BENNETTSVILLE, S.C.—Everyone agrees that African Americans are the pivotal demographic in Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic primary. But the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton campaigns are working to court that group in sharply divergent ways. It’s the difference between huge rallies and small gatherings. Upstate versus Pee Dee. Anecdote versus abstraction. Their approaches are as different as night and day—or, one might say, black and white.
Over the last few months, Sanders has incorporated a great deal about race into his stump speech. His discussion of racism in America is abstract—it deals with arrest rates and incarceration figures, wealth gaps and unemployment rates. Though Clinton is often described as a policy wonk and derided for her (very real) failures as a retail politician, she has cleverly chosen to focus more on concrete and personal stories as a means of addressing race, a strategy that was on display in the Palmetto State this week.
On Monday evening, Clinton was on the other side of the country in Hollywood, at a pair of glitzy fundraisers. But 75 or so people were backed into the Marian Wright Edelman Public Library in Bennettsville for a campaign event, where the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Dontre Hamilton, Jordan Davis, and Eric Garner were making the case for Clinton. A community room overflowed with people—standing room only, with people standing in the hall, craning their necks to get in, as the mothers took turns telling their wrenching tales of loss.