CHARLESTON, South Carolina — From the moment the doors opened for Rep. James Clyburn’s annual fish fry last week, a group of black women spotted — and surrounded — a Hollywood star.
“He’s over there!” one woman shouted as she quickly pulled out her phone to take a photo.
Stephen Bishop, who plays David on the hit BET television show, Being Mary Jane, was balancing a plate fried fish — but he didn’t come to the fish fry just for the food: Bishop is a staunch, unapologetic supporter of Bernie Sanders.
Bishop proudly wore a Sanders button while he worked the crowd during Clyburn’s (D-SC) fish fry, just before the Democratic presidential debate.
“I’m ‘Feeling the Bern!’ ” said Bishop, quoting Sanders’ new campaign slogan. “I’m on Bernie’s squad because I like what he’s doing with veterans, racial equality and economic equality.”
Bishop is not alone. Sanders’ message on income inequality and criminal justice reform is resonating with many Black voters but it’s unclear whether Sanders can beat Clinton in the Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries. Polls show a tight contest in Iowa and New Hampshire, but Clinton is far ahead of Sanders among Black voters in South Carolina.
So will enough Black folks turn out for Sanders?
Only time will tell whether star power like Bishop – and other actors and musicians — can help Sanders win the White House. It certainly can’t hurt. But during the fish fry, the most obvious supporters of Clinton were Black and most supporters of Sanders were white — with the exception of Bishop.
Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist from Vermont, is courting Black voters aggressively because he knows Hillary Clinton enjoys tremendous national support in the African-American community. Eric Holder, the former U.S. Attorney General, has campaigned with Clinton in recent days.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has also endorsed Sanders. Ellison, so far, is the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to offer Sanders public support. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has endorsed Clinton.
And on Tuesday, Clinton received another important endorsement: Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, said she is supporting Clinton for president. Jordan, a teenager, was shot and killed by a white neighbor in 2013 for playing loud music in the parking lot of a convenience store.
“I stood behind President Obama when he announced new executive actions aimed at narrowing the loopholes in our laws that make it easy for dangerous people to get guns,” McBath wrote in an editorial for BET.
“As President Obama said, we should only support candidates who have a record of standing for common-sense gun laws,” McBath wrote. “That’s why my choice for president is clear: I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton.”
McBath said Clinton has outlined plans to build on Obama’s executive actions, closing loopholes that still allow dangerous people to buy firearms at gun shows and on the Internet.
“Back when she was First Lady, Hillary rallied the nation to pass the Brady Bill, a law that established federal background checks on many gun sales,” McBath said.
Clinton and Sanders both courted Black voters on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Columbia, South Carolina.
“I wonder if Dr. King was with us today, what would he say about a nation in which the top one-tenth of 1% own more wealth than the bottom 90%,” Mr. Sanders said. “And what would he say about a nation in which 29 million Americans have no health insurance?”
Clinton is clearly leading Sanders in South Carolina but Sanders isn’t conceding. He believes he can win a significant segment of the Black vote in the Feb. 27 South Carolina primary.
I don’t see that happening, but I guess anything is possible in politics.
What do you think?