The Root 2020 Presidential Black Power Rankings take a one-week snapshot of the campaign season and imagine, using just that week, which candidate running for president would be best for black America. Most weeks, we (me, Dr. Jason Johnson, politics editor of The Root; Marcus Ferrell, former African-American outreach director for Bernie Sanders for America 2016; and our rotating committee) are just looking at the campaigns; but every once in a while, there’s a special focus on debates, mass shootings by white nationalists (there have been several already during our poll!) and now, on this very special episode of the Black Power Rankings, we’re focusing on impeachment.
Yes, the hottest new drink at any Washington, D.C., happy hour is Peach & Mints (which is much better than the previous bestseller, Grab ‘Em in the Pussy on the Beach and the Omarosa Mimosa), as House Democrats have finally pulled up to the bar and started to order the impeachment process that common sense Americans have been demanding for the past two years.
Not just any Americans, mind you; African Americans have been the biggest and most consistent supporters of impeachment from day one. A full 68 percent of African-American voters favor impeachment in the latest Quinnipiac Poll (compared to 30 percent of white Americans and 52 percent of Hispanics. We have no idea who the 9 percent of black voters are who don’t know how they feel about impeachment, but we encourage them to take off their house shoes and realize we’re in danger, girl.) So this week, the rankings lean heavily on who has been doing the most to get Donald Trump impeached, which is what black folks have been calling for long before Charlottesville, Va., Brett Kavanaugh and babies in cages. Consequently, this week’s rankings get a little wild and a little volatile.
This week’s big riser? Former Vice President Joe Biden, who surprised (and angered) much of our committee with his best showing in the history of the rankings. This week’s biggest loser? Sen. Cory Booker, who can’t seem to secure a top spot on our rankings, let alone the bag. Need a refresher on just how we do our weekly rankings? Check out the criteria below.
How do you rank a campaign’s Black Power? Well, we have our “FLEX” rating, aka:
- Finances: Are you paying black staff, advertisers, consultants?
- Legislation: What legislation are you pushing or have passed for black people?
- External Polling: No matter how good you are for black people, if your poll numbers are terrible we can’t rank you that high!
- X-Factor: What’s your rhetoric like? How do you handle a crisis or the kinds of events and scandals that directly impact black lives?
#1: Former Vice President Joe Biden
One of our committee members left me a voicemail threatening physical violence and predicting my eternal shame (all while “Knuck If You Buck” played in the background) if we ranked Joe Biden No. 1 in this week’s special “black impeachment” rankings. As of this writing, I am prepared to knuck for the amount of buck that will be coming my way. This entire impeachment push from Congress was triggered because Joe Biden has Donald Trump shook. When strong-arming a former standup comedian and sitcom star (seriously, that’s basically the Ukrainian President Zelensky’s LinkedIn) to go after your potential opponent’s son is your best shot of winning the 2020 election, it’s about time to wrap it up. Biden isn’t often the committee’s favorite, but being Trump’s greatest nightmare, still holding 40 percent of the African-American primary vote and encouraging striking United Auto Workers (many of whom are black) is enough for No. 1 in this week’s rankings. May God have mercy on our woke souls…
#2: Businessman Tom Steyer
If Tom Steyer’s presidential run was on HGTV it would be called Flip This Movement because that’s basically what he did and why he’s in second place on our special “Black Impeachment Edition” of the Power Rankings. In 2018, Steyer spent over $120 million of his own cash on Democrats in the midterms—including $1 million on a Florida black youth voter plan and $13 million on Andrew Gillum’s failed bid to win the governor’s mansion. Then Steyer started Need to Impeach, a national organization to encourage cowardly Democrats to impeach Trump. Last June, he basically flipped his Need to Impeach organization into a presidential campaign that had a ton of black staff and a black outreach team from day one. The committee is not generally a big fan of hedge fund billionaires (too many of us watch Succession and Billions) but there is probably nobody outside of the U.S government (besides Putin) who’s had a bigger impact on us getting impeachment started this week. To his credit, Steyer also seems singularly focused on getting black folks work in the STEM field, which will always be viewed positively by the committee.
#3: Sen. Elizabeth Warren
To paraphrase Jay-Z (he’s uncanceled for the purposes of this metaphor), Warren turned a two to a four and a four to an eight in only two months. Her polling among black voters has jumped from 4 percent in July to 8 percent in August to 19 percent in this week’s Quinnipiac poll. At GLAAD’s LGBTQA Forum, Warren rattled off the names of the 18 black trans women who have been killed this year. To her credit, Warren is considered the first major presidential candidate to call for Trump’s impeachment, and she pulled a Lisa Simpson and read the entire Mueller Report long before anyone else did. But she drops this week; not because of impeachment (she’ll play a big role if it reaches the Senate), but because she’s been awfully quiet on the most important issue facing African Americans this week in the Senate: the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act. The FUTURE Act is a bipartisan bill that provides $255 million to minority-serving institutions and $85 million to HBCUs specifically. The annual funding is set to expire on Monday unless the Senate can get past education committee chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who’s sitting on the bill. This is an immediate national emergency for the 24 percent of all African-American college graduates that come out of HBCUs. Senator, the clock is ticking; what’s your plan for this?
#4: Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke
While most media gives Warren the credit, Beto O’Rourke is actually the impeachment OG, calling to get rid of Trump as far back at 2017, when the only evidence we had was massive conflicts of interest, various corrupt officials and Russian meddling. This week, Beto signed a petition to put an early voting station at North Carolina A&T and called on Congress to skip recess to handle impeachment. While his overall poll numbers are still terrible and he’s only polling at 1 percent among black voters, the 43 percent who’ve actually heard of him have a favorable impression. Maybe Beto needs to start cussing again?
