The committee loves Valentine’s Day, not just because it’s an excuse to eat lots of candy and make reservations at places that you never cared about going to so that you actually look like you’ve made an effort because last Valentine’s Day we were waiting in line for hours because you refuse to use NexTable...sorry, I was having a flashback. Anyway, the point is, Valentine’s Day is a time to show that person you love how much you love them, and ironically, it’s a great time to tell people you don’t love anymore that it’s time to go (seriously, there’s a whole data chart on breakups on and around Valentine’s Day. Take THAT NextTable!). So it’s fitting that the Power Rankings this week are after the New Hampshire primaries, where the field just got decidedly smaller. Democratic voters ghosted on Michael Bennet, swiped left on Andrew Yang and didn’t even know they were dating Deval Patrick until he changed his Facebook status.
With only two contests (Nevada and South Carolina) left before Super Tuesday on March 3 (and only two more Presidential Black Power Rankings), we decided to bring in some experts to bolster the committee this week. Dr. Khalilah Brown-Dean, a political science professor at Quinnipiac University (raise your hand if you knew there was actually a whole university attached to those polls!), whose recent book, Identity Politics in the United States, would never make it to Bernie Sanders’ reading list since he doesn’t believe in “identity politics” unless you’re a working-class white man. We also have Dr. Niambi Carter from Howard University (H-UUUUUU—am I allowed to say that? I have family who went to Howard, so I think that allows me at least one chant per semester, and two afternoons of walking my dog on campus, right?), author of American While Black: African Americans, Immigration, and the Limits of Citizenship, who jumped right into the Valentine’s spirit of the Power Rankings with her assessment of Andrew Yang leaving the race:
And [while] he has enough money to keep his campaign afloat for a bit, I respect him for not delaying the inevitable and keep wasting his supporters’ money. He knows it’s not going to get any better for his camp and he has chosen to bow out gracefully; I appreciate it when a man doesn’t waste my time.
Don’t waste a woman’s time—is there no better message for politics or Valentine’s Day than that? So we won’t waste any of yours and will get right to this week’s shortened-by-necessity power rankings. This week’s big riser? Everybody! By the nature of Bennet, Deval and Yang (who had been doing well in the rankings lately) dropping out, every candidate was basically artificially promoted to the top seven, even when they didn’t deserve it. It’s almost a metaphor for Mayor Pete’s life. This week’s biggest loser? That would be Tulsi Gabbard. She is the lowest polling, least well-known and least-liked candidate left. We literally didn’t think she was worth the additional pixels to round out our list, and unless Gabbard pulls off a Scooby Doo villain mask and reveals herself to be Michelle Obama and jumps to the head of the polls, we doubt she’ll be making another appearance. On to this week’s list and happy Valentine’s Day!
How do we calculate black power?
- 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?
Hey, she just met you...and this is craaaazy, but here’s Liz Warren, so call her maybe? In a field where just about every candidate has elicited absolute loathing from some corner of the Democratic base, Warren remains shockingly...reasonable. For the second week in a row, she retains the top spot by being the least problematic candidate for black people. And in this field, that’s an accomplishment.
Warren is third in delegate count and remains in the top four preferred candidates for black voters, according to the latest YouGov poll. The committee hopes that Carly Rae Warren isn’t a one-hit wonder, because she reminded the entire field this week that black voters actually care about something other than criminal justice reform. As noted by our guest judge Dr. Khalilah Brown-Dean:
This week Warren called out her competitors’ myopic focus on criminal justice as the singular policy arena shaped by racism. Her support for and commitment to increased HBCU funding garnered the endorsements of cultural influencers such as Darnell Moore and Jamilah Lemieux.
Also, in a campaign environment where Bloomberg just bought his way into the race two weeks ago and was justifying redlining, stop and frisk and, for all we know, a return to Jim Crow laws 15 minutes before that, it’s nice to know Warren actually had a rapid response video.
The committee can’t figure out where Warren’s next actual victory comes from, but given that no one is likely to get blowout victories anytime soon, sticking around might be her best strategy overall.
How on Earth is Joe Biden second on the Power Rankings this week? Because basically the Democratic primary hasn’t started yet. Does any baseball record count before Jackie Robinson got in the league? No. Does the office Christmas party really start until the black folks start making suggestions to the DJ and hit the dance floor? No. Did anyone pay attention to the Real Housewives before the Atlanta seasons? No. So despite poor showings in two states, for Biden, the Democratic primary doesn’t start until more than 12 black people get to vote as far as the committee is concerned.
