Clinton to call on Black Lives Matter at Dem convention

Clinton to call on Black Lives Matter at Dem convention
© Getty Images

The mothers of several African-Americans killed by police or gun violence will be put in the spotlight at the Democratic National Convention.

The Mothers of the Movement will put presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGeorge HW Bush wears 'book socks' to Barbara Bush's funeral to honor her passion for literacy Obamas, Clintons to attend funeral of Barbara Bush Hillary Clinton to fundraise in DC for public charter high school MORE’s embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement at center stage.

It will also highlight a significant contrast with Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFlynn to campaign for Montana GOP Senate candidate Trump considering pardon for boxing legend after call from Sylvester Stallone Decline in EPA enforcement won't keep climate bill from coming MORE, the Republican presidential nominee who, at the GOP convention last week, embraced a “law and order” message that is implicitly critical of Black Lives Matter.

Indeed, two speakers at the Republican National Convention, both African-Americans themselves, offered scathing assessments of Black Lives Matter, arguing it has been a divisive presence in public life.

Clinton, who is seeking to prevent a drop-off of black turnout from the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections won by President Obama, is depending on African-American voters in swing states around the country.

Seven women will take the stage on Tuesday night, including the mothers of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer; Eric Garner, a New York man killed in a chokehold by police; Sandra Bland, a woman who died in a Texas jail after a traffic arrest; and Michael Brown, whose killing by Ferguson, Mo., police in 2014 launched a national outcry at the height of the most recent campaign season.

They are expected to reiterate a message Clinton has crafted over the course of her presidential campaign: that in a dangerous world, with tension both abroad and within American communities, voters should choose Clinton and her temperament, compassion and experience as the next president. 

The former secretary of State’s underlying message — that she can help American families of every color and creed — is one that has coursed through her campaign, especially since it became clear that Trump would be the Republican nominee. 

That platform often extends beyond police violence and into other policy areas, like immigration reform or helping prevent drinking water crises like the one that occurred in Flint, Mich. 

She’s also pushed it in different mediums, from an event with new VP pick Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineHannity snaps back at 'Crybaby' Todd: 'Only conservatives have to disclose relationships?' Chuck Todd lashes out at Fox, defends wife in radio interview Overnight Defense: Trump steps up fight with California over guard deployment | Heitkamp is first Dem to back Pompeo for State | Dems question legality of Syria strikes MORE (D-Va.) earlier this month, where he hailed Clinton as a “kids and families first” president, to an ad in which children watch Trump make a string of offensive remarks, before asking, “Our children are watching. What kind of president will they see?”

Democrats think the message will have an extra kick when it’s delivered by sympathetic figures like the mothers. 

The women will “say that, look, this is a difficult issue and we ignore the shootings that are going on to our peril,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “They are going to say that, in a time of trouble, we need someone who has a high level of sensitivity and who’s not going to stoke the fire with inappropriate comments.”

The group first met with Clinton in November, and many of the mothers have campaigned with her since, especially just before the South Carolina primary last spring. Clinton’s website features an interview with many of the women, typifying the praise they’ve lavished on her this campaign. 

“It was empowering, because during that meeting, Secretary Clinton told us, ‘I need you, the mothers, to mobilize and move forward in this movement,’ ” Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, a Florida teen killed in a parking lot dispute over loud music, said in the interview. 

“But to have someone of the stature of Secretary Clinton back us up, and support us, and ask us to help champion as well, and to know that she’s championing for us and our communities, that was huge. It was monumental to me.”

The deaths are, in one way, just the highest-profile data points in a long series of killings of black Americans at the hands of authority figures. The trend has continued unabated even into this month, with police incidents in Baton Rouge, La., and Minnesota. 

It has emerged as a major political issue as the presidential race rolls on. Trump has sought to cast himself as the “law and order” candidate, projecting a tough-on-crime attitude designed to appeal to skittish voters worried about headline-grabbing violence across America. 

But Clinton has taken a different approach, embracing the Black Lives Matter movement and promising to focus on policing reforms, changes to the criminal justice system and gun violence prevention as president.

“We white Americans need to do a better job of listening when African-Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers you face every day,” she said at an NAACP convention speech last week. 

Clinton’s campaign hopes that message resonates with voters, especially the coalition of Americans that put Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaUS set to admit fewest refugees in decades: report NRATV host says Obama owes Parkland students an apology over shooting Paltry wage gains, rising deficits two key tax reform concerns MORE in the Oval Office in 2008 and 2012. 

Jamal Simmons, a D.C.-based Democratic consultant, said Mothers of the Movement will be able to speak directly to women and black voters, top constituencies for Clinton in November. Another target audience will be the young, ideological voters who sided with Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHannity snaps back at 'Crybaby' Todd: 'Only conservatives have to disclose relationships?' Chuck Todd lashes out at Fox, defends wife in radio interview Trump pressed Sessions to fire FBI agents who sent anti-Trump texts: report MORE (I-Vt.) in the primary but who will need to show up in November to help Clinton. 

Obama won more than 90 percent of black voters and well over half of women and younger voters in both 2008 and 2012, exit polling shows. 

Clinton has a strong lead over Trump among blacks, according to a June survey by Quinnipiac, and tends to carry big margins among female voters, but she has to shore up support among millennials and young voters, who are only slowly warming to her.

“I think that they are very effective with a part of the electorate that the Clinton campaign needs to be excited and motivated to turn out for her: younger voters — black and white — and liberals,” Simmons said. “I think that that’s incredibly important.” 

Cleaver said the mothers’ message will be a simple but potent one.  

“They won’t have complicated speeches,” he said. “They will be simple, that most people will be able to get. These were our kids, we loved them, just like every parent loves their own children, and our kids are gone and we want to make certain, if we can, to do what we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”