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The rift between Black millennials and the Black political leadership class has widened ahead of the California primary, says Margaret Prescod, host and producer of Sojourner Truth.

The Sanders campaign in California “feels much more like a movement” while the Clinton campaign appeals more to “the political establishment,” adds Prescod.

She says the black political elite “has fallen in line in the Hillary camp,” though some of Sander’s notable supporters include activists and entertainers Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte.

Prescod speculates that Clinton is holding smaller events in California because Sanders would likely pull larger crowds than she can, suggesting that the primary race will be closer than anticipated by some polls.

Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are both campaigning in California, head of the June 7th primary where some polls are showing the two in a dead heat while others have a wider spread.  Now joining me to discuss all of this is Margaret Prescod. She is host and producer of Sojourner Truth aired on KPFC in California and Syndicated Nationally. Margaret it’s so good to have you with us.  MARGARET PRESCOD: Thank you Sharmini. Good to be with you. PERIES: Margaret, you’ve been covering the campaign out there and you’ve been listening to a lot of people across the state on your radio show. Give us a sense of the difference styles that the two candidates are having. From what I can see Bernie’s having large rallies and a lot of people coming to them and Hillary seems to be having smaller meetings and dinners and so on. Give us a sense of that. PRESCOD: Well Bernie’s style definitely represents has much more of a movement feel. They’re huge rallies that have gone on in many different parts of the state many different communities from Ventura County to East Los Angeles to Oakland in northern California to a large event held at a black church in Oakland, California. In Carson which is close to the South Bay area in Southern California and they’ve all been massive, they’ve all been twenty thousand or more I heard that in Oakland. Maybe as many as thirty thousand people. So it definitely has that feel of a movement. A very high percentage of young people that are involved in it. In contrast, Hillary she’s doing much smaller venues. When Hillary came to Los Angeles for example she was met with protesters who shut down the road and made clear that she was not welcome. A lot of the young Latino Latina activists. Donald Trump has had some of the same treatment as well but that was interesting that Hillary got that kind of reception.  Bernie on the other hand, there are billboards for Bernie in east Los Angeles. Lincoln Heights which is a Lincoln Park a very old Latino Mexican American community in Southern California there was a huge Bernie rally there so you definitely see the contrast in styles. Hillary meanwhile has gone to smaller venues with some people that may be described as the political establishment. She was in South Los Angeles with Congresswoman Karen Bass. She’s gone to some union halls meeting with some of the local union people. But the venues are definitely much more contained if you know what I mean and it doesn’t have that feel of a movement, of the Feel the Bern movement. And some people are speculating that the reason that is that Hillary just wouldn’t pull out those kind of crowds.  So though she tried to do similar events there would be such a stark contrast with the crowd Bernie is able to pull out and Hillary is able to pull out. So it’s an interesting, interesting contrast there. PERIES: Margaret to both the African-American community and the Latino community are both very important to the candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders if they’re going to win this primary. How are they responding to the candidates? PRESCOD: Well certainly on the Latino, I mean the Latino vote very important. You know 27% when we’re looking at the numbers here and we see very strong support for matter of fact, Bernie has an official campaign office on the East Side in East Los Angeles and they’ve been very active involving the community. They have community forums to discuss things like immigration. Bernie was down at the U.S. border the California-Mexico border.  So there are events that happen in the evenings there’s canvassing going out. I recently was at an event at Cal State L.A. where Angela Davis was the featured speaker. The hall the auditorium was packed. Interesting Lee enough because it was put out by the African-American program their department at Cal State L.A., it was overwhelmingly black but a good percentage of Latinos were there as well and where Bernie’s name was mentioned, when Angela mentioned Bernie’s name the whole place just went up in applause and that gives some indication. Of course these are all young people and among young black millennials Bernie is definitely holding sway. That is in contrast with some of the older black people who for a number of reasons feel more familiar with Hillary, more familiar with the Clintons’ and so tend to vote more on the Hillary side. But in terms of black, young black voters they definitely tend to lean towards Bernie.  