During a plenary session on the 2016 presidential election at the National Action Network’s recent national convention, Reverend Al Sharpton said that this year is historic, because it marks the first time that a White president will succeed a Black president.
“There’s no book I can study on what we ought to be doing,” said Sharpton. That’s one of the reasons that Sharpton assembled a bipartisan panel of surrogates from both parties and representatives from a number of the presidential campaigns.
Sharpton continued: “At the end of the day, whether we like it or not, someone is going to succeed President Obama…They don’t care how angry we are, they don’t care how frustrated we are, they don’t care how much we do, unless we organize around an agenda that protects our interests.”
David Plouffe, the senior vice president for policy at UBER, gave an overview on the political climate and lauded the accomplishments of the Obama administration.
“I believe history will regard him as a great president…after 100 years we finally brought health care reform to the U.S. of America. Our planet is in crisis…our nation is finally taking its own steps and leading the world in combating climate change. We were this close to sliding into a great depression.
Plouffe continued: “[President Obama] brought 73 months of job growth…and we’ve been preventing wars instead of starting them. But we can’t have criminal justice reform without economic opportunity. There’s nothing more important in the world than a presidential election in the U.S. of America.”
John Podesta, the chairman of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, stressed that we must defend the progress that the president has made, whether that’s fighting Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are still trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act or shining a spotlight on states that have passed regressive voting laws, that make it harder for citizens to vote.
“This is a campaign of division and exclusion,” said Podesta. “It’s going to take someone who’s tough, who’s proven they can get results and demonstrated her commitment to make everyone succeed, which Hillary has done throughout her whole career.”
Podesta talked about Hillary’s longstanding career working in social justice registering voters and getting juveniles out of prison, straight out of law school. As the First Lady of the United States, Clinton advocated for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP, which covered eight million kids as first lady. There was a burst of applause when Podesta concluded by saying that he wanted to see history made, when for the first time, a woman president follows a Black president.
Armstrong Williams, the founder and CEO of the Graham Williams Group was met with boos when he said, “Everything in America is not about race.”
But Williams was not deterred, responding, “I don’t mind the boos, I’m used to it. Americans whether they be Republican or Democrat are not enamored with the establishment.”
Williams added: “Don’t let Republicans or Democrats, any longer, make empty promises and show up at your house, when they need your vote and then don’t deliver the things that you need,” once they’re elected.
Lawrence O’Donnell, the host of MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” advised attendees to not only demand that candidates explain in detail how they plan to accomplish their campaign promises, but also push the political media to ask the candidates questions about their policies.
Reverend Omarosa O. Manigault, a reality star and business professor at Howard University, opened her remarks with a scripture: “The most important name that’s in my name is that of Jesus Christ.”
She admitted as a Trump supporter that, “our agenda may not be designed to appease the people that are in this room.” But she ultimately decided to stay loyal to her friend and was present as the vice chair of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump to “advise people that may not look like us.” She expressed their desire to support job creation, small business, and preserving faith and family.
Ted Devine, the senior advisor for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign praised President Barack Obama’s re-election, reminding us that President Obama was the first Democrat to win a re-election by the national popular vote twice since Franklin D. Roosevelt. Devine credited Sanders for bringing so many young people into the process, like Obama did, and he underscored Sanders’ role as a student protester and activist and his desire to “change the culture of policing America and racial justice.”
Angela Rye, the CEO of IMPACT Strategies, reflected on the racist backlash that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have endured throughout his presidency.
“Racism is alive and well in this country…because of this White anger and frustration, we now have one of the most polarized electorates in this country,” said Rye. “But we are powerful enough, our voices and votes mean enough to say, ‘Not in this country, not today and not ever.’”
Rye also urged the participants to go to the polls and cast their votes.
“You cannot afford to sit on the sidelines. Our ‘Blackness’ matters,” said Rye. “We have to make sure our politicians are accountable to us.”
Joan H. Allen is Associate Publisher of the Daily Challenge and the host and executive producer of the television show “INSIDE NEW YORK.”