This week, Janet Jackson announced her newest tour aptly titled “Black Diamond.” But this week saw many voters asking Joe Biden, “What have you done for me lately?” Biden skipped out on eating steel-cut oats at a New Hampshire diner in favor of grits and red rice in South Carolina, where his staffers expected a warmer reception. Biden played up his historical ties to black communities replete with a gospel choir reminiscent of the old B.B. King’s in New York City that hawked overpriced gospel brunches to tourists who reduced the longstanding significance of black churches to a few hymns. It is Black History Month after all. —Dr. Khalilah Brown-Dean
In the immortal words of Richard Pryor, “I ain’t dead yet, muthafucka,” and Joe Biden, despite leaving no footprints in New Hampshire, having no money to his name and making clay pots with Demi Moore, is, in fact, not yet dead on the campaign trail. He has a chance next week to actually win a caucus if Sanders and Warren are pushed out, and if he can make it to South Carolina, he has a chance for a comeback. Just don’t call it that. He’s been here for years.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, the committee tried to imagine what a date with Bernie Sanders would be like. Would he spend the whole time arguing with the waiter for failing to throw away his used chewing gum like some type of political Larry David? Would he take you to a food kitchen and lecture the workers on how they should unionize? His wife, Jane, says he spits mad game after political events, but to be honest, Burlington, Vermont With You, just doesn’t have the same ring as the Obamas’ first date movie. Plus, the committee is convinced that Bernie has always been 80,000 years old, so no amount of CGI and VR helmets can wrap our imaginations around what he was like as a young man in love with anything but himself.
Sanders moves up one spot this week after accomplishing the following: winning New Hampshire, a state that is 93 percent pure white; the only thing whiter than New Hampshire is illegal and has to be smuggled into the country from Colombia.
Bernie Sanders now leads national polls, helped by the collapse of Joe Biden, and he continues to raise money like a Baptist preacher pushing for a new annex to house the praise choir’s bus fleet. His drawbacks? Longer than Hawkeye’s and twice as piercing. New polling came out this week showing that while Biden’s black support dropped and Bloomberg’s jumped, Bernie remains stuck in the high teens. Black folks have basically stepped over Sanders like Allen Iverson did Tyrone Lue. It says a lot about your campaign when after running for president for five years, black people would rather support an avowed racist billionaire Republican than a Democratic socialist. Sanders continues to make more enemies than friends, losing out on a potential endorsement from the powerful Nevada Culinary Union (the Nevada caucus will be about 13 percent black), who blasted Sanders “supporters” for online and real-life harassment, to which he gaslit the nation, claiming that he believes harassment in any form is a problem, which is like Thanos saying he believes in peaceful conflict resolution...then snapping his fingers.
Speaking of snapping your fingers, then doing steps, Bernie can’t do it all by himself anymore, and at some point soon, he’s going to have to break 30 percent in a primary, 20 percent with black voters and make some overtures to his opponents. Otherwise, this movement may win the battle but lose the war against Trump.
Will the real Mike Bloomberg please stand up? Is he the king of stop and frisk or the man who got Lucy McBath’s (D-Ga.) endorsement? Is he the pro-redlining bigot or the philanthropist who’s spent billions building up America’s cities? Is he the sexually harassing, rule-breaking Obama-hating, Republican in Pete’s clothing, buying his way into the Democratic primary? Or the guy who runs commercials like he was Obama’s BFF and has more street cred than a meter maid during rush hour? Let’s ask our judges:
It may seem peculiar to put Bloomberg so high on the list but his rising popularity with Black voters can be attributed to the seeming inability or unwillingness of other candidates to acknowledge the realities of race and discrimination in the US; even if their professional lives helped contribute to those inequities. Bloomberg strategically placed ads in urban markets like Philadelphia where he contextualizes his massive wealth by citing the dominance of structural racism in defining the opportunities for young people to pursue the American Dream. —Dr. Khalilah Brown-Dean
In other words, Bloomberg wouldn’t even be in this race if Joe Biden had handled his business. You know that all affairs start with dissatisfaction at home, right? If the Democratic Party had been handling business with black folks, then Magic Mike wouldn’t have been able to get on stage all covered in oil and dollar bills to dance his way into 22 percent of our good graces. Will it last? Let’s ask Dr. Carter:
This man has competed for nothing, yet he’s managed to be the topic of all conversations this week, in part, because the Democratic frontrunners (i.e. Biden and Sanders) have not made compelling enough arguments about why they should win. Yes, we know money has a lot to do with it, but it’s not just that. This man has convinced some segments of the black community to give him a second look despite his horribly racist criminal justice record as the mayor of New York.
