July 23, 2015


Why Hillary Clinton and her rivals are struggling to grasp Black Lives Matter (Wesley Lowery and David Weigel, July 22, 2015, 

The activists made their biggest campaign splash last weekend in Phoenix, at the annual Netroots Nation conference, when they disrupted the joint appearance by Sanders and O'Malley. Clinton did not attend the gathering.

Some activists already had begun to view Sanders and O'Malley with skepticism.

Some had expressed concern, for instance, that Sanders -- whose elections in heavily white Vermont had not involved much outreach to black voters -- was not talking about race in his presidential campaign.

And O'Malley had earned mixed reviews from a meeting a few days earlier in New York with more than half a dozen Black Lives Matter organizers. Several in attendance said that he stuck to "talking points" and that he was not ready to discuss specifics, although Karine Jean-Pierre, O'Malley's deputy campaign manager, said he made it clear that his goal was to "listen and hear what they had to say" and that he was "thinking through the policy."

At Netroots Nation, the two candidates may have expected to receive a warm welcome. Instead, they seemed to wilt under the questions of protesters, who stormed the space around the stage and recited the names of black people who have been killed in confrontations with police.

Many liberal activists consider the episode an embarrassment for the two candidates, who appeared ill prepared to respond to questions many thought they should have expected.

Sanders threatened to leave the stage as demonstrators demanded that he repeat the name of Sandra Bland, a black woman who died in a Texas jail cell this month.

Then he canceled a series of meetings he had scheduled with some of the activists following his appearance -- something they found out only when ­campaign manager Jeff Weaver showed up in Sanders's stead.

"I think they were trying to stanch the bleeding from the larger conversation about Sanders, that he's not talking about issues of color in his stump speech," said Elon James White, co-founder of a popular online broadcast, "This Week in Blackness." "And then [they] canceled."

O'Malley, invoking a phrase that has brought Clinton criticism before, responded by telling the protesters: "Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter."

Within days of the Netroots Nation gathering, both candidates were scrambling to make amends.

Where's A. L. Levine when his party needs him?

Posted by at July 23, 2015 5:38 PM

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