In the wake of Bernie Sanders’s shocking upset over Hillary Clinton in Michigan on Tuesday, many of his supporters pointed proudly to his overperformance with black voters in the state. The Vermont senator won 32 percent of African Americans, a significant improvement from the 9-to-1 blowouts he’s suffered repeatedly in southern states.
But at least one black leader is thoroughly unimpressed. “Thirty percent of the black vote is good – for a Republican,” Al Sharpton told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. “It’s not good for a progressive Democrat.”
“Less than a third of the black vote does not show that he just did ‘all right,’” Sharpton later added. “That is not a good vote in a state with the problems you have in Flint, the problems you have in schools in Detroit, the problems you have of emergency management by the governor. I would think that for an outsider, anti-establishment candidate . . . if you couldn’t get over 30 [percent] of the black vote in a state where they have those kinds of problems, then you need to really focus again with your advisors on your black operations.”
Sharpton says he’s getting “close” to deciding to who he will endorse for president, explaining that the Michigan results “shows exactly what my concerns were” about both nominees. Clinton’s inability to attract working-class whites is a problem, he admitted. But Sharpton kept returning to Sanders’s struggles with African-American voters, in the South and elsewhere.
He poured cold water on the notion that Sanders’s ability to attract more black voters in Michigan will help him in other states. “I would not take a lot of comfort in that, because the majority of black voters live in the South,” he said. “I would advise [Sanders] that you can’t write off the vote in the South, because you’re writing off most black voters.”
Sharpton and his advisers say he plans to endorse a Democratic candidate sometime over the next five weeks – perhaps during the upcoming 25th-anniversary convention of his organization, the National Action Network.