The newest WikiLeaks batch of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta reveals how her team—almost all white—crafted a strategy to pander to the “Black vote.”
Frank White, former Arkansas governor and friend of the Clintons, told Podesta in a February email—shortly before primaries in South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia—that, “The black is obvious super critical.” He suggested that: “A black campaign vice chair or Sr advisor would go a long way during the primary and send the message that, Hillary puts her actions where her mouth is, and actually does appreciate the black vote.”
Podesta arranged several meetings with White to discuss the issue, seen as a “firewall” for Clinton because of her high polling among Black voters. White made it clear that the secret layed with the moneyed elite.
He complained when Clinton didn’t show up to a fundraising event in January with “AfAm bundling elites.”
“Result is that donors don't feel like the campaign thinks they're important. This spreads. Squashes enthusiasm. We need more people singing her praises. Elite donors are the ambassadors of the campaign. People are taking their cue from them,” he wrote to Podesta.
White himself was constantly writing while away on business trips, from Nigeria to New York.
While “just getting back from the finance meeting in NY,” Write wrote, “It was great to see all the new Hillstarters! Folks are ready to roll… I wanted to follow up on my request to get some time on your calendar to sit with a group of business guys in NY some time in June.”
When the campaign was still preparing for primary season, Clinton’s staffers debated how to address an audience in Atlanta. Those that chimed in—all of them white—pointed out that the only time “Black Lives Matter” was mentioned was when she said she met with members of the movement.
“Do folks think we need a more direct statement on that?” asked the speechwriter.
Joel Benenson, chief strategist for the campaign, replied, “I think if we can work it in as a belief statement as she usual does --- Yes, black lives matter --- it's simple, powerful and will get applause.”
The director of speechwriting agreed that “it's always an applause line.”
In another all-white email thread, political consultant John Anzalone said that her speech to the National Urban League “made me a bit uncomfortable” since including “the term ‘white privilege’ could have press implications.”
Jim Margolis, another consultant, also said he wanted “to express nervousness on the phrase.” Clinton’s spokeswoman Karen Finney added, “I agree, I'm comfortable with systemic racism, I don't think she needs to say white privilege and felt like the first part of the speech the tone felt a little too apologist.”
As with the other email chain, African American Outreach Director LaDavia Drane ended the thread without addressing the debate.
Staffers flagged another concern in a Charleston speech at a “kind of a hybrid event” on labor. The speechwriter wrote, “the right to organize is a civil right”—and Benenson was, again, uncomfortable.
“I think people equate civil rights with the civil rights movement and I’m just a little worried that using that for the right to organize may strike some people as an overreach or equating the struggle of unions with the struggle for justice for African Americans.”
The others agreed and crossed the line out.