It’s the beginning of the end, everybody, so get your popcorn ready. While this is the first Black Power Ranking of 2020, it is also a week when many things either came to an end or are at the start of ending. This week, Julián Castro officially dropped out of the campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination. It’s no secret that Castro’s campaign was a personal favorite of many committee members and Maya Rupert (the only black woman running a presidential campaign in 2020) helped him run the most black- and brown-centered campaign out of the entire Democratic field. No one—not Cory Booker, not Kamala Harris, not Bernie Sanders nor Elizabeth Warren—was as aggressive and creative on housing, criminal justice reform and immigration as Castro. We are all worse off with him not being in the race. Plus, now that Castro’s gone, we have to start ranking Michael Bloomberg again (or worse, Tulsi Gabbard). Thanks, Julián!
Equally distressing is Marianne Williamson, who this week finally rolled up her yoga mat and realized that she couldn’t astrally project herself into the White House no matter how much sage she burned, crystals she prayed to or racist ADOS conferences she attended. We’ll miss the reparations advocacy Marianne, and we’ll see you at the next hemp festival in the park. Between these two and the series finale of Power starting this weekend on STARZ, it’s like 2020 is already conspiring to rob black folks of the best things in life (although if Tariq gets it in the end, five seasons of bad acting and questionable New York accents will have been worth it!).
Well, it’s true, because this week we’re also announcing the beginning of the end of the Black Power Rankings. Oh, we’re not going anywhere just yet, but when we began this project, the idea was always to conclude our rankings around the South Carolina Democratic primary, regardless of how many Democratic candidates were still in the running. So we promise over the next eight weeks or so to be as driven, snarky, engaged and unapologetically black as we can be. We’ll be rolling out a few surprises, opening up our committee to our readers (you all are going to love our upcoming contest!) and making sure we hold these candidates accountable to black voters until we finally have to hold our noses and vote for one of them. But for now, on to this week’s rankings!
This week’s big riser is Cory Booker, whose love campaign is infectious (but in a good way), and who reminded us that hope and kindness spring eternal. This week’s big losers are spread around a bit, and let’s just say that as more and more campaigns start to put all of their eggs in the Iowa and New Hampshire basket, they’re forgetting that some of those eggs need to be brown.
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?
#1: Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Warren climbs her way back up to the top of the Power Rankings this week, but only by a hair and mostly because of the mediocrity of the other candidates. Warren was out asking everyone if she could borrow a dollar last week since her fundraising has dried up faster than SpongeBob in the Outback, but she’s moved up in polls among blacks folks at the same time. The latest YouGov poll (pdf) has her in second with black voters, with 58 percent approval among black voters and 41 percent of black voters believing she can beat Trump.
She also launched a new disability policy plan that would very much help black folks. But Warren caught flak this week when because she referred to her father as a “janitor” instead of a “maintenance man” as if she was trying to create some hard-knock life for herself to connect with voters. Maybe it’s just the black folks on the committee, but we know the difference between a janitor, a maintenance man, a resident stationary engineer and the super ain’t nothing but a few syllables and an area code. Our own families and years of magical negro janitors in Hollywood movies taught us that one: Candidates, especially white ones, are always trying to come up with hard-scrabble sob stories to connect with the “common man.” The more scrabble, the better. If Bernie or Warren could get away with saying they grew up poor and black they’d do it in a heartbeat, it would give Bernie yet another excuse to say nigger and Warren would produce the welfare check stubs just to flex at the next NAACP convention.
#2: Sen. Cory Booker
When NBC News reported that Cory Booker was having house parties in Iowa, the committee started scouring the web for Booker and maybe Castro wearing Cross Colours and doing that whole synchronized Kid ‘n Play dance-off that everyone tried (and failed) to do in college (except Harris; we’re pretty sure she could throw down and we are still offering a reward for any old VHS video of Harris getting her full Tisha Campbell on the dance floor at Howard. C’mon Bisons, hook us up!) Turns out Booker was just meeting potential voters to get his name out there. (We did, however, find video of him dancing at a Purim party in 1993—don’t hurt, ‘em Cory!)
Booker is still stagnant in the polls and may not make the January debates, so how did he jump so high this week? First, when your competitors revere you so much they’re tongue-tied at the sound of your name, that’s respect.
