Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Thursday continued her outreach to the activist wing of the Democratic Party, reiterating a key phrase progressive minority rights groups are demanding to hear from their presidential candidates: "Black lives matter."
"This is not just a slogan, this should be a guiding principle," she said during an event in Columbia, S.C., expanding on past comments she has made about the movement. "I think we have to also acknowledge we have some serious problems with race and justice and system racism with unfortunately is still all too often present and does affect how we look at each other, how we treat each other."
Clinton, who added that "economic inequality is a system of racism," has in recent days stressed her unequivocal support for the mission of the Black Lives Matter movement -- just as primary rivals Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley have seen their standing shrink among many of the movement's activists. The two other Democratic candidates ignited activists after clumsily handling protesters at the Netroots Nation conference last weekend.
O'Malley caused particular irritation when, in response to a question from a protester, he replied, “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter." Activists accused him of failing to grasp the issue and the movement; he later apologized.
The Post’s Wes Lowery and Dave Weigel reported Wednesday on the powerful influence the Black Lives Matter movement is already having on the 2016 presidential race:
The strained interactions demonstrate the extent to which a vibrant new force on the left has disrupted traditional presidential politics, creating challenges for Democratic candidates who are facing intense pressure to put police brutality and other race- related issues on the front burner ahead of the 2016 election.
The rise of Black Lives Matter has presented opportunities for Clinton and her opponents, who are seeking to energize black voters to build on the multiethnic coalitions that twice elected Barack Obama. But the candidates have struggled to tap into a movement that has proved unpredictable and fiercely independent. It is a largely organic web of young African American activists — many of them unbound by partisan allegiances and largely unaffiliated with establishment groups such as the NAACP that typically forge close ties with Democrats.
Last month, Clinton herself caught flack for responding to a question about policing in minority communities with the phrase "all lives matter," during campaign event in Florissant. Activists accused her of hedging, a lesson which her campaign evidently internalized.
The former secretary of state's latest comments echo similar statement she made during a live Facebook question-and-answer session Monday, in which she also embraced the phrase. "Black lives matter. Everyone in this country should stand firmly behind that," she wrote at the time.