“You can’t just say Black Lives Matter and hold up a fist and black people are going to run to the polls [for you],” Leslie Wimes, President of African-American Women’s Caucus of Florida, said. “It’s not that simple.”
Wimes, a Bernie supporter, lives in Florida, a key battleground state for Clinton.
It’s a state where, according to a report by the Politico, the Clinton campaign is in “panic mode” over the African-American vote.
Clinton is polling at less than 85 percent among the state’s some 1.7 million black voters. Although the 85 figure is still high, Politico notes that President Obama enjoyed some 95 percent in both 2008 and 2012.
“I think she needs to put together a plan for the black community,” Wimes notes. “Something that’s tangible for us, something that we can hold her to, something that she can commit to and say this is what I’m going to do.”
Officials with Clinton’s campaign say the former Secretary of State has laid out specific goals for the black electorate, including criminal justice reform, economic inequality and police accountability.
“We understand that we have work to do in not only the African-American community but specifically with young African American voters,” a Clinton campaign aide told theGrio.com in an interview. “Young black people in this election — the truth of the matter is, they have concerns. We get that, and that’s why we are committed to earning every single vote that we can. The black vote has been a large priority for this campaign from day one.”
The Clinton campaign has tried aggressively to win over Sanders’ supporters in recent months.
Since Sanders officially endorsed her, the two campaigns have worked closely to try to galvanize his supporters to vote Clinton. In late September, the pair campaigned together at a rally in New Hampshire, hoping to persuade millennials specifically.
Last week, audio surfaced of Clinton reportedly characterizing some Bernie Sanders supporters as living in their “parent’s basements” because of “lack of jobs.” Sanders defended Clinton’s comments, but that didn’t stop speculation of dissent after the pair canceled their joint appearances this week.
Strengthening popularity among young black voters can happen, according to Symone Sanders, former Press Secretary for Sanders’ campaign. Sanders said it will require Clinton to effectively address racial justice, employment, mass incarceration and college loan debt – issues considered important to young black voters.
“I don’t think it’s about Bernie Sanders, I think it’s more about issues, the draw for Bernie Sanders for young people in general and young black people who supported him was because Bernie Sanders was talking about their issues,” Symone Sanders said.
Nearly 15 percent of young black voters polled by BYP said they planned to sit this election out and not vote at all.
It was young black voters who played a key role in campaigning and electing President Barack Obama. In 2008, Obama received 95 percent of the young black voters ages 18-29.
“She can not win without the black vote,” Symone Sanders said, regardless of age-range.
Recently, Clinton announced plans to invest $25 billion dollars in HBCUs. Both President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have spoken passionately and specifically to African-Americans about why Clinton should be their choice for president.
“People that identify with the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s really hard to make the argument, we have to participate in the system,” Sanders said of black millennial reluctance to Clinton. “Young black and brown people are saying the system does not always work for us.”
As far as exercising what many have described as a potential “protest vote” by not voting in November, the Clinton campaign is clear: “For young people, no one can afford to stay home or sit out this election.”
There are less than 35 days until the election.
Ashantai Hathaway is a reporter at theGrio. Keep up with her on Twitter @ashantaih83.