I’m here with you, but I’m not here FOR you…
No truer words in politics have ever been said, according to Marcus Ferrell, fellow permanent Black Power Rankings judge (and former head of African American Outreach for Bernie Sanders 2016). We talked about this concept of who we’re with versus who we’re for after he had the opportunity to hear former Massachusetts governor and last-minute Democratic presidential candidate Deval Patrick last week. It’s become a bit of our philosophy here at the rankings.
It’s Christmas season (and soon, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah) and many black voters are still out there candidate shopping, so the Power Rankings are like a political Black Friday commercial reminding everybody which campaign has the best deals this week. Just like that popup ad for 65 percent off if you buy a Keurig, rent a car from Hertz, sign up for a year of Disney Plus and eat a Denny’s Grand Slam all at the same Best Buy counter, a candidate can have a ton of policies that are ostensibly good for black folks but it doesn’t mean they actually work together. Policies that help black people are not the same thing as a black agenda, and while we make sure we put up most of every campaign’s “black” policies, that doesn’t mean we think they’ll work or ultimately will help black folks. We’re here with you. Every single campaign. But that doesn’t mean we’re here FOR you. We are masters of the church clap, followed by the clapback. The polite handshake followed by shaking the table. An invite to the barbecue but you can still get that smoke. That’s because at the end of the day, the only people we’re for, over the past 20 weeks and beyond, is black folks. On to this week’s rankings!
This week’s big riser is Tom Steyer, who bought his way into our hearts and the committee rankings just like he has in the polls. Falling in our rankings? Warren, Castro, Booker and Buttigieg all fell by the same number, dropping three like a healthy Steph Curry during a blowout. How do we rank 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: Former Vice President Joe Biden
In your best Martin voice:
I mean you plotted, you schemed, and KLANK, KLANK, yes, Joe Biden, you’ve finally made it to the top spot. Are you HAPPY NOW?
Now to be fair, Joe Biden has been No. 1 on the Power Rankings before, but this week, he’s earned it again, much to the chagrin of many committee members. We hear from Biden folks. All. The. Time. But this week, you just can’t knock his hustle. While we couldn’t care less about the “Malarky Tour,” when Biden was about to throw bows at an Iowa voter for talking smack about his son, the committee became a collective BET meme. Black folks know you can’t beat Trump with love, shame or facts; you have to show him up. If Uncle Joe keeps that same energy as the Democratic nominee, he just might win this thing.
Biden also got the endorsement of the “Reckoning Crew” this week, a group of powerful black female organizers and officials in South Carolina. Basically, think of The Expendables but everybody is played by Regina King and Angela Bassett. That might explain why he’s now topping 50 percent with black voters nationally and, at this point, you can’t just chalk that up to your church aunties and parents. Biden’s topped 100 endorsements in South Carolina, including Birmingham, Ala., Mayor Randall Woodfin and the man actually remembered to shout out Tom Joyner on his last day on the air. Biden had basically his blackest week ever and comes out on top.
#2: Businessman Tom Steyer
How to run a successful presidential campaign in 2019:
1. Have a billion dollars
3. Make everybody forget about No. 2 because you have a billion dollars.
Tom Steyer has accomplished steps 1 and 2 thus far and this week looks like he’s on his way to No. 3. Steyer has been making it rain to the tune of $40 million of his own dollars into the 2020 campaign, which scored him a spot in December’s pared-down debate. The committee has heard great things about his black men’s initiative in South Carolina and he followed up with a black women’s policy panel with Feminista Jones, MC Lyte and several other activists at Allen University in South Carolina. Now we all know that MC Lyte can “cold rock” the Democratic Party, but when your policy history with black folks is as “paper thin” as Steyer, it’s pretty obvious he’s empowered his black staff quite a bit to pull off these kinds of programs. Does anybody really think Steyer knew who any of those women were on his own? Steyer also has jumped to 4 percent with black voters nationally and released an HBCU plan. While there are still voters out there who will never forgive him for what his staffer did to Harris, for this week, Steyer comes out on top.
