She Has Black Support, but Can She Keep It? Where Hillary Clinton Stands on the Issues

Meet the Candidates: Clinton is unlikely to win the White House if she can’t fire up black voters. 

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton onstage during the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention in Manchester, N.H., Sept. 19, 2015
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton onstage during the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention in Manchester, N.H., Sept. 19, 2015 Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Editor’s note: This article has been revised to clarify Hillary Clinton’s policies on how to raise incomes and make college more affordabie.

Black people turned out in droves to usher in the Obama era. Can Hillary Clinton ignite a similar passion? Yes, Clinton has a long history of supporting issues that matter to African Americans, but a younger generation of black activists are much more confrontational in demanding her commitment.

In our Meet the Candidates series, we asked the leading candidates of both parties about their policy proposals on issues that are important to our community. Previously we examined Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Now we take a look at Clinton.

Raising Incomes

With the recession now in the rearview mirror, black people want to be part of the nation’s economic recovery. Hillary Clinton proposes a menu of solutions to raise incomes for struggling families. They range from tax cuts for child care to encouraging corporations to share their rising profits with workers.

In an interview with The Root, Clinton’s senior policy adviser, Maya Harris, underscored the candidate’s plan to “unleash small-business growth.” Harris says black women, who represent the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs, would benefit.

Clinton, who wants to be “a small-business president,” is calling for an expansion of capital and markets, as well as tax relief and simplification for small-business owners.

For those on the bottom rung of the income ladder, Clinton declares that they are long overdue for a raise. Clinton supports the Fight for $15 campaign, but unlike some Democrats, she would cap the federal minimum wage at $12 an hour and leave it to local lawmakers to decide if their economy could support anything higher.

College Affordability

Obtaining a higher education has long been the pathway from poverty to the middle class. But a college education doesn’t come cheap.

Over the past decade, black families have taken on more student-loan debt than white families, according to the Urban Institute. In 2013, the think tank says, 42 percent of blacks had student-loan debt, compared with 28 percent of whites.

The centerpiece of Clinton’s higher education proposal is her College Compact. Her goal is to create a system in which students do not have to borrow money for tuition, books and fees to attend a four-year public college in their state. She also proposes free tuition at community colleges. Her plan would address current and future college debt, as well as focus specifically on historically black colleges.

Students would work 10 hours per week as part of their family’s “affordable and realistic contribution.” At the same time, Clinton would create a federal-state partnership and require more school accountability. The price tag is an estimated $350 billion over 10 years.

Health Care

Heath care remains a hot button issue in the election, despite President Barack Obama’s efforts to reform the system. African Americans have been among the most ardent supporters of Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Yet they are less likely to benefit from it than other racial groups.

The Hill explains that blacks live disproportionately under Republican-dominated state legislatures, which refuse to adopt Affordable Care Act rules that allow more low-income families to qualify for Medicaid. Consequently, roughly 1.4 million black people earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford private coverage.

The Democratic front-runner, a longtime champion of health care reform, plans to fix the “glitches” in Obamacare. She wants to build on what Obama has accomplished. Clinton’s focus would include lowering out-of-pocket costs and trying to prevent excessive premium increases, while lowering health care spending.

Gun Control

Another recurring issue is gun control, which painfully struck home when a white supremacist gunned down nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

African Americans have long supported gun control legislation—and they still do—even as some research observes a shift in the opposite direction.