#5: Sen. Kamala Harris
In the Schoolhouse Rock version of Congress, a president is impeached in the House and then removed if he’s convicted in a Senate trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will probably refuse to hold a Senate trial or vote on articles of impeachment, but our committee still has a dream; a dream that Kamala Harris, who has finally come around to full-throated calls for impeachment, would lead the Senate prosecution. Not only has she always been good in hearings, it turns out her line of questioning to Attorney General William “Joe Proctor” Barr during his confirmation hearings last spring may have set up the groundwork for him to be impeached, too. This week, Harris gave a fantastic speech at the Charleston NAACP Annual Freedom Banquet, snagged an endorsement from Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller (who also joined her Illinois primary campaign team) and most importantly, she was one of the ONLY senators in the 2020 race to make some noise about the impending expiration of the FUTURE Act. She only drops one spot, but this new leaner, meaner Harris has the committee’s attention.
#6: Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Mayor Pete was never really out front on impeachment but followed the crowd as the evidence and the polls started moving towards congressional action. To his credit, Mayor Pete stepped up his game this week and hired Angela M. Angel as his African-American outreach director, a move which elicited a massive “about time” smirk from the committee. Angel is the stuff of legend in Maryland politics; just five years ago, she was a homeless single mother of five after leaving an abusive marriage and became a fierce advocate for women in the Maryland statehouse before establishing a reputation as a manager and organizer. Maybe she can help Buttigieg add some seasoning to his one-note Douglass plan for black folks (By the way, the committee thinks Mayor Pete should’ve called it the Marshall Plan, a nod to Justice Thurgood Marshall and a play on the mayor’s military background and the WWII Marshall Plan, but for some reason, he didn’t ask us!). Mayor Pete has gone up slightly in the polls, consistently ahead of Harris, but he drops one spot, not due to his own failures but how well some of the candidates above him did this week.
#7: Sen. Bernie Sanders
Bernie had always been an impeachment skeptic, simultaneously calling Trump the worst president in the history of the United States but arguing that focusing on impeachment doesn’t help Democrats win in 2020. However, with this week’s whistleblower news, he’s finally changed his tune for the better. Sanders hit 1 million donors this week—the fastest candidate ever to do so—he’s been protesting with union workers throughout the country this week, and he’s been doing some crucial HBCU visits. Look, the committee gets it; going through HBCUs in North Carolina is a great way to get Gen Z black voters to start feeling the Berning Sands. But the committee has got to ask: How are you showing up on HBCU campuses, talking about free education and funding and aren’t raising the alarm bells on the FUTURE Act when you’re in THE SENATE? Sometimes the revolution needs to start at home, Sen. Sanders.
#8: Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro
It seems like Julian Castro was at his best this week when he wasn’t himself. He delivered a spot-on impression of Cory Booker during a Buzzfeed interview, but the committee has no idea why he’d want to imitate those poll numbers. In other not-quite Castro news, his twin brother Joaquin Castro (whose beard makes him look like Star Trek evil Mirror Universe Julian Castro), did a fantastic job during the whistle-blower committee hearings, and without assuming too much of a mystical connection between twins, we’re pretty sure Julian had something to do with the line of questioning. This week, he visited Fruitvale Station in Oakland, Calif., where Oscar Grant was killed by a transit police officer; talked about fair rent prices and housing as a human right—and his campaign manager Maya Rupert made the Root 100! So why did Castro fall so far? He kind of disappeared on specific black policy this week, which he’s done in the past, unfortunately. Also, we’re all down with cultural pride for JLo and Shakira but NOBODY who talks about police reform as much as Julian Castro should be cheering the newly announced Super Bowl halftime show orchestrated by the bloody hands of Jay-Z (See? He’s canceled again.)
#9: Sen. Cory Booker
Last week, Booker announced that if his campaign didn’t raise about $2 million by the end of the month, he’d be out of the race. If Booker was an evangelical pastor, this would be perfectly fine (it worked for Oral Roberts in ’87 when he raised $9 million to keep Jesus from calling his number), but Booker is a presidential candidate and the idea that he’s a massive cash infusion away from dropping out doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the committee. The goal is to win the nomination, not to earn debate qualifications like they’re merit badges. Consequently, Booker drops like his bank balance for this week. Also, while Booker has been going around the country talking about healthcare and gun rights and raising money, he’s been real quiet about a looming deadline for the FUTURE Act, which would take millions of dollars out of the pockets of black students across America. How can you expect black voters to invest in you if you won’t invest in us, Sen. Booker?
#10: Businessman Andrew Yang
Andrew Yang’s universal basic income plan is now approved of by 49 percent of registered voters, and he’s pulling about 9 percent of 2016 Sanders voters. We know Yang must have momentum because he and Sanders have been clapping back at each other all week over Sanders’ guaranteed jobs plan and the feasibility of universal basic income. Much as the committee would love to see a massive Gangs of New York-style brawl between Bernie Bros and the Yang Gang online, none of that does anything for black voters. In fact, Yang is one of the last candidates to come around to impeachment; he flat-out rejected an invitation to the Second Step Criminal Justice panel in South Carolina in October, and he congratulated undercover MAGA and alt-right pinup girl Tulsi Gabbard for making the next Democratic debate. He’s hanging in our rankings by a thread.