Bernie Sanders Needs to Court Black Voters. And He Has Started Doing It.

Bernie Sanders Needs to Court Black Voters. And He Has Started Doing It.

In this photo taken May 20, 2015, Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., poses for a portrait before an interview with The Associated Press in Washington. For Democrats who had hoped to lure Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren into a presidential campaign, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders might be the next best thing. Sanders, who is opening his official presidential campaign Tuesday in Burlington, Vermont, aims to ignite a grassroots fire among left-leaning Democrats wary of Hillary Rodham Clinton. He is laying out an agenda in step with the party's progressive wing and compatible with Warren's platform _ reining in Wall Street banks, tackling college debt and creating a government-financed infrastructure jobs program. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
In this photo taken May 20, 2015, Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., poses for a portrait before an interview with The Associated Press in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

John Wagner, THE WASHINGTON POST

 

 Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders made his first major outreach to the African American community this weekend in Louisiana, courting civil rights leaders, sitting in the front row at a black church and invoking the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Though the senator from Vermont was warmly received by black voters as he decried income inequality and lingering racism in the United States, the visit also underscored one of the challenges Sanders faces in his bid for the Democratic nomination: His biggest event of the weekend, a raucous 4,500-person rally, drew a predominantly white crowd in a state that is more than one-third black.

Sanders, who represents a state that is 95 percent white, has never needed to court black voters to win an election. But his involvement in the civil rights movement dates to the 1960s, when he attended the March on Washington and was arrested while protesting school segregation. Those were among the points he emphasized in Baton Rouge on Saturday night as he wooed leaders of one of the country’s oldest civil rights organizations.

 

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