*When Hillary Clinton first announced her run for office, I questioned whether she would get the needed African American support at the ballot box on election day. Now a week after the election we can say without question that support did not come out in the numbers neither she, nor her campaign expected.
Between President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle Obama, Jay-Z and even Beyonce coming out for Clinton, black support was thought to be a given in states like North Carolina, and Florida. Instead, it was a surprising blow to see groups like black males give 13% of their votes to Donald Trump, a number that exceeded the number of votes they gave to both John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. All while in the current election Clinton only received the votes of just about 80% of black males nationally.
For those who have ignored the signs this would be the outcome the question remains why? A slumping economy, excessively high incarceration rates that are unfairly carried by black males, and the history of the affects of Bill Clinton’s policies on Black America as a whole the Clinton’s last go around in the White House all played a role.
According to a report by the Criminal Justice Institute, federal and state prison populations rose more under former President Bill Clinton than under any other U.S. president in history. America has long been in denial, but the truth is while incarceration is a national phenomenon, it is one that can best be viewed through the eyes of young black males. If Hillary Clinton had seen that fact, she might be our President Elect rather than Donald Trump. Looking at it statistically, today the “Census estimates that approximately 18,508,926 people in the U.S. population are black males, of all ages…The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Prisoner Statistics Program reports that in that 526,000 were in state or federal prisons, and, as of mid-year 2013, 219,660 were in local jails, making for a total of about 745,000 behind bars” When we take a full accounting and look at these numbers with a global context these incarceration levels are staggering. As I wrote prior, there are more black men incarcerated in America than the total prison populations in India, Argentina, Canada, Lebanon, Japan, Germany, Finland, Israel and England combined. The total populations of these countries is over 2 billion people, and all nine countries together have merely 742,000 people behind bars.
Somehow Hillary Clinton missed this reality, failing to truly acknowledge her husband’s role in the creation of this problem. One of her biggest failures was not directly addressing how she would promise to fix the catastrophe of mass incarceration. While Bernie Sanders proclaimed “I promise at the end of my first term we won’t have more people in jail than in any other country.” Clinton took a more measured position, all while many voters took notice that contributors to her campaign included lobbyist connected to the private prison industry.
Clinton felt the campaigning model set out by President Barack Obama would be enough. An approach built around having a few black celebrities make some appearances on the campaign’s behalf, visiting black shows like the pop culture radio show “ The Breakfast Club”, and doing the nae nae dance on the Ellen Show.
But all while limiting any commitment to legislation that would reverse the negative historical impact race and governmental policy has had on the black community. Hillary Clinton committed herself to the legislative policies of President Barack Obama, but failed to realize despite him being the first black President his administration’s legislation has negatively impacted black families throughout his two terms. Under Obama black home ownership hit a 25 year low of 41.7%, black unemployment hit a 27 year high of 16% in late 2011, and the Wall Street Journal reported in 2014 that only 1.7 percent of $23 billion in SBA loans went to black-owned businesses, this was the lowest level of SBA lending to black businesses ever recorded.
So many of us as Democrats overtly stated running Hillary Clinton wasn’t enough for Black America, and that there were perilous dangers in believing it would be. Before the Democratic primaries Michelle Alexander, author of “the New Jim Crow” wrote the piece “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote”, I followed closely behind it with a piece imploring Clinton to acknowledge Black America titled “Hillary Clinton Should Ask for Black America’s Forgiveness Before She Asks for its Vote”. So many saw the signs early on, except those that mattered in the Democratic party, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. All while President Elect Donald Trump brazenly addressed the economic state of American blackness, and the related poverty. He went as far as stating Black America needed a New Deal to truly see changes in their economic position. While people can argue whether his position on black poverty was correct, what is irrefutable is that as I have shown in America black wealth is nearly nonexistent when measured against white wealth. In a CNBC piece written this week on the election and his voting choice, black businessman Jack Brewer wrote,
When I finally got into the ballot booth and checked away at local, state and national Democrats on my ballot, I chose a different route for president. I voted for the hundreds of thousands and black non-violent criminals incarcerated as a result of the mandatory minimums. I voted for a more transparent system of deploying aid to underserved countries. I voted for the dream of seeing black millennial and general unemployment rates reach the levels of other races in America. I voted for the hope that entitlements will put accountability measures in place in order to keep low income black parents involved in their kids education as well as help spur job creation over well fare in some cases. I voted for a hope of making black America great again too. I voted for an end of 30 years of establishment rule in America. I voted for President Donald Trump, with hopes that God frees his mind of the bias and division long enough to do great things for blacks and all the citizens of our great nation.
I am finding that just like Brewer so many across the country felt #NeverTrump wasn’t enough, whether they voted for Trump, voted for a third party candidate, or stayed home. In contrast to Trump’s direct statements, Clinton largely sidestepped the issue of black economics answering it within a larger platform for the whole economy. An approach that clearly was not enough to win the black vote at the numbers she needed. As a result of Clinton’s blind spot on the issue of race in America, we are all left with President Elect Donald Trump to move forward with for years to come. We can only wait and see what that means for us all.
Antonio Moore, an attorney based in Los Angeles, is one of the producers of the Emmy-nominated documentary Freeway: Crack in the System. He has contributed pieces to the Grio, Huffington Post, and Inequality.org on the topics of race, mass incarceration and economics. Follow him on YouTube Channel Tonetalks.