Bernie Sanders' push to win the African-American vote just got the aid of music legend and radical activist Harry Belafonte, who cut an endorsement video for the campaign.
Harry Belafonte Gets Back On The Presidential Stage
Facing the camera and wearing a lapel pin shaped like a fist, Belafonte speaks crisply in his signature baritone, praising Sanders for "giving an opportunity for young people, and for all people, to have a choice – to be able to turn this ship of state called America around and place it on a new course."
Framing Sanders as the ultimate change agent, Belafonte says, "I think he represents opportunity. I think he represents a moral imperative. I think he represents a certain kind of truth that's not often evidenced in the course of politics."
This is not the first instance of Belafonte's engagement in presidential politics. Fifiy-six years ago, Belafonte played a notable role in a presidential campaign, endorsing John F. Kennedy. Unlike today, Belafonte – a close associate of Martin Luther King – sat out the 1960 primary.
Belafonte was unsure about Kennedy, privately deeming him ignorant of the black community. But he was eventually won over. Belafonte participated in a general election TV ad with Kennedy, helping him build trust with black voters and countering Jackie Robinson's endorsement of Richard Nixon. Kennedy ended up with two-thirds of the black vote.
Can Bernie Sanders Win The Black Vote?
Can Belafonte do the same for Sanders? The Vermonter never had to campaign in black communities to win his House and Senate seats, so any validation can only help. But his star power has dimmed considerably since the 1960s. And Belafonte, like his fellow Sanders endorser Cornel West, represents a strain of black thought which has been critical of President Barack Obama, while Obama has huge approval ratings among black voters.
If Sanders wants to win a sizable portion of the African-American vote, he'll need more than Belafonte.