Green Book wasn’t just the story of a white savior who centered himself in the story of a queer black genius in the 1960s. It also happened to be a real guide as to where it was safe for black folks to eat, sleep and socialize—kind of like a Black Yelp. Why does that matter? Because after 26 weeks of ranking candidates based on how their policies, rhetoric, hirings, and firing affected black people, it dawned on the committee (and by dawned, I mean Michael Harriot hit me in a group chat) that we should also rank candidates by who their supporters are.
Much as the committee prides itself on our “no new friends” mantra—trust us, we get hell from campaigns all the time; you should see the texts…in fact, we might do that one week—at some point, one of these men or women is going to be the Democratic nominee, and black voters are going to have to make friends or allies with somebody, and some of those somebodies’ supporters are more welcoming than others. So with that in mind, in addition to our regular evaluation criteria, we added a few more for this week, with the help of The Root senior writer Michael Harriot and lawyer, pundit and the Nation writer extraordinaire, Elie Mystal (who is making his SECOND appearance as a public judge on The Root Power Rankings so he’s officially in our version of SNL’s 5 Timers Club.)
We paid extra attention this week to the black supporters and endorsers of the candidates. Which candidate has the most black famous endorsements? Would the supporters of said candidate get an invitation to the cookout? Like, if a bunch of Pete Buttigieg supporters showed up would they just be able to get in line or would we tell them to wait in the parking lot for a plate because it’s too crowded under the pavilion (when it’s totally obvious that everybody is spread out in the park)?
For example, Joe Biden could just walk up to any black cookout with his entire entourage and if anybody had questions, in the immortal words of Too Short: They came with Joe, they don’t need ID. Tom Steyer? Not so much.
Lastly, if a large group of black voters showed up at an event, how would we be treated? If 30 black people showed up at an Amy Klobuchar “rally,” would they call the cops? (Klobuchar is a cop y’know; if it was good for Kamala, it’s good for her, too). Would they ask us if we were lost? Would they welcome us with open arms and offer a campaign T-shirt? With these new criteria in mind for this week, here are our rankings for week 26.
This week’s big riser? Mayor Pete. That’s right; as bad as Mayor Pete, the candidate, may be at times, his supporters aren’t so bad. This week’s big drops? Tom Steyer and Deval Patrick, whose followers we alternatively either don’t know or honestly think are paid plants.
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: Vice President Joe Biden
Joe Biden, the candidate, has had a rough week; his lead over Bernie Sanders has disappeared faster than your cheap co-worker when it’s time to split the check for lunch. With only 10 days to go before the Iowa caucuses, he got called out AGAIN by Anita Hill. Lastly, one of his black endorsers in South Carolina flipped to Bernie this week, although we have it on good authority this is more of a local spat between black power brokers in South Carolina than anything to do with Bernie. On the bright side, Biden managed to get Bernie to tuck his chain about calling him “corrupt” and Biden’s African-American numbers remain steady. So how did he jump up to first this week?
His black endorsers read like a presenter’s list at the BET Awards. He’s got more black support than a goth lingerie store. He’s got endorsers from the backyards of other candidates (Vivica A. Fox is from South Bend, Ind.) He’s got black endorsers who we’ve written about at The Root, like America’s Clapback Hero of 2019, Alabama State Rep. Juandalynn Givan. Joe Biden tops the list this week because his supporters look most like the group of black people who you’d actually socialize with on a regular basis anyway. According to Elie Mystal:
Joe Biden’s supporters are the most self-aware group of fans I’ve ever encountered. Even the most ardent of them come off like earnest life insurance salesmen: “Who will provide for your family if you, tragically, are beaten to death by robots? Joe Biden Mutual, that’s who.” Biden’s people know their candidate is flawed, know his administration would be underwhelming and know that white people in this country (themselves included if they are white) ain’t shit. They know that Trump is an epic storm. Their solution is to offer everybody, white black brown or whatever, an umbrella.
Michael Harriott agrees:
Joe Biden is the only candidate who actually has received and used an invitation to a black cookout. He’s also the only candidate who’s ever had a black boss, which is why he has the most influential endorsement of all: Your grandma.
#2: Businessman Andrew Yang
There has been a #YangSurge in the last week, with the candidate jumping up to fourth place over Mayor Pete and Klobuchar in a recent Emerson poll (even though the survey is less than 500 people, so it’s trash). So clearly something is working. He, like other candidates, is spending most of his time in Iowa, so why does he move up this week? Well, getting an endorsement from Marianne “I love reparations and so should you” Williamson helps but also because quite a few committee members felt like #YangGang would be the second-best group of supporters for black voters to hang with.
