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Watching, listening and critiquing Democratic Party presidential hopefuls

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Sep 18, 2019 - 9:29:17 AM

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WASHINGTON—As the top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination clustered in Houston for their third televised debate; attendees at one of many Black watch parties among attendees of the Congressional Black Caucus legislative conference included a crowd of 30-something church-goers many of whom said they were generally underwhelmed by candidates who routinely evaded answering the questions that were posed to them.


“What we know is, the Congressional Black Caucus is the premier event for Black folks in this country who are very committed to making sure that the process of political representation at the federal and national level is happening with coordination and with representation,” Pastor Michael Mc-Bride, leader of LIVE FREE, one of the watch party sponsors, said in a Sept. 12 interview.

“And, and so, given that the Democratic Party unfortunately has scheduled a national debate during the Congressional Black Caucus, we thought it’d be very important for us to gather as many of our constituents who are in town from the faith community, from the millennial organizing community, and help us have an intergenerational experience, to keep ensuring that we are understanding the candidates vision as they are attempting to cast a pathway forward for our country and our community,” he continued.

Major opinion polls show a three-person race among former Vice President Joe Biden, and Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). In the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, there was a gap between Mr. Biden and Senators Warren and Sanders, and then another popularity gap between the first tier candidates and the rest of those who were onstage.

Like many other eligible voters, young Blacks are interested in health care, which was widely discussed. Sen. Sanders slammed Mr. Biden’s health care proposal as shortsighted as the former vice president contented that Mr. Sanders proposed “Medicare for All” would be too costly.

“Well, Joe said that Medicare for All would cost over $30 trillion,” said Mr. Sanders, who repeatedly referred to the Vice President by his first name. “That’s right, Joe. (But the) status quo over 10 years will be $50 trillion. Every study done shows that Medicare for All is the most cost-effective approach to providing health care to every man, woman, and child in this country.”

Early in the debate, Mr. Biden criticized Sen. Warren and Sanders’ embrace of Medicare for All as policy that would raise taxes on middle-income people and force millions of Americans to give up their employer-provided insurance that they might like. Sen. Warren was ready to respond.

“So, let’s be clear,” she said in a line that received sustained applause from the audience in attendance at historically Black Texas Southern University, “I’ve actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company.”

The Black Church PAC, Faith in Action, and LIVE FREE remain clear about their goals for engagement of the Black faith community. “Well, we hope that the candidates will continue to address the issues of the economy, address the issues of ending mass incarceration and gun violence in urban Black and Brown communities,” Pastor McBride said.

“And we certainly want to hear their visions on how they expect to address the issues related to White nationalism, the violence that is being unleashed upon our communities through vigilantes and some law enforcement agencies.

“And so we’re gonna hope to have a very robust conversation about all of these issues and we will have some of our national organizers and activists from across the country who do this work with a lot of clarity and great analysis.”

Faith in Action, formerly known as PICO National Network, is the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the United States. The non-partisan organization works with 1,000 religious congregations in more than 200 cities and towns through its 46 local and state federations. LIVE FREE is a national network of faith congregations organizing in dozens of cities to end gun violence.

Their demands are simple: “Well, we want to demand that there is an immediate look at the economic agenda for the Department of Labor,” Pastor McBride said. “The Department of Justice, you know, all of these different federal agencies that have the responsibility to provide oversight and remove barriers of employment.

“We want to ensure that health care continues to be made available to every American in ways that are not restrictive. We certainly want to ensure that law enforcement agencies at the federal, state and local level are being reined in.

“We want White nationalism and the rise of White vigilante violence to be seen as the national threat that it is. We want a national investment of hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure that we are addressing gun violence and the root causes of that in our community. All of these demands are demands that many of the candidates are aware that many of us are making and we expect them to make these demands known to the American people and then be a uniter around a shared agenda that addresses the kind of challenges that our country faces generally and certainly the challenges that uniquely impact Black folks in this,” said Pastor McBride.