s thinking? On Sunday, Clinton tweeted: “Praying for #WalterScott‘s family. Heartbreaking & too familiar. We can do better – rebuild trust, reform justice system, respect all lives.”
Walter Scott, 50, was shot and killed on April 4 by a white police officer Michael Slager, in North Charleston, South Carolina. Slager, 33, has been fired and charged with murder. Slager said he ‘feared for his life’ but a video shows Slager chasing Scott and shooting him five times in the back.
Meanwhile, Clinton’s African-American strategists will undoubtedly work to rally the faithful who would like to see Clinton make history as America’s first woman President. But they will also work to court those Black voters who are still angry over Bill Clinton’s incendiary remarks during the 2008 presidential election where he characterized Obama’s candidacy as “the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.”
Bill Clinton later explained that his remarks were directed only at Obama’s views on war, not about his overall bid for the White House. But Clinton’s remarks caused a national firestorm – and a split – in the Black community with many black voters shifting their allegiance to Obama.
The Clinton campaign even urged prominent African-American supporters to speak out on their behalf and remind the public of the long Clinton record of working for civil rights and social justice.
Today, there are some African-American voters who have still not forgiven Bill Clinton for his remarks because many feel Clinton was intentionally disrespectful to Obama because he’s Black.
William Murrain, an Atlanta attorney and a former civil rights lawyer, said Hillary Clinton must discuss political and social concerns expressed by African-Americans, like the Walter Scott shooting and the troubling pattern of Black men being killed by police at an alarming rate.
“If Hillary Clinton takes the Black vote for granted, she will lose,” Murrain said.
In Clinton’s video announcement, she positioned herself as an alternative to the Republican field expected to include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
On the Democratic side, there are several potential Democrats who could challenge Clinton, although none of them are expected to give her much of a fight. Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, former Virginia senator Jim Webb, and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders are three politicians that pundits say are interested in running for president.
Clinton is a formidable woman, a polarizing personality, and a dynamic candidate who could very well become the first female President of the United States. It won’t be an easy path to the White House for Clinton and she will certainly need unwavering support from Black voters to make history.
What do you think?