I’m not saying Andrew Yang would be invited to the cookout, but after his on-beat performance wearing a pastor’s anniversary choir robe at a black church, we now know he has at least enough rhythm to perform a rudimentary Cupid Shuffle without bumping a cousin, causing a Kool-Aid spillage. Andrew Yang’s supporters would never harass anyone. But, every now and then, when you’re weary of the political infighting, racial insensitivity or the overall whiteness of the race, a Yang Gangster will pop in and say: “Hey, don’t forget Andrew Yang is running!” And for a moment, you feel OK...Until a Bernie Bro pops in and starts shitting on everything.
Others felt like the Yang Gang is that highly diverse crowd that seems cool to hang with until one of them gets too comfortable and says something racist and jacks up the entire evening. We’ve written extensively in the Power Rankings about how Yang’s support among the alt-right is worrisome, and you can just imagine a bunch of Yang Gangers starting a fight by insisting that Mac Miller is a top 5 all-time rapper, then get indignant when they can’t say “nigga” while singing Future’s “Life is Good.” However, for this week at least, a group of young, highly dedicated supporters who want to give everyone an extra $1,000 a month to live aren’t the worst people for black folks to ally with.
#3: Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Mayor Pete just discovered racism existed a few months ago, but his supporters? Well, they been knowing. Online Buttigieg supporters can be a bit sensitive and that’s putting it nicely, but when Michael Harriot, who has become Mayor Pete’s personal kryptonite and enemy No. 1 with the Buttigieg staff, has something nice to say about Peteniks? It’s worth a huge jump in the Power Rankings this week.
Pete Buttigieg’s followers aren’t quite as vicious as MAGAmuffins or Bernie Bros. They’re just desperate. Instead of countering any point about Pete’s past, they resort to “whataboutism.” In their heads, anyone who disagrees with Pete is either homophobic, closeted gay, or just don’t understand that he’s the choice of a new generation of boat shoes-wearing white moderates. Pete Buttigieg would tell you that he has often been invited to hundreds of black cookouts, all of which he was excited to attend. Unfortunately, he couldn’t attend any of them because of a previous engagement but he has put together a comprehensive future cookout invitation plan that he will enact in his first hundred days as president.
Mayor Pete’s supporters are like your younger sister when she’s in love with a guy’s potential. No matter how many times you tell her that a 30-year-old man with no driver’s license, starting his fifth Ph.D. program and still sharing his Mom’s Netflix password, isn’t ready for the job of husband and father, she doesn’t care. She’ll swear you’re just not giving him a chance. And that you’re a homophobe.
Anyway, Mayor Pete hosted events with Angela Rye and Charlamagne Tha God this week, who aren’t endorsing him, but it at least puts him closer to blackness in a way that seems hopeful. He needs it because the only place that’s more upside down than Pete’s numbers in South Carolina is Hawkins, Ind.
If you show up at a Mayor Pete campaign office, they’ll probably cheer, put you on every campaign flyer (because they finally won’t have to fake black support) and promote you to senior secretary of negro outreach. Until someone on Pete’s staff informs him that negro is no longer an appropriate term, then he’ll apologize and claim he didn’t know. In other words, if black folks’ only chance at getting rid of Trump is with a coalition of well-meaning, virtue-signaling white people and some highly questionable black folks, it’s not so bad. That’s basically the Democratic Party in a nutshell.
#4 Sen. Elizabeth Warren
I tweeted months ago that Warren’s supporters are the nicest people online and even the ones I’ve met in person are very friendly. They take after their candidate, who is basically what would happen if you mixed the DNA of Betty White and Miss Frizzle but gave her a Ph.D. in economics. Her poll numbers have dipped a bit, but her campaign just topped three million donors, and while nobody black cares about her New York Times endorsement, she’s got a pretty good set of African-American validators out there helping her while she does Trump jury duty.
Ayanna Pressley endorsed Elizabeth Warren. Julian Castro endorsed Elizabeth Warren. Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady on Twitter) endorsed Elizabeth Warren, Franklin Leonard, black-famous founder of the Black List, endorsed Elizabeth Warren. With Kamala Harris out of the race, Elizabeth Warren has a stranglehold on endorsements from black and brown people I’d like to be like when I grow up. Her black support isn’t as deep as Biden’s or “celebrified” as some other candidates, but she’s being repped by people who matter.
