© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Clinton And Sanders Fight To Win Black Voters In South Carolina


And as promised, NPR's Sam Sanders is with us now from South Carolina.

Good morning, Sam.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Hey. How are you?

MARTIN: I'm well. So we just heard about the political split in the Garner family, in particular.

I also want to note that the political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed Hillary Clinton this past week. Civil rights leader John Lewis praised her civil rights record and was pretty dismissive of Sanders. Here he is answering a question Thursday at the endorsement press conference.


JOHN LEWIS: Well, to be very frank - I don't want to cut you off - but I never saw him. I never met him.

MARTIN: He goes on to say that he did meet Hillary Clinton during the civil rights movement. Sam, what do you read into that language?

SANDERS: Well, it's the case of doing, like, endorsements, you know. Lots of the older black establishment - they're supporting Clinton. And lots of younger people who are part of the mindset of the Black Lives Matter, they're going for Sanders.

MARTIN: Give us the numbers. How important - how big is the African-American vote in the Democratic primary there in South Carolina?

SANDERS: It's very important. By some estimates, black voters make up half of the Dem. primary voters. They were more than half in '08. And at this stage, a win in South Carolina could do a lot help to help Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton win the nomination. And black voters matter for post-South Carolina, too.

For months now, the thinking has been that Clinton will have strong black support in this state. There will be a firewall of sorts for her. She and her husband, Bill Clinton, have a track record here with black voters, and there's a relationship there.

MARTIN: A relationship, though - a history that includes a loss in South Carolina to Barack Obama. Now, he was running to be the first African-American president. But have you heard anything there that makes you think South Carolina might not be a dependable firewall for Clinton this year?

SANDERS: Yeah. I mean, there might be holes in this firewall with young black voters. I've talked to many young black college-aged voters this week, and a lot of them have major issues with Clinton. I talked with one student who was afraid to admit that he wanted to vote for her. I talked to another student who at first was for Clinton and then we talked for about five minutes and then she was for Sanders.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

SANDERS: And for lots of these young black voters, there's a thing about Hillary Clinton that they just don't trust. And many of them are very critical over her husband's record. They speak about his '94 crime bill, which critics say put lots of black men in prison. They have problems with his bill to reform welfare, which some say hurt black families.

So these young black voters, who weren't even alive during that time, they've done their research. And they see Clinton as part of that machine that did those things. But we must point out that Bernie Sanders also voted for that crime bill, but not for the welfare reform bill.

MARTIN: Yeah. So what do you think? Is this split generational? I mean, it sounds generational.

SANDERS: You know, from what I've seen out here, it seems to be. We don't have enough data yet to say this for sure, but I think that we're seeing something happen here. And for me, what it feels like is the effect of the Black Lives Matter movement. It's resulted in this new crop of young black voters that are very critical and very nuanced in their thinking. Now, will they go vote? We don't know yet. Sanders needs their high turnout to win, so we'll have to wait and see. But let's be fair. If these divisions between older black voters and younger black voters are widespread, it's not that crazy. With most racial groups, you see people who are young vote differently than their parents and grandparents. And that's kind of what you expect.

MARTIN: It's kind of the way of the world sometimes.

SANDERS: Exactly.

MARTIN: NPR's Sam Sanders in South Carolina. Thanks so much, Sam.

SANDERS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Journalism at this station is made possible by donors who value local reporting. Donate today to keep stories like this one coming. It is thanks to your generosity that we can keep this content free and accessible for everyone. Thanks!