This article has been updated to reflect that Senator Tim Scott is not a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Earlier today, members of the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee — not to be confused with the Congressional Black Caucus, of which Republican Congresswoman Mia Love (R-UT4) is a member — held a press conference to speak publicly about their endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Yesterday, the group published a press release on its website urging voters to support “a Democrat who has put forward thoughtful, realistic proposals on the fundamental challenges facing our nation.”
The announcement follows a familiar trend. Of all incumbent Democratic senators, representatives, and governors to endorse a presidential candidate, Clinton has received all endorsements except for two: Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) — an active voice during the protests surrounding the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). Ellison — who is Black and Muslim — and Grijalva are co-chairmen of the Progressive Congressional Caucus.
The timing of the CBC PAC endorsement is no accident: the Clinton camp is frantically trying to regain some momentum before March brings Super Tuesday and a subsequent slew of primaries and caucuses. On February 27, South Carolina will vote for a Democratic presidential candidate. Clinton leads there, both among the general electorate and Black voters: one poll in November, from Winthrop University, clocked her support at 80 percent among Black respondents.
Sanders’s highest profile Black endorsements have been from public figures largely outside of elected politics: Ben Jealous, the former president of the NAACP; professor and public intellectual Cornel West; Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner; and rapper Killer Mike, for example. The Sanders camp has also widely publicized the endorsements of South Carolina State Representative Justin T. Bamberg, the lawyer for the family of Walter Scott, and former Ohio State Representative Nina Turner, who switched her endorsement from Clinton to Sanders in November.
Yesterday, The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, announced their support of Sanders — Alexander in an article in The Nation and Coates during an interview on Democracy Now!.
If this trend continues, Clinton may face a situation that, by now, is all too familiar for her campaign: the poor optics of large numbers of establishment figures lining up behind an establishment candidate, while liberal voices trickle over to the Sanders camp. Clinton’s lead among Black voters — nationwide and in states with huge electoral sway — simply cannot be overstated. Still, Sanders’ camp has succeeded so far seemingly because of his distance from an elected establishment. And if he closes the gap with Black voters, it will be without the help of this establishment.
Photo: Clyburn (top L) talk with first lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama after the conclusion of funeral services for Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston, South Carolina June 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst