Greetings from the Extended Stay America motel in Fort Lauderdale, just a few blocks from the Fort Lauderdale/Broward CountyConvention Center. That’s where three of the Democrats running for president: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley — will be addressing the thousands gathered at the National Urban League’s annual meeting.
The event comes a couple of weeks after Sanders and O’Malley were bum-rushed by some #BlackLivesMatter activists at the NetRoots Nation conference in Phoenix, causing some tension between the establishment Democrats and the black activist movement, which hasn’t embraced Sanders as warmly as other elements of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing this year.
Though there may be some young activist types in the audience this morning, let’s be honest. This is the Urban League, which in my mind is even more establishment and old school than the NAACP. One would think it’s pretty safe territory for all of the candidates.
But it’s still an important speech for Sanders. Talking about all the work he’s done on civil rights going back to the 1960s simply isn’t going to cut it with the Black Lives Matter activists, who are angry and emboldened by some of the horrific incidents that have taken place between law enforcement and black people over the past year.
While some may question what really what went down with Michael Brown in Ferguson and Freddie Gray in Baltimore, there have been too many incidents captured on video over the past year that have shown egregious behavior toward blacks — Eric Garner and Sandra Bland and this week’s incident in Cincinnati, to mention some obvious examples.
Hillary Clinton seems to get it, and that’s important for her. Most analysts don’t expect blacks to back any Democrat like they backed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but it would certainly help the nominee’s chances if they did. Clinton has spoken in the tones that appears to be aware that she gets it.
Sanders is working on it. And O’Malley? I’ll be interested in what he says today, and how the crowd reacts to him.
There are two Republicans who will be speaking today. Dr. Ben Carson, who yes, is the only African-American candidate in the race, and Jeb Bush.
Yesterday, Alex Leary with the Times posted much of Bush’s scripted remarks for the Urban League. Supposedly he will address his infamous comment he made while running for governor in 1994 when asked what he would do for the black community — “Probably nothing,” he said. We look forward to how he finesses that.
In other news…
Hillary Clinton has a substantial lead over Bernie Sanders in a St. Pete Poll survey of Democrats in Florida. Meanwhile, the Democratic Senate race is a dead-heat.
The Donald — Trump, that is — continues to lead nationally among fellow Republicans.
And learn more about GOP 2016 Senate candidate Todd Wilcox.