In fitting tribute to his leadership in the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., and his lifelong commitment to civil rights, U.S. Rep. John Lewis will once again be in the lead March 3, in the annual commemoration of that pivotal walk.
Among the many following this Sunday will be Vice President Joe Biden, accompanied by his wife. They also plan to attend the Martin and Coretta King Unity Brunch, according to White House and Selma officials.
The weekend’s remembrance honors the long road traveled in the fight for equal rights and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In many states, the legislation empowered the African-American voters who have become the most loyal in the Democratic Party coalition. When they were presidential hopefuls with an eye on another destination, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama also joined the march.
Support of civil rights is a part of Biden’s political and personal history, and as he reportedly contemplates plans to run for president in 2016, the support of African-American voters would be crucial to the success of his candidacy. Some have wondered if the 70-year-old Biden will seek the nomination. The vice president does not seem to be one of the doubters, as he serves as the president’s point man on everything from fiscal negotiations to strengthening gun laws. Biden is vigorous and energized as he prepares for his walk across that bridge.
Biden built on his support from many African-American voters as he has played a strong No. 2 to the first African-American president. At the July 2012 NAACP convention where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney received a decidedly mixed reaction for comments disparaging, among other things, “Obamacare,” Biden left the audience wanting more.
But will black voters, particularly the black women who knocked on doors and made the phone calls in 2008 and 2012, be there for Biden if he decides to run in 2016? And if Hillary Clinton, after enjoying her post Secretary of State down time, decides to capitalize on her current front-runner status, how will her candidacy affect Biden’s support?
(Here’s our look at some of the black women who actively campaigned for Obama.)
“He’s earned the right, independent of Barack Obama to stake his claim with African-American Democrats,” said Britt Brewer-Loudd of Charlotte. The circulation distribution manager for Dow Jones campaigned hard in 2008 and 2012 for Obama and expects to be active in the 2016 race, as well. “
“I do like Joe Biden and I am a fan of his,” she said. “I was before he was even put on the ticket.”
But Brewer-Loudd had mixed feelings about the vice-president’s prospects: “Do I think all of the support will transfer to Biden? No, I don’t. Am I enthusiastic? Not really.’
“Would I support him? Yes, I would.”
But Brewer-Loudd, 46, added, “I do think Hillary will be the one if she runs. A lot of even Obama supporters feel like she’s earned it and she deserves it. A lot of woman —black, brown, white, — feel that women bring a lot to the table.” In fact, she would like to see a few more women on deck and more African-Americans in the statewide offices, “black governors, senators, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Sarah Chambers, a 2012 North Carolina voter registration captain and enthusiastic Obama supporter, said, “I think that Vice President Biden would make a great candidate for president. He relates to the people, and that’s what people want.”
Biden’s down-to-earth way of promoting Democratic principles is “one of the main reasons why President Obama got back in the White House,” she said.
Chambers, 66, a retired aesthetician who is now taking college courses, said she hoped Clinton runs, as well.
“The way Hillary Clinton has traveled this world, she’s shown she can handle this country. If she runs and wins it will open up a lot of doors for women in Congress,” she said. “I would love to see a woman president before I leave this earth.”
Chambers, who charmed and cajoled at a voter registration table throughout 2012, said she’s prepared to work even harder in future local and national races. Campaigning “opened my eyes,” said Chambers, that “one little person like me can make a big difference.” It’s a sentiment that the Democratic Party hopes is shared among African-American voters after Barack Obama’s time in the White House ends.
It may not come down to a Joe Biden vs. Hillary Clinton race, of course. Both Brewer-Loudd and Chambers mentioned Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and the Castro twins — San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas – as future stars on the Democratic ticket, perhaps as early as 2016.
Brewer-Loudd admitted, though, that it’s “very hard to be the next Barack Obama. … He had something special –there’s a reason we talk about Martin Luther King and JFK — I think history will reflect on that. It will be hard for somebody else to do that.”
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