#3: Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Warren had a relatively quiet week when it came to black folks, which is why she drops in our rankings. To be fair, she’s busy fighting off internet billionaires who are afraid of her, media types who hate her and she’s going to throw her back out punching down at Pete Buttigieg over who was the scummier laywer/consultant in their pre-woke politics days. She earned an “A” on the 2020 Racial Justice Presidential Scorecard from the Center for Urban and Racial Equity, which is a good thing. Warren has also led the way on a potential boycott of the Democratic debate at Loyola if the Local Unite Here 11 union (which is mostly black and brown people) isn’t given a fair contract by food-service provider Sodexo (a company with a labor rap sheet longer than a Sean Hannity monologue). However, there wasn’t much else the committee saw that centered black folks this week from Team Warren, but at least she didn’t try to convince us that her supporters have rhythm—there’s no plan for that.
#4: Sen. Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders’ campaign just can’t help hiring and firing and supporting and unsupporting problematic people. This week his campaign hired then summarily fired Darius Khalil Gordan as deputy director of constituency organizing after it was discovered that Gordan had posted a bunch of racist, sexist and homophobic tweets. While the committee supports the hiring of black staff—releasing Gordan made perfect sense—but the question is, how many times is this going to happen? This same week, Sanders endorsed then unendorsed Cenk Uygur (host of The Young Turks) after reams of videos of Uygur saying sexist, misogynistic and racist things started showing up online. The messy part? Endorsing a man credibly accused of misogynistic behavior running for California’s 25th congressional seat, which was vacated by Katie Hill after her ex posted revenge porn of her. Look, the committee gets it; Uygur is a progressive, Bernie is a progressive; Uygur is accused of various sexist and vulgar comments, Bernie’s campaign has a history of covering up sexist behavior and harassment; Uygur is waaaaaayyy to comfortable saying nigger, and in the week 9 Power Rankings, we made it clear that Bernie has already used his nigger and nigger-adjacent privileges but he keeps trying without a permit. Does the Sanders campaign perform no background checks on people they hire or endorse? I’ve seen better vetting at PetSmart. Usually, Bernie would drop because of something like this, but he’s jumped back into second place nationally and even scored well on the Racial Justice Presidential Scorecard. Maybe they were grading on a curve.
#5: Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro
It’s one thing to speak truth to power. It’s something else to say it with your chest. It’s entirely another to go all Rick James, put on your muddy boots and scream, “Fuck yo couch!” While sitting up in somebody’s house. That is Julian Castro. Castro went straight to Iowan voters and told them their state should no longer go first in the Democratic primary because it is no longer reflective of the party’s demographics (We couldn’t tell from the video if he was wearing muddy boots, but we can confirm that metaphorical couches were stomped). To Castro’s credit, many Iowa voters are responsive to his argument (some college students actually clapped). This week, Castro also reminded America that Stacey Abrams should be governor of Georgia, called out ICE (which deports plenty of black people by the way) and got a B+ from the 2020 Racial Justice Presidential Scorecard.
Castro drops this week because the December debate is the second debate he’s going to miss, and at some point, he needs to get back on the national stage to make a difference in this race. However, he’s probably made more of not being on stage than a lot of candidates who’ve made every cutoff.
#6: Sen. Cory Booker
Booker had a great week as far as the committee is concerned, and we’re sure he’s doing the Carlton dance as we speak for how much of an impact he’s made. He gave a shout out to Tom Joyner’s final day on the radio, he endorsed Sylvester Turner for mayor of Houston, dropped a brand new ad and talked about restoring voting rights for former felons in Florida, an issue specifically targeted at suppressing the black vote by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. Problem is, Cory can’t catch a cold let alone catch on with voters. He’s down to 1 percent in some polls, polling like Mayor Pete among black voters, got a disendorsement from Dream Defenders, missed the December debate and worst of all, subjected us to that horrific Cory in the House knockoff campaign video (see below). If you don’t remember, Cory in the House was a That’s So Raven spinoff that literally featured a teenage kid named Cory in the White House. Because his dad was head chef. So basically imagine Lee Daniels’ The Butler but there’s a teenage kid involved and it’s running on Disney Plus. Your pop-culture presidential aspirations need to be higher, Sen. Booker. You could’ve at least tried a parody commercial of Head of State or envisioned yourself as the president in Rick and Morty.
#7: Businessman Andrew Yang
Whew, Yang Gang got into their feelings after last week’s rankings, which means the committee must be doing its job. Yang gets credit this week for being the only non-white candidate to make the December Democratic debate stage and for jumping up to 3 percent of the black vote in some states. Further, NBC’s Simone Boyce did a report on how Yang’s pilot universal basic income program has worked out for eight voters.
