In this political season where the ghost of the Southern strategy has risen again via Donald Trump, political analysis from African Americans is more vital than ever. We need their thoughts, insight, wit and wisdom. Here are The Root’s top black political analysts, reporters, strategists and public intellectuals who we tune into when we want to better understand life inside and outside the Beltway.
1. Van Jones
Jones went from being out of a job in the Obama administration to becoming one of the most familiar faces on CNN. Already a leader in the advocacy community around tech and green issues, Jones expanded his repertoire as a commentator, and his March 1 “Jones vs. Jeffrey Lord” confrontation on CNN was one of the most memorable TV exchanges in years. Jones won.
2. Nia-Malika Henderson
After moving from Politico to the Washington Post, Henderson is probably seen by more people than any other African-American political correspondent as CNN’s senior political reporter.
3. Michael Steele
One of the few black Republicans seen regularly on the television circuit, and also one of the most direct and blunt when it comes to the inner workings of the GOP—something he knows more about than almost anyone, since he is the former Republican National Committee chairman.
4. Bakari Sellers
The former member of the South Carolina House is now a fixture on CNN and an ardent supporter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Is Sellers likely to move from our TV screens to the White House if she wins?
5. Donna Brazile
Brazile has become a fixture on CNN and ABC as a veteran Democratic political strategist who can speak on both the inner workings of the Democratic Party—and give priceless cooking tips.
6. Joy-Ann Reid
Rumor has it that Reid may soon be filling the slot of departed MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Perry. That would be a welcome home for Reid, author of the political page-turner Fracture, and her fans online.
7. Eugene Robinson
A Pulitzer Prize winner from the Washington Post, Robinson is another indispensable talker for MSNBC, appearing regularly on Morning Joe and Hardball.
8. Roland Martin
On his own show, NewsOne Now, on TV One, Martin has the largest number of black political analysts, reporters and talking heads circulating on broadcast television today. In addition, he is on This Week With George Stephanopolous, Morning Joe and Yahoo! Politics With Katie Couric.
9. April Ryan
American Urban Radio Networks White House correspondent April Ryan is one of the few reporters in Washington, D.C., who have been able to bring a unique perspective on race during the tenure of the first black president in an informed and historically grounded way. Her 2015 book, The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America, is a must-read, and her appearances on Hardball With Chris Matthews are a must-see.
10. Perry Bacon
In a world of punditry and talking heads, former Washington Post reporter and NBC News’ senior political reporter Perry Bacon is one of the few African-American “shoe leather” political reporters on TV.
11. Marc Lamont Hill
The Morehouse College professor, formerly of HuffPost Live and BET, has been on TV more than any other academic in the country over the last few years except for, perhaps, Melissa Harris-Perry. Though Hill typically talks on cultural and social issues in the news, he can speak on anything—including politics. Hill is one of the smartest, fastest and sharpest public intellectuals on broadcast TV, who can also deliver a vibrant takedown of anyone who can’t keep up.
12. Angela Rye
Rye is one of the few African-American talkers on television who can speak on the inside game and the outside game of politics. As an attorney, political strategist and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rye has bases covered on which few other political observers can speak with true authority.
13. Francesca Chambers
This week, Chambers was in Cuba. When she returns, she is likely to report on what she’s seen on Hardball or CNN. Chambers has worked on Capitol Hill and at the Washington Examiner and Red Alert Politics and is currently at the Daily Mail.
14. Heather McGhee
On issues of poverty, social justice and income inequality, Demos President McGhee has been a rare and needed voice in mainstream media on topics that few speak of but that affect millions. McGhee talks about those issues with a detailed knowledge and authority that few can.
15. Errol Louis
From the halls of New York’s City Hall to cable news, Gotham-based journalist Errol Louis is the host of the weekly program City Hall, and it was only a matter of time before bookers on national cable news noticed him. In the same way that Jon Ralston has cornered the market on Nevada politics, Louis has become the king of Gotham politics—and he’s taking it national.
16. Cornell Belcher
Belcher, who is the owner of the polling firm Brilliant Corners, is invaluable when it comes to information around the black vote and the changing American electorate. As a former pollster for the Obama campaign, Belcher has a specific political knowledge on the numbers that very few pundits can match.
17. Jamal Simmons
A Democratic strategist and former chief of staff to former Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), Simmons is seen regularly on Meet the Press Daily With Chuck Todd and an assortment of other shows where he is called on to weigh in on the latest political news. Simmons is also a vet of the Clinton administration.
18. Crystal Wright
Wright is regularly seen on Fox News and on Fox Business’ Varney and Company. She also recently appeared on The Steve Harvey Show and The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore to speak on race and politics from a conservative point of view. Her recent book, Con Job, reads as a guide to much of the discussion on race and politics familiar to viewers on Fox News.
19. Clarence Page
Pulitzer Prize winner Clarence Page has been dropping in on prime-time election-night conversation at MSNBC and continuing his long-serving role as a syndicated writer and editorial board member of the Chicago Tribune. On a planet of newbie political talkers, Page remains a voice of broad perspective in an unpredictable political year.
20. Helene Cooper
The New York Times’ Pentagon and White House reporter is on Meet the Press regularly, and like Perry Bacon, Cooper is also one of the few reporters on the talking head circuit. A veteran of the Wall Street Journal, she focuses on foreign policy, trade, race and politics.
21. Jason Johnson
Johnson, a political science professor, can be seen on CNN, MSNBC and countless other places talking politics from a place of humor and wit. He is also the political editor of The Root and a regular host on SiriusXM.
22. Wilmer Leon
Leon is heard every Saturday for three hours on his show, Inside the Issues, on SiriusXM channel 126 the Urban View. He is also regularly on NewsOne Now With Roland Martin on TV One, as well as on Press TV and the Russian cable news network RT, talking politics.
23. David Swerdlick
Former associate editor for The Root and current assistant editor of the Washington Post’s Outlook, Swerdlick can often be seen on CNN and NewsOne Now With Roland Martin and heard on The Nick Taliaferro Show on 900AM-WURD.