Can Black Women Do Better Than Hillary?

Already lining up behind Clinton for 2016, this demographic should be playing hard to get.

Posted:
 
hillary_black20women_ellison
Hillary Clinton (AFP/Getty Images)

(The Root) -- It might be appropriate to preface this with the fact that I'm a dude injecting myself into what boils down to a woman's decision at the polls. But it's still a peculiar and necessary question that we should keep asking from now through 2016: Why should African-American women support Hillary Clinton for president?

The answer probably depends on how the question is viewed. Some sisters might actually consider it pointless, given the power of the former secretary of state's political brand -- and given that many still see her as Bill's wife. Recall that in 2007 -- even after that young, less-grayed, charismatic black Illinois senator took to a Springfield stage -- Hillary was their "girl." An October 2007 poll showed her easily surpassing Obama with 68 percent support from black female voters.

Who in their right black mind would believe that a brother with a name as bizarre and non-Anglicized as "Barack Obama" had even the fringe of a national poll's chance to win? Ferocious internal debates with family members ensued. It wasn't until that fateful, history-twisting Iowa caucus that black folks suddenly stopped viewing Obama as merely Dennis Haysbert's stunt double in 24.

Eight years of President George W. Bush left a yearning for the return of the Clintons. Many African Americans -- women especially -- swam in the nostalgia like partygoers in The Great Gatsby's private pool, eager to resurrect a sort of emotional reconnection with someone frequently referred to (in both jest and comfort) as the "first black president."

That same conversation re-emerges nearly a decade later. Many would probably take offense to the question because Clinton is seen as the only candidate worthy of any black political support come the next round. One of the more recent Economist-YouGuv polls (pdf) found that 70 percent of African Americans view Clinton favorably in comparison with six other names. She was only 11 points behind Obama's 81 percent.

It's interesting to note that Vice President Joe Biden came in third at 65 percent. Only 41 percent of whites viewed Clinton favorably (and only 36 percent approved of Obama). Strangely enough (considering the narrative), only 49 percent of women overall favored Clinton -- compared with 46 percent for Obama.

What helps drive those African-American numbers for Clinton into the political stratosphere is more obvious, and ongoing, loyalty to the Democratic Party. But it's mainly black women -- who were 69 percent of the black electorate in 2008 and 60 percent in 2012 -- who account for that.

November 2016 might be a few years off, but the Hillary storyline is locked. Clintonians, eager for the political-dynasty throwback, have all but ushered in a sense of history part 2 taking place: We got the first black president, so it's only a pro forma constitutional matter to get the first woman president. But if that's the case, the rest of us are gearing up for one of the most boring presidential elections ever.

 

Granted, Democrats should end up with a strong margin of White House winning streaks -- long past 2016 -- as Republicans fail to adapt to demographic realities. But that will hinge rather significantly on Democrats' ability to produce a candidate as brand name tested as Apple, which has now outdone Coke.

The Root 100 People's Choice Awards  
Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM