Common Cause

Everyone but Jim Webb Says Black Lives Matter

At Tuesday’s CNN debate, the Democrats all endorsed the movement, with Sanders invoking Sandra Bland and Clinton pushing for criminal justice reform. Only Jim Webb refused to go along.

Every Democratic candidate on the CNN debate stage Tuesday night made it clear they support the Black Lives Matter movement—except rogue militaristic outsider Jim Webb.

Bernie Sanders, a noted supporter of the group’s message who has met with its activists, got the question first.

“Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter? Let’s put that question to Senator Sanders,” a bespectacled Anderson Cooper asked.

“Black lives matter,” Sanders responded to uproarious cheers.

“And the reason—the reason those words matter is the African-American community knows that on any given day some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car, and then three days later she’s going to end up dead in jail,” he said, his voice rising.

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley agreed with Sanders, somewhat less forcefully, and cited his time as Baltimore mayor in an effort to give himself some credibility.

“When I ran for mayor of Baltimore—and we we burying over 350 young men ever single year, mostly young, and poor, and black, and I said to our legislature, at the time when I appeared in front of them as a mayor, that if we were burying white, young, poor men in these numbers, we would be marching in the streets and there would be a different reaction,” O’Malley said, using a thoroughly rehearsed stump speech line.

“Black lives matter, and we have a lot of work to do to reform our criminal justice system, and to address race relations in our country.”

Hillary Clinton, who also has met with Black Lives Matter activists, was not asked the question directly but rather was asked: “What would you do for African Americans in this country that President Obama couldn’t?”

She spoke of sweeping measures to address criminal justice and mass incarcerations.

“What we need to be doing is not only reforming criminal justice—I have talked about that at some length, including things like body cameras—but we also need to be following the recommendations of the commissioner that President Obama empaneled on policing. There is an agenda there that we need to be following up on,” Clinton said invoking the name of her former boss.

“Similarly, we need to tackle mass incarceration, and this may be the only bipartisan issue in the Congress this year,” she said. “We actually have people on both sides of the aisle who have reached the same conclusion, that we cannot keep imprisoning more people than anybody else in the world.”

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Clinton concluded with: “We need a new New Deal for communities of color,” her last words almost drowned out by some of the loudest cheers of the night.

When it came time for former senator Jim Webb to follow his Democrats on the Black Lives Matter movement, he simply would not.

“As a president of the United States, every life in this country matters,” he said in his bullish deep tones. “At the