Bloomberg is terrible by almost every conceivable measure, but as The Root’s Michael Harriot pointed out, black people are desperate enough, and know white voters well enough, that they might be willing to bite the bullet and vote for Mike if he looks like the only option to stop Trump. In the meantime, he’s wining and dining black people at every campaign stop with fully catered campaign events from Philly to Nashville. That can be the only explanation behind the color scheme of his Mike for Black America T-shirts...
Mayor Pete picked up two whole black endorsements this week! From South Carolina state Rep. JA Moore and Columbus Ohio City Council President Shannon Hardin. Yaaaay, Mayor Pete! Woot! Woot! Maybe now he can actually name two black people that he’d actually place in his cabinet!
Look, we give Pete a lot of flak here at the Power Rankings, most of it completely deserved. In fact, we’re nicer to him than the South Bend Police Department has ever been to black people, but when they go low, we go high and all that. But he has had a good week. He’s moved up in national polls, is making a real push for Nevada and seems to be gaining traction with black endorsements if not black voters. The committee doesn’t care that the loony white left is accusing him of engaging in some conspiracy with the failed Iowa caucuses app (seriously, Pete is a 63-year-old conservative Christian white man in a 38-year-old’s body; he probably thinks Words With Friends is Google’s way to get you to speak in tongues, so it’s hard to see him developing some app that only blocks Bernie voters). Nor do we care that homophobes on the right are already targeting him and his husband (although we predicted that would happen); what we care about is the big sign in the Mayor Pete campaign headquarters that says “000 days since last racial disaster!”
Pete made it almost a whole week without insulting, offending or dismissing the five black people who actually support him, until this video popped up. Obviously being in a room full of black people had him so triggered he referred to campaign “dark money” as “black money” (Good thing he wasn’t being asked a foreign policy question about Niger). The mayor made it so awkward, it transformed his interviewer into Charlamagne Tha Gob-Smacked because even he couldn’t bail Pete out.
JA Moore, is this your King?
It’s really hard to put Amy Klobuchar in the rankings week after week when she offers little or nothing to the black community other than a reminder that proclaiming you have Midwestern values does for white people what claiming you’re from Brooklyn does for black people. Suddenly you’re authentic because everybody has a romanticized view of where you’re from. Journalists still imagine Minnesota as one great big Lake Wobegon, where all of the women are strong, all of the white kids are above average, Garrison Keillor narrates your breakfast and if you get stuck in the snow, Betty White will rescue you in a pickup truck and take you back to St. Olaf for some hot cocoa.
In reality, Minnesota’s got more black people (305,403) than Iowa and New Hampshire combined (116,225). In a similar way that Black folk who aren’t from New York still see Brooklyn as this Afro-American hip-hop Mecca, screaming “Is Brooklyn in the House?” at every party not realizing that Brooklyn hasn’t had affordable housing for black people since 1992, and that you’re more likely to see an Amy Klobuchar walking through Brooklyn in 2020 than you are the next Jay-Z. Our point is, for Klobuchar to come from such a diverse state, she certainly doesn’t act like it and her stumbling, tepid defense of the incarceration of Myron Burrell on The View this week was just another reminder that the Klobucharmy Kan’t Klose the deal with black folks.
Tom Steyer’s wife is leaving her position as head of the Beneficial Bank to run his South Carolina campaign, which will amount to about two weeks. I’m not sure if that’s a campaign or a quick vacation, but his team is touting this as some kind of big turn around. I guess she can stick around just long enough to hand out some more checks, since the Steyer campaign is mired in yet another scandal of questionable money and funding of black politicians in South Carolina (Bernie, too). For a long time, we at the committee thought that Steyer would be the less evil billionaire in the race. If Mike Bloomberg is Lex Luthor, maybe Steyer was Batman, or Tony Stark with a bit more grey hair. A rich white guy who really did care about black people or could at least show that his money was put in the right hands, with voter outreach impeachment and the Dream Defenders. Instead, Steyer has fizzled out, and the only state where he’s in play is South Carolina, where he’s drafting off Kamala’s stolen data (don’t think we forgot).