Next, Booker had his best fundraising month of the year in December, ran a new commercial in Iowa and launched a new RISE CREDIT, which helps pay families who take on the role of long-term caregivers. The average black home caregivers are spending over 34 percent of their income on care, which means Booker’s plan may be the difference between saving grandma and sleeping on the street. Forty-one percent of black voters claim to not know Booker (still) in the latest poll, which means he’s got tons of room to grow or he’s done for; either way, for this week, he’s pushed his way to second.
#3: Vice President Joe Biden
Wait, so Joe Biden isn’t a racist? When the doctored fake video of Biden supposedly critiquing “African” and “Asian” countries came out, the committee was about to go full Corn Pop. How dare someone use a video to prove Biden has racial problems? You can just use his policies. We kid, we kid. Sort of.
Biden stays in the same spot this week after increasing his national poll lead to 10 percent over Sanders and hitting him with that soul Bern ether.
Biden has reaffirmed his stance as the 2020 Democratic frontrunner by increasing his lead with black voters to fifty zillion. He’s also rolled out a new spin on his healthcare plan that may not be as progressive as Warren or Sanders, but it’s safe to say Biden may fight harder than any other candidate to protect his BFF’s ACA, which is responsible for the massive improvements in healthcare quality for poor and black Americans from 2015 to 2017. Biden’s staying power with black voters is a big part of what makes him electable, a point that the AP’s Errin Haines Whack makes abundantly clear.
Black folks support Biden and his policies because he might be the only guy who white voters will tolerate. As far as the committee’s concerned, that’s not enough of a ringing endorsement to move up in the rankings, but you can’t drop in the face of #facts, either.
#4: Sen. Bernie Sanders
There are a couple of black folks that are held in particularly high regard by the Power Ranking committee. LaTosha Brown of Black Votes Matter. Activist, educator and slayer of Confederate Flags Bree Newsome Bass. Dream Defenders’ Phillip Agnew. The list isn’t that long but it matters to us. So when Jumaane Williams, public advocate for New York City endorsed Bernie Sanders this week, it mattered.
Williams supported Sanders in ’16 so it’s not that much of a get but he’s got weight and credibility and that matters. Sanders takes a hit this week in part because he was pretty light on black-specific policies and because apparently black people don’t like him this week. A recent poll shows 17 percent of black voters would be “disappointed” if Sanders were the nominee, higher than even Mayor Pete (14 percent) and only beaten by Mike “I don’t know about the Exonerated Five” Bloomberg (19 percent) and alt-right pinup girl Tulsi Gabbard (18 percent). Sanders generally polls third with black voters so perhaps this week is an outlier—or maybe black people realized we would exhaust every last bit of Medicare while all getting our eyes fixed after watching the rhythmless nation that is white Sanders supporters. The committee still isn’t sure.
#5: Businessman Andrew Yang
Yang more or less fell off the radar when it came to black voters last week and it shows in his drop in the rankings. No major policy drops. No significant statements, big endorsement or speeches that directly address the concerns of black voters. Yang didn’t even say anything about Kwanzaa (even though his supporters did) and he’s totally an Ujamaa guy.
So what was Yang doing all this time? Apparently raising a hell of a lot of money. Yang Gang came through with the cash, and Yang raised $16 million in the fourth quarter. Quite the haul and impressive. The committee has a suggestion on how he can spend that money, too. Forty-three percent of black voters nationally still have no idea who is. Do you know how bad it is that you’re offering a $1,000 a month and black folks are still saying “Sorry to this Yang”? Maybe he can spend some of that fourth-quarter haul on raising his profile among the voters that will make or break his campaign.
#6: Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Mayor Pete, we try too hard to like you. Actually, that’s a lie; some committee members can’t stand you, but there’s always a chance. Mayor Pete is like Michael Scott from The Office: Damn, if he’s not earnest, which only makes his inevitable racial ignorance and screwups all the more unbearable (Can’t you totally see Pete forgetting he promised a bunch of black kids that he’d pay for their tuition, then giving them copies of his Douglass Plan as a consolation prize?) Mayor Pete got a major endorsement from Lamell McMorris from the Washington D.C. chapter of the NAACP, and he even remembered Kwanzaa. His black staff must’ve been quizzing him. Then, of course, the internet, which stays undefeated, brought us more from the South Bend, Ind., mayor in the form of a 2014 PBS special where, when asked about how the founding fathers could be down with slavery, he gave the Confederacy-approved “What had happened was” answer.