PERIES: Margaret, it is true that there is a lot of black young people out there supporting the Bernie Sanders campaign and they’re out there at the rallies. But I’m noticing across the country that the black political leadership class and some of them progressive out there in California are behind Hillary Clinton in this campaign. Is this what you’re noticing out there as well? PRESCOD: The black leadership class of the black political class you see overwhelmingly for Hillary. You have a Congresswoman Karen Bass whose roots were in as a community organizer. You see Congresswoman Maxine Waters, I mean everybody has fallen in line in the Hillary camp.  I understand that Congresswoman Barbara Lee, she initially didn’t do an early endorsement of Hillary but I understand that she now has been named by Hillary as one of her Hillary’s representatives at the D.N.C. to help draft the program, the agenda there for the D.N.C. So we’ll see where she stands. But you see people who are very well known and loved in the black community like actor and activist Danny Glover. Danny remains extremely popular in the black community. You also see people like Harry Belafonte standing with Bernie. So there is a is a contrast. Then in terms of the Hollywood set you see Susan Sarandon, a strong supporter for Bernie as opposed to some of the others in Hollywood. So we see a real a real contrast there and among the black church, you know the black church still hasn’t and influence and Bill Clinton was in Southern California early meeting with the black ministers and I think one can assume that a progressive a black vote, let’s say the listeners of Sojourner Truth we’re nationally syndicated so our listeners in California but also our listeners in other cities in D.C., for example likely have a good chance of voting for Bernie.  But there’s a swath of younger black people who feel well we don’t know about Bernie we may not want to vote or you know some churchgoing black people that need to get to know Bernie a bit better and it is true that people have found out more about Bernie, about what he has stood for and understand where Hillary Clinton has been let’s say relation to Haiti. That Martelly who was the President of Haiti, forced out by the grassroots movement there. He became President of Haiti with the backing of Hillary Clinton. They’ve played a very destructive role in terms of the fight for democracy in Haiti. Some black people have not forgotten that.  We also look at the role Hillary Clinton played in Honduras with the coup that happened against Manuel Zelaya. And there seem to be a bit of a difference between the President Obama and Hillary’s State Department in terms of that coup and Berta Caceres, she after actually fingered Clinton before she was she was assassinated. She was killed recently.  So all of that is in the mix in southern California when you’re looking at the Latino communities, many of whom knew about Bertha. When you look at the black community here, many of whom know about Haiti, people do consider. You put that in the mix along with President Clinton’s role in mass incarceration, his crime bill, as well as welfare reform and a lot of people say well that wasn’t Hillary that was really Bill. But frankly speaking Hillary did nothing to stop it. She makes a lot, a big deal about going to work for the Children’s Defense Fund and as a young woman. But what is left out of that mix is that when welfare reform was passed, Peter Edelman the husband of Marian Wright Edelman that Hillary calls up you know founder of Children’s Defense Fund, he resigned in protest from the Clinton administration. So those are like details that tend to be left out and certainly in communities like South Los Angeles feeling very much the impact of mass incarceration, feeling very much the impact of the dismantling of the safety net and the vulnerability of mothers in particular, the fastest growing population going to prison. Black mothers in particular, that’s a very hidden fact and a lot of that has to do with destruction of things like welfare reform, not having access to an income, to a living wage, and that sort of thing.  So these have not been areas that Hillary focused on Bernie with his message on the economy. His message against mass incarceration and wanting to do something about that. You know people when they hear it, they’re listening. The thing is that they have to hear it and you and I may know that there’s really been a white out in so many fronts of Bertie’s campaign and getting the message out to people who would welcome it if they knew more about it.  