And her white supporters don’t crawl up your ass every time something negative is said about her on the internet. You can even criticize Warren’s record on race and not fear your mentions are going to be drenched in white women tears. I’ve got no problems with Warren people.
#5: Businessman Mike Bloomberg
Do you like mayors? Do you like money? Do you like mayors and money? That’s Mike Bloomberg for you. His Mayor’s Initiative at Harvard has given him access and endorsements from a number of influential black mayors, and that means organizers on the ground and safe spaces for black voters. The committee has maintained that Bloomberg’s record on race and black people is terrible. But he’s continuing to go up in the polls and has been oddly getting traction, as we’re hearing from black voters everywhere from Texas to Tennessee and places in between who think you might need to fight one blatantly racist millionaire from New York with another billionaire from New York who only enforced racist policies. Although to his credit, Mike has that ether for anyone who makes that comparison.
He’s got endorsements from Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and honestly, those are black folks who know better and carry weight, so Bloomberg moves up a bit this week. We imagine hanging out with Bloomberg supporters to be like a fancy reception at your city’s annual 100 Black Men Charity Ball. Everybody there is paid in full, or is gonna get paid, or is paid off. Although you would leave with a dope goodie bag full of expensive gifts, so it’s almost like hanging out with another New York millionaire Derek Jeter, except unlike Jeter, you don’t have to sleep with Bloomberg to secure the bag. Allegedly.
Bloomberg gave a “powerful” speech in Tulsa, Okla, about American racism and vows to battle the racial wealth gap in a new policy rollout. So in a week when most campaigns were solely focused on white voters in Iowa, he moves up for keeping his eyes on the electoral prize.
#6: Businessman Tom Steyer
Steyer continues his quest to be the Synclaire James of the 2020 candidates; always friendly and optimistic, calling for peace between Bernie and Warren, only for Bernie to hit him with the coldest “You still here?” move we’ve seen since Gloria Richardson met a segregationist cop. (And yes that might be the ONLY time we compare Sanders to a civil rights Icon).
Yeah, but how does Bernie feel about you Tom?
Steyer has caught some real momentum in South Carolina, but his crowds only work depending on where you are. If you’re in South Carolina, a Steyer crowd is great, if you’re in Iowa, the crowd is...nonexistent. So this week he drops. But, as Michael Harriot says, I’m sure his supporters have their reasons.
Fighting with Steyer or Bloomberg “supporters” is like fighting with the janitor who works at a company you don’t like. Like, what’s the brother supposed to say? “Man, I got bills.”
#7: Sen. Bernie Sanders
There are two types of woker-than-thou black cousins in the family: There’s Cheryl, who came back from her first semester at Spelman insisting she can now only be addressed by her slam poetry name “Freedom Vagina Dynasty,” who corrects everyone’s pronouns and refuses to eat anything that can give birth, dream of a better tomorrow or create a carbon footprint. Then there’s Taylor, who came back from her first semester at Columbia refusing to talk to anybody for months but who keeps posting cryptic messages on Instagram about how black men are problematic and Black Lives Matter failed to center enough trans women. Taylor is SURE the family will reject her interracial lesbian romance with Jen—with two N’s—(she’s got a whole speech ready on her iPhone). Of course, when the family totally hits it off with Jenn (turns out she learned how to play Spades from her stepdad), Taylor is furious because her wokeness only works when she can antagonize others. The thing is, you love Cheryl (sorry, Freedom Vagina Dynasty) and you can’t stand Taylor and they’re BOTH Bernie supporters. That’s the problem; you just never know what you’ll get as a black voter if you went to a Sanders’ campaign office.
The committee universally loathes Sanders’ supporters online; we don’t even post half the stuff they say to black people because we’re sure our editors would demand we take off two days of work for self-care. Plus, a third of them are bots, but they’re amplified by his incredibly problematic staff and supporters. As for the rest of his supporters, it’s like Russian roulette of problematic people. So he drops.
Bernie World could include white liberal racist “journalists” like Glenn Greenwald, and Michael Tracey, who are way more passionate about defending the free speech rights of the alt-right than they are black folks. Or it can include respected journalists like Medhi Hasan. Even Sanders’ black support is complicated; who wouldn’t want to go door knocking with Jumaane Williams or Phillip Agnew, but you know Killer Mike would say something foul at the barbecue to your feminist aunt and all hell would break loose before the meat was done. And then there’s Shaun King...
Bernie’s biggest endorsement is from Shaun King, who raised $9,303,039 in campaign donations on GoFundMe. Why are you asking for receipts? Why can’t you just trust him?