The committee has to point out that many people may be ignorant of the nuances of black history. Most of us just hum the second stanza of the black national anthem; some of us don’t know that red Kool-Aid is not an actual flavor nor a traditional part of Juneteeth; and we can even forgive the person who thinks Roots: The Gift is actually a decent work of historical fiction (It’s arguably the worst black Christmas movie next to Vanessa Williams’ A Diva’s Christmas.). But by all that is black historical and holy, Mayor Pete? When you’re getting dunked on about the history of slavery from Sen. Ted Cruz, we got nothing for you.
#7: Former Gov. Deval Patrick
Ever since his “announcement,” the committee has not been able to determine exactly whether former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is running for president or if he’s just your 60-something-year-old retired uncle who is visiting churches, cookouts and parties in South Carolina, posting them on Facebook and calling it a campaign. After weeks of research, the committee has discovered the answer: Deval Patrick is, in fact, somebody’s uncle.
Further, it appears that he is actually running a campaign with real black staff and real black people. They hired DeShundra Jefferson, a former Democratic National Committee member and political consultant, who will serve as Patrick’s traveling press secretary. We don’t know how good she is yet, but Yang Gang doesn’t like her, so that’s probably a good sign. The campaign also hired Jalen Elrod, president of the Greenville Young Democrats for the South Carolina campaign as well. To top it off, Patrick was the only presidential candidate invited to speak at Mother Emmanuel’s AME Emancipation Day festivities, celebrating 157 years since Lincoln reluctantly signed the Emancipation Proclamation. For all of that work, Patrick moves up three spots this week and the committee accepts that Patrick’s campaign no longer resembles Deacon Frye’s opening montage on Amen...Now with all these last-minute hirings and disparate staff being put together, it’s more like Family Matters. We’ll know in a few weeks if Deval is playing Urkel or Eddie.
#8: Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Amy Klobuchar has decided to base her entire campaign on the idea that there are enough Obama-to-Trump voters out there in Iowa and New Hampshire to make her a contender in the upcoming super-duper white primaries. Senator, building a coalition of white Obama-to-Trump voters big enough to swing an election is about as likely as launching a successful new streaming service exclusively targeting fans who switched from watching PBS to Fox News, or from the NBA to NASCAR, or from Queen Sugar to Duck Dynasty. I mean, statistically, we know those people exist, but there aren’t many. All Klobuchar hears is “So you’re saying there’s a chance?!” A whopping 56 percent of black voters still don’t know who Klobuchar is, according to the latest YouGov poll, which suggests she might be better served going after voters who actually exist—or at least she ought to show her face at a Minnesota Timberwolves game once in a while. Usually, the committee would punish a candidate like Klobuchar for chasing after the Great White Vote with a voting coalition as demographically realistic as a white-washed version of the Cool Runnings cast, but Klobuchar gets some credit for raising $11 million, discussing the impact of gerrymandering on black voters and not throwing any binders at her staffers this week.
#9: Businessman Tom Steyer
Tom Steyer is a man on a mission. The committee isn’t sure the mission is going anywhere, but it’s making a lot of people rich and giving him a zillion frequent flier miles so who are we to judge? Except, our entire job is to judge and this week we found him lacking. Steyer, like Bloomberg behind him, is convinced he can game the primary system by spending money and running ads in late primary states in the hopes of picking up momentum before the other candidates are paying attention. Has it helped? A little bit; he’s gone up in some late states, but it’s the political equivalent of pre-ordering your gas in Georgia, Texas and Colorado today for a road trip you’ve got planned for July. It makes absolutely no sense (and is oddly similar to an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). The point is, Steyer didn’t do much for black voters this week; he’s about to run a new commercial featuring a black woman’s forum he sponsored in South Carolina, and yes, he continues to speak about how the environmental crisis of today affects black folks, but a man spending upwards of $20 million of his own money to run for president—it’s amazing he couldn’t find more ways to spend that on black people this week.
#10: Businessman Michael Bloomberg
Nobody on the committee likes Michael Bloomberg. Nobody in America should like Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg thinks he can visit a few churches and make us forget what he did as mayor of New York City—or even worse, pretend he doesn’t know what the evidence was with the Exonerated Five? I’m gonna step away from this desk for a minute and let Ava DuVernay take over…
Bloomberg is terrible on criminal justice, makes no apologies for his various errors, and what kind of Black Power Rankings committee could support a man who campaigned against grape soda? The only reason he makes the list this week is because he’s received endorsements from some black mayors, but he mostly owes his spot to Castro and Williamson dropping out of the race. Thanks again, Julián!!!