Again, props for Yang, although this leads to why he’s running in seventh place in this week’s rankings. Do you know how many people work in Social Security? Google it, we’ll wait. Yeah, about 60,000 people for a program that provides for millions. Do you know how big a government agency would have to be for UBI to work? How long it would take to fund, how difficult it would be to get it past Congress? Waiting for Andrew Yang to answer that one.
In fact, we have a lot of questions for him. We asked the Yang campaign what his hiring and promotion practices were for black folks when he was in the private sector. Much as we give Tom Steyer hell, he has a track record in the private sector for black employment and promotion that he’s proud of. Plus, when Hasan Minaj, arguably the most prominent Asian American on television is calling you out for bojangling for white folks, our committee still feels justified in giving you the side-eye.
Asian voters in the video were mad skeptical of Yang, and trust us, when your own people are suspicious it’s not a good look (*stares in Kamala Harris*). Finally, his campaign got the #BlacksforYang hashtag trending, which was…odd. Look, obviously Yang has black support and the hashtag was promoted by Yang’s own South Carolina primary director, but you notice how there’s never been a #BlacksforWarren, #BlacksforBiden or #BlacksforBeto? Because that doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that actual black people would come up with. I mean, #BlacksforBernie was started by a GOP operative hoping to depress the black vote and #BlacksforTrump is just a signifier for a one-way trip to the Sunken Place. Do some better branding, #YangGang
#8: Mayor Pete Buttigieg
He did it. Mayor Pete hit 2 percent in black support; mind you, 2 percent only counts in milk fat and interest rates, but we have to celebrate the small victories, too. Mayor Pete’s dropped a bit in the polls, likely because he’s being scrutinized for something other than how his city failed black citizens. The Center for Urban and Racial Equity Scorecard gave him an “F” for his rhetoric matching his record, and while the committee is sure this is the first “F” that Mayor Pete has earned in his life, at least he earned it through years of neglect and lack of oversight in South Bend, Ind. Democracy in Color just released a report showing that about 99 percent of city contracts during Mayor Pete’s time as South Bend mayor went to white companies, which is even LESS than the state of Indiana as a whole under former governor and cul-de-sac klansman Mike Pence.
The committee doesn’t really care if Mayor Pete reveals everything he did for consulting firm McKinsey & Company because honestly, anything you need to know about him is already in his record or NOT in his record depending on how you look at it. Also, Pete loses points for literally shading himself in his Instagram post with Lizzo. Look, the committee gets it; Lizzo is like the Stacey Abrams of the music world; every politician wants to claim her, but are they really down? Especially Pete. How you going to post a celebrity pic when Lizzo looks like she’s in a hostage video? If that’s the best shot, you shouldn’t have shot it. Take all the DNA tests you want, Pete, you are 100 percent not that nominee.
#9: Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick
Have you ever been picked last for kickball or soccer or, even worse, a pickup basketball game? I mean it’s not the worst thing in the world, but there’s a reason why nobody asked you to play point guard the moment they walked onto the court. That’s basically the situation that the Deval Patrick campaign is in, where the vast majority of experience and effective campaign staff have already been hired, fired and rehired by the time he entered the race, so he’s left with an unproven team.
His South Carolina campaign director LaJoia Broughton is the former executive director of the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus, which is credible, but if Patrick wants any chance to compete with the more established races in South Carolina, he’s going to have to snag some of Harris’ old staff or ship in some folks from Boston.
Patrick is pitching himself as a problem solver so the committee is wondering when he’ll solve the problem of polling at less than 1 percent. Also, it’s still not clear that Patrick is actually running a presidential campaign. We got an email with his recent schedule and it read less like a presidential schedule and more like an itinerary for your retired uncle. A friend of mine said he couldn’t tell if it was a campaign schedule or the opening montage of Deacon Frye from Amen.
#10: Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar drops a bit this week, not so much because of her own failures but the moves of other campaigns. Well, let’s be honest; some of it is her fault, too. While the committee credits Klobuchar with making the December debate and discussing online voter suppression against black voters in her recent interview in Cosmopolitan, she’s still one of the least known, least recognized candidates to black voters. Honestly, Klobuchar could walk into any church meeting, barbershop, hair salon, afrocentric vegan eatery, Hotep bookstore or pickup basketball game and the first reaction most people would have is, “Wow, the lady from the Progressive Insurance commercials looks much older in person.” Also, while Klobuchar made our rankings this week, anybody who scores much lower than Mayor Pete on the gap between race and rhetoric has to drop a few spots.