“Smart white people know how to hire black people who actually KNOW black people.”
Yours truly (Dr. Jason Johnson politics editor for the Root) and Marcus Ferrell, (former Black Outreach for Bernie Sanders in 2016) and the rest of the Power Rankings Committee came to this conclusion this week as we discussed which 2020 campaigns knew how to hire and empower black staffers and which campaigns just wanted a black face in the office. Some campaigns got it and some got got, hiring black folks whose connections and contacts in the community are worse than Diamond and Silk at a Black Lives Matter rally.
Now that we’re more than a week past the terrorist attacks in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, it’s clear which campaigns have staff actually dedicated to communicating with black voters and media. Fighting white supremacy is hard work, whether it comes at the end of a gun at a community festival or from a banker’s pen when they deny a startup loan to a black business. Consequently, there was a lot of movement this week. As usual, our ranking system is 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?
This week’s big riser is Elizabeth Warren, who jumps five spots back into No. 1 after realizing that cash rules everything around black folks. This week’s big loser? Joe Biden, who drops four spots and, quite frankly, is reminding America every week that he might just be a better general election candidate than a primary one. Kirsten Gillibrand fell off the list after a second lackluster week, and our new No. 10 will only be around for one week, but we thought it was worth it!
#1: Sen. Elizabeth Warren
After a bad week on the trail, the lady with a plan has been the only 2020 candidate sounding the alarm that another recession is around the corner and, specifically, how that could harm black folks, and how she plans to prevent that. She tweeted Van Newkirk’s brilliant article “The Great Land Robbery,” highlighting how the federal government has been stealing our 40 acres for the last century. Warren is one of the few candidates to sign a petition ending racial profiling in Des Moines, Iowa, and she’s moved into second place there. Quite the bounce-back week for her.
#2: Sen. Kamala Harris
“I don’t know her reputation, but the niggas in the hood say it’s all good.”
—2 Live Crew “Hoochie Momma” 2011
One of the biggest weaknesses in the Harris campaign has been her questionable standing with a certain contingent of black men. So for her to start the week with an endorsement from Luther “Luke” Campbell of 2 Live Crew—one of the most influential black voices in South Florida, with connections from the hood to the NFL, who just a few months penned a Miami New Times op-ed saying “Kamala is a Cop”—is worth a jump up a few spots. Maybe if Biden’s Senior advisor Symone Sanders had not slammed Uncle Luke’s (and black men’s) “unsolicited opinions,” Uncle Luke would be campaigning for Uncle Joe right now. Speaking of stolen endorsements, Harris snagged the Iowa Asian and Latino Coalition endorsement a week after Biden told them “poor kids” are just as bright as “white kids” in a speech. Coincidence? Not likely. Harris has been rolling out endorsements this week, from former Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) to Leslie Herod, the first openly gay black woman in the Colorado state legislature. To top it off, she dropped her plan to battle white nationalist terror. Harris could have moved up higher had she bothered to sign the petition against racial profiling in Des Moines.
#3: Sen. Cory Booker
Cory Booker came back down to Earth this week with some poor polling numbers. Despite visiting South Carolina more than any other candidate, he’s still stuck at 4 percent and sixth place for the third straight poll this week. And he might have his own Flint, Mich., crisis in Newark. Maybe the flavor in your Kool-Aid is lead, Senator. The good news? He came out in support of striking American Airlines caterers, most of whom are black and brown. American Airlines was literally on the NAACP “no-fly list” for a year because of rampant cases of harassment and discrimination on flights. Following up his big speech at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, S.C., Booker is one of five candidates heading to the Young Leaders Conference sponsored by Black Church PAC in Atlanta this weekend. He also wished everybody on Twitter a Happy Eid Al-Adha, which is important because over 26 percent of American Muslims are black folks and New Jersey has the second-highest population of American Muslims behind Michigan.
#4: Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro
Julian Castro’s motto this week: “Troll hard or go home!”
Castro bought a commercial this week on Fox & Friends calling Trump out for being a racist terrorist supporter, which is impressive enough. The real kicker is the ad will only run specifically in Bedminster, N.J., the media market where President Trump is vacationing. Of course, the commercial got national attention, which was a brilliant move by Castro’s campaign team. Given the empty warehouse he filmed it in, the only thing that would’ve been better is if he had taken off his shirt and starting singing, “This is America” while dancing with his entire staff.
He’s heading to the Working Families Party forum, the Black Church PAC and he gave some more detail about how he’d fix the affordable housing crisis this week, which disproportionately affects black folks.
This is Castro’s best week in a while; if he can make the Houston debate he’ll be ready for a comeback.
#5: Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Mayor Pete rolled out a fantastic new plan this week that would specifically address healthcare disparities with black women in rural America. This bold plan shows he’s finally realized the most important constituency in American politics.
So why did his comms director post the pic below of Mayor Pete and Stacey Abrams as his VP? First, if Abrams jumped into the race today she’d be ahead of him in South Carolina. Second, we get it, Mayor Pete has dropped from third to fifth in the latest primary poll out of South Carolina, but you can’t just attach yourself to Stacey Abrams for clout. Maybe he’ll make more black friends after attending the Black Church PAC Forum this weekend.
#6: Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke
Beto got back on the campaign trail this week and he was spitting hot fire— targeting racism, nationalism, the American Dream and how he was uniquely qualified to lead the nation. He dropped a new anti-hate domestic terror plan Thursday night. Plus he’s now tied with Mayor Pete Buttigieg in most national polls. There’s just one problem though: His own people don’t want him to run for president anymore. The Houston Chronicle’s “Beto Come Home and run for Senate Op-Ed” is like when you finally sit down with your cousin and tell them they aren’t getting into the NBA but they could be a really good college basketball coach.
The committee is neutral on Beto staying in the race, and as a general rule, we love that there’s a Wu-Tang Clan-sized field of people running for president. But I must admit, if he showed up at the Houston debate, stared out at the audience and said “Fuck it, I love Texas too much...I’m running for Senate,” *mic drop*, he’d win the 2020 Senate race easily. Given that Beto is polling lower than vegan ribs among South Carolina primary voters, he might want to think about it.
#7: Sen. Bernie Sanders
This week, #MyBernieStory—where supporters from around the country shared why they support the candidate was a No. 1 trending hashtag.
Sanders stood with striking workers for American Airlines. He called for Iowa Rep. Steve King’s resignation. He stood up for Reps. Tlaib and Omar against the Israeli government’s racist anti-democratic ban. For most of this week, Bernie has done well. But the committee can’t overlook his problematic tweet suggesting Medicare for all would fix the black women’s health disparities. It wouldn’t. Sen. Warren knows that and Mayor Pete even figured it out. Black women still have higher maternal mortality rates than white women even when controlling for class and education. I know Sanders hates the idea that race may actually factor more than class in some instances, but getting more doctors out of HBCUs won’t be enough. Bernie Sanders needs more people, specifically, communication people who actually know how to talk to black folks online.
#8: Former Vice President Joe Biden
Biden’s senior advisor Symone Sanders made a good point this week: The Iowa press doesn’t obsess over Biden’s “gaffes” the way the national press does. But you know what’s also true? When you make a gaffe about white kids and poor kids in front of the Asian and Latino Coalition and they endorse Kamala Harris over you, maybe #AllGaffesMatter, Mr. Vice President.
Biden’s biggest policy for black folks this week? A New York Times Op-Ed calling for a return to the assault weapons ban. That’s all you got? Further, Biden started his campaign talking about the Charlottesville, Va., terror attacks. So how does he not show up to the Charlottesville forum on the two-year anniversary? Our sources there say Biden just made a few phone calls. I guess terror is good enough to launch your campaign but not good enough to show up for?
#9: “Spiritual Guru” Marianne Williamson
If Marianne Williamson doesn’t get 8,000 new unique donors by Aug. 28 she won’t make the September debate. She’s at negative zero in most polls. She just hired a guy accused of sexually harassing women on the Sanders campaign in 2016. Why is she still on this list? Because she rolled out a Disability Rights Plan this week, which is absolutely crucial for black folks. The disabled African-American community has yet to fully recover in the current economy and is in desperate need of economic and discrimination protection.
Nice last-minute save, Marianne.
#10: Former State Rep. Stacey Abrams
Yes, we know Stacey Abrams isn’t running for president. We’ve asked. She keeps telling us no. And she keeps telling us to send back all those “Stacey for President” T-shirts we’ve got in the garage. And then she told us to get off her front yard. We stan hard.
The point is, Abrams officially said this week she will NOT run for president but is officially open to being asked to be on someone’s ticket. You know Biden, Warren and Buttigieg are all saying, “So you’re saying there’s a chance?”
Her Vogue magazine interview was a VP thirst-trap, and while Buttigieg’s people got a little overeager, the reality is, whether she was on a campaign or not, her national rollout for Fair Fight will have as much of an impact on 2020 as anything most of these candidates do.
So this will be her only week on the list (maybe? Think about it, Stacey!) Now we gotta do something with all those T-shirts.