PERIES: Margaret, some polls as I said in the beginning of this interview are showing the two candidates in a dead heat. But others are having a wider spread in terms of the numbers. Give us a sense of what they’re saying and what you think what the outcome will be. PRESCOD: well you’re right. What we’re hearing Hillary only 2 percentage points ahead of Bernie which basically is a dead heat. Now that is a poll from the Public Policy Institute of California. In contrast there’s another poll, A.B.C. Survey USA, that has Hillary ahead by eighteen points. So the thing is, who are you going to believe really?  I mean if you look at the rallies, the enthusiasm that Bertie is getting, it’s very easy. See to believe that there is a dead heat right. So we’ll see what happens on Tuesday. If there is a high turnout. If young people actually do make it out to the polls. If Latinos do make it out to the polls. If black progressive people do go out to the polls. It doesn’t look as though Bertie has a chance of making a huge upset in this race by taking California. And frankly speaking, even if Hillary does win California and it’s very close that still gives Bernie some momentum going into the convention in Philadelphia.  So there’s a lot of enthusiasm there’s a lot of hopefulness still around the Bernie campaign here and people who are determined not to cave in and not to start negotiating about well what would happen if Bertie doesn’t win. People are still at it. We’re in it to win it, that’s what Bernie says. He’s in it to win it and certainly the most ardent Bernie supporters absolutely believe that. How will explain the contrast in polls? Who knows? You know there have been complaints about polls in terms of who actually gets polled, how many Latinos are in that mix, how many in the black community are in that mix, is it L.A. City? How much of the city how much is it out more in the in the suburbs or more conservative areas?  So look, you know, what do you say. Pollsters have been wrong before. PERIES: Margaret, also I just want to ask you, there is a lot of criticism also about Bernie Sanders out there in terms of the African-American community who say that he hasn’t properly positioned his campaign when it comes to the African-American community and been out there with them. What do you say to that? PRESCOD: Well there is talk of that and there is some concern around that and people are saying well if you look at Bernie’s schedule they seem to be able to confirm these rallies in other communities. He hasn’t quite hit the heart of South Los Angeles and there’s an office though in South Los Angeles. It’s run by volunteers and it’s also funded by volunteers it’s not an official Bernie campaign office so people are also scratching their heads and say do you mean that the resources weren’t there for there to be an official staffed by Bernie staffers a campaign office in South Los Angeles? Others are saying well if you have the influence of very popular black congresswoman in particular, you have a Kerry Bass, you have a Maxine Waters, people are feeling well perhaps they have a perhaps more of a hold of the black vote in South Los Angeles than perhaps they should have because there are swaths of people who are familiar and actually use the term black political class. There’s the kind of shake up that has made this such a spectacular race for Bernie and questions about the more established civil rights leaders and civil rights class that’s happening. The black lives better movement has certainly shown that. They have shaken that up with a lot of the people who are put forward by mainstream media as the leadership genuinely when it gets to the ground and on a grassroots level don’t show themselves actually to be the leadership.  So there’s a shake up going on there a lot of questions being asked and Bernie’s campaign certainly is part of that. I tend to think that a lot of black people on the more progressive side will likely vote for Bernie. We know that young black millennial tend to vote for Bernie. So we’ll see how all of this plays out. But I think it does give a warning signal though. Whatever happens to the civil rights leadership and to the black political class that  a lot of these young black people are not accepting business as usual. They are really calling for a shake up and there is a confrontation, generational in some ways that have begun between the younger of black activists and even not the activists just black millennials and the older more established black people with a lot of the young people saying hey you all need to either get with the program or get out of the way.  So we’re going to have to see how all of this plays out down the road. PERIES: Alright Margaret. That was Margaret Prescod who’s the host and producer of Sojourner Truth on KPFK Syndicated Nationally. Thank you so much Margaret.  PRESCOD: Thank you Sharmini. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.  


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Margaret Prescod is the host and producer of Sojourner Truth with Margaret Prescod. It is a public affairs program that airs Tuesday through Friday on KPFK Radio from 7 to 8 AM (PST).