Bernie’s been in Congress for 30 years, and the ONLY CBC endorsement he can get is Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) ? No shade, but we’d rather spend our day phone banking with Ayanna Pressley, the American Dora Milaje.
So while Bernie is surging in the polls this week, he’s become more of a sore winner, centering white pain (as usual) during his New York Times interview while a leaked document has come out showing that his travel preferences are more obnoxious than Steve Harvey’s (seriously, how does your staff guarantee you don’t have a slow flushing toilet?).
#8: Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar got the New York Times endorsement, along with Elizabeth Warren, which not only means absolutely nothing to the committee but it proves that one of our seasoned citizens from the Week 24 Presidential Black Power Rankings was absolutely right in their assessment of the two.
To her credit, the first two Klobuchar supporters I ever met were black women in Georgia and D.C., neither of whom worked for her, so that’s saying something. However, the only black endorser of Klobuchar we could find was Melvin Carter III, the mayor of St. Paul, Minn. Klobuchar’s consistent lack of black messaging and the reality that we can barely find any supporters says she might not be the candidate who black folks want to settle down with. According to Michael Harriot:
I will do an extensive rant on Amy Klobuchar’s black followers as soon as she gets one. She was endorsed by the gluten-free editorial board of the New York Times, though, which is the ultimate white liberal endorsement. If newspapers were people, the NYT would be calling the police on you niggas. Amy Klobuchar declined the invitation to the cookout because she’s allergic to seasoning salt.
Equally unimpressed with Klobuchar’s supporters was Elie Mystal:
Chris Rock once joked: “Ain’t no black people in Minnesota. Only black people in Minnesota are Prince and Kirby Puckett.” Looking at the Klobuchar supporters, I’m forced ask “where’s the lie??”
If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did the tree really fall? What’s the sound of one hand clapping? What’s the impact of Klobuchar not being on the campaign trail with black voters in South Carolina for a week during impeachment? The answer to all three is the same. Nope. Nothing and nada. Klobuchar doesn’t fail enough to fall, but she doesn’t rise this week either.
#9: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
Michael Harriot: Contrary to popular belief, Tulsi Gabbard’s supporters aren’t real bots. They’re actual Russians. I would actually invite Tulsi to a cookout because she’s the only candidate I feel could hold their own if a fight breaks out on the Spades table. I don’t know why, but I just feel like Tulsi Gabbard knows karate.
Maybe not karate, but hanging out with Gabbard supporters would probably be like hanging out with Tea Party folks back in 2010. They’ll SWEAR they aren’t racist tin-foil, hat-wearing conspiracy rubes. These are the folks who were inspired by The X-Files as teenagers in the ’90s and think Alex Jones is a true martyr. Plus, while her pushup contest with a supporter was cute, we get the distinct impression that a Gabbard campaign volunteer meeting might include suicides around the local high school track, skeet shooting and a Spartan Run where you lose if you get your white suit dirty. And that she just might kill you (We’re kidding...kinda).
Gabbard has already shown she has no real affinity for black voters, and if there was any indicator of where she stood on issues of importance to black people, just note that she spent impeachment night gaslighting America on Fox News, playing Tucker Carlson’s alt-right poster girl. Many of Gabbard’s followers have been sucked up by Yang, so at this point, so if you walk into a room and there’s nothing there but a few scattered chairs, some blue hats and a half-eaten bowl of poke, then you know her support has gone the full Deborah Cox.
#10: Former Gov. Deval Patrick
We asked our contacts at the Patrick campaign who their biggest black endorsers are, but they won’t release them yet. Like that friend in high school who swears he’s got a hot girlfriend but she’s from out of town and is too shy to have any social media, and oh, look you JUST missed her, she was walking out of the Safeway right behind you, wearing a bright red fedora, some Crocs and purple tutu while waving hi. Sorry you missed her. If someone emailed the committee claiming they were a Deval Patrick supporter, I’d think we were being catfished.
Finding a Deval Patrick supporter is like finding someone who agrees with your strangest pop culture hot takes. I maintain Quantum of Solace is the best Roger Craig James Bond movie. I put Wild Wild West in the top 10 Will Smith movies of all time. Frosted Apple Pop tarts are the best. When I find another person who holds those beliefs, they’ll probably also be a Deval Patrick supporter. And I’ll also totally marry them because you just don’t get that lucky in life twice. It’s not clear if Patrick is campaigning for vice president or just adding frequent flier miles to his AmEx, but he’s still out there campaigning and doing,,,something.