Juan Williams: Black divisions matter in Dem race

Juan Williams: Black divisions matter in Dem race
© Getty

In all of Congress, only two Democrats have endorsed Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Hispanic Caucus lawmaker won't attend meeting with VP Harris's new aide The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat MORE, the independent senator and democratic socialist from Vermont.

How can that be?

Already, close to half of Iowa Democrats and nearly two-thirds of Democrats in New Hampshire have voted for him as the party’s presidential nominee.


The gap separating Capitol Hill Democrats and primary voters is similar to another political black hole. The leading candidate on the Republican side, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Laura Ingraham 'not saying' if she'd support Trump in 2024 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Djokovic may not compete in French Open over vaccine requirement MORE, doesn’t have any Congressional endorsements.

In the 2016 cycle, members of Congress in both parties are far removed from the populist passions energizing grassroots voters.

In Sanders’s case not one of his fellow Senate Democrats — not even liberal heroine Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Memo: 2024 chatter reveals Democratic nervousness We are America's independent contractors, and we are terrified Fed's Brainard faces GOP pressure on climate stances MORE of Massachusetts — has endorsed him.

The absence of support is evidence of an emerging divide between Congressional Democrats and left-wing voters — leftist young white people excited by Sanders, but also young black people.

Young black activists, many of whom are strong supporters of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, see their political identity as existing outside the old structures, white or black. One BLM leader last week turned her back on an invitation to meet with President Obama at the White House. Aislinn Pulley described the event as a “sham.” 

That mindset also underpins some of the fiercest criticisms of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat Left laughs off floated changes to 2024 ticket A year into his presidency, Biden is polling at an all-time low MORE as the establishment candidate. Some of the loudest voices in BLM seem less invested in working for Sanders than in launching attacks on Clinton's centrist image. 

“You get to the 80s, [Clinton's] chairing the Children’s Defense Fund. But in the 90s, she's pushing the the 'superpredator' theory [which suggested] there were some children that were so sociopathic that by age six months they were beyond redemption,” said Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP who is supportive of BLM. “It's not just a violation of psychology, it's a violation of theology.”

Wow. Talk about jumping the shark.

Acknowledging that there are damaged children is a sign of dealing with reality. The CDF, founded by Marian Wright Edelman, has done a lifetime of relentless work to help poor, disproportionately black children.

But there is more from the far left. Professor Cornel West, a persistent Obama critic, recently told talk show host Bill Maher that “the word integrity is not the first word that comes to mind” when talking about Clinton.

So are Jealous and West a true reflection of black voters? Has the black caucus been left behind?

Earlier this month, Public Policy Polling (PPP) surveyed African American Democratic voters nationally and found that 79 percent of them view Clinton favorably and 9 percent view her unfavorably. Just 11 percent are unsure. By contrast, Sanders has a 27 percent favorable rating, 23 percent unfavorable and 50 percent unsure.

The poll shows black voters are closer to the opinion of black members of Congress than to the BLM activists.

But that does not mean the young, activist black Americans are politically isolated. The caucus and the majority of black voters share their frustration with the hard road faced by so many poor young black people on a number of issues — but most especially, and most viscerally, cases of abusive treatment by police. 

On a daily basis, however, anger among liberal Democrats is primarily directed at the extreme, obstructionist positions taken by the far right to thwart the first black man in the White House, President Obama. 

Just last week, the New York Times reported on anger among black Americans who view as racist the refusal by Senate Republicans to consider anyone the president nominates for the Supreme Court.

In this divide between blacks in Congress and BLM, it is worth noting that according to the most recent NAACP Civil Rights Legislative Report Card, Sanders has a 100 percent rating for supporting the black political agenda in Congress.

Additionally, the only two House Democrats standing with Sanders are minorities: Rep. Raul Grijalva (Ariz.) and Rep. Keith EllisonKeith EllisonDaunte Wright family lawyers call for 'strongest and most just sentence' for ex-officer Ex-officer Kim Potter found guilty in fatal shooting of Daunte Wright Attorney says ex-officer will testify at trial in Daunte Wright killing MORE (Minn.).

Ellison’s decision to support Sanders puts him at odds with the entire Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), a group usually at the vanguard of left-wing politics. 

The CBC’s PAC formally endorsed Clinton this month, ahead of the crucial South Carolina Democratic primary, where it is expected that at least half of the Democratic electorate will be black.

Sanders’s limited support among black voters is coming mostly from people who reject the black political establishment. 

For blacks in Congress, the preference for Clinton has to do with her record.

"One of the individuals …with us time and time again has been Hillary Clinton — she has been, her whole career, an individual that has been fighting for issues that are important to the African-American community," Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said in announcing the CBC’s endorsement for Clinton.

Another CBC Member and New York Democrat, Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesClyburn says he's worried about losing House, 'losing this democracy' Inflation offers steep hike for Biden House Democratic conference postponed due to COVID-19 MORE, was even more pointed.  

"Bernie Sanders as mayor, as a member of the House, as a member of the United States Senate, has been missing in action on issues that are important to the African Americans," said Jeffries. 

"Hillary Clinton has been a true friend to the African American community for the last 40 years," he added.

Perhaps most damaging, Rep. John LewisJohn LewisPelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights The arc of the moral universe will bend toward justice—but only if we pull it Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown MORE, (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon, threw cold water on Sanders work as an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNVCC), saying “I never saw him. I never met him.”

To young Democrats shunning the establishment, all that matters is that Sanders is the candidate calling for “revolution.” 

On the other hand, every one of the Tea Party revolutionaries on the right prefers a general election race against Sanders than to have to face Clinton.

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel.

This story was updated at 1:13 a.m.