The effect of racial issues on the presidential election
College students, musicians and even Scandal’s Olivia Pope have made their voices heard in the Black Lives Matter movement. But with five months until the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention, Black Lives Matter isn’t an issue that candidates are weighing in on as much as their pop culture counterparts. However, racial tensions do have a role in the 2016 election season.
Race will have a big role in the South Carolina Democratic primary, as well as, U.S. politics as a whole. South Carolina has a higher African American population than the last two primary and caucus states. Meanwhile, race also has national political importance. The number of radical right hate groups has risen 14 percent after declining for five years in a row. According to Mark Potok, a Southern Poverty Law Center senior fellow, the rise may be connected to Republican candidate Donald Trump’s comments about Latinos and Muslims in mainstream politics.
Despite that, Trump seems to be gaining a slightly diverse group of supporters. As of January some fringe pollsters have predicted that Trump is poised to take the black vote. Even Frank Luntz, a Fox News analyst, expects Trump to perform better than former President Ronald Reagan did with the African American demographic.
Endorsement from black Republicans for Trump is also more than just a prediction. In late January, the National Black Republican Association endorsed Trump as the GOP candidate that can “free black communities from the destructive grip of socialist Democrats.”
The endorsement from black Republicans hasn’t kept Trump from catching flak from Black Lives Matter supporters. On the Feb. 6, GOP debate Trump was asked how he would bridge the divide between cases of excessive force against minorities and the mistreatment of police. Afterward Trump was mocked on Twitter for his response, which stated his support for the police force and also recommended victims of excessive force to sue.
But Trump isn’t the only Republican candidate who has involvement in racial tension issues. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida spoke about the Black Lives Matter movement on The Kelly File and mentioned the institutionalized racism in the criminal justice system. Despite that criminal justice reform is not on the list of issues on his campaign website.
At CNN’s Republican Presidential Town Hall, Rubio was asked if he had ever personally felt the sting of racism. He talks about his experience with racism as a child during the Mariel boatlift. Rubio also seemed comfortable when talking about race-related challenges.
Meanwhile, the Democratic candidates for president are more vocal about their ties to Black Lives Matter and similar issues.
In the last Democratic debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont vowed to take on discrimination faced by African Americans in the job market, education, housing and the criminal justice system. Sanders also names racial justice as one of the main issues in his presidential campaign.
Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, also supports racial justice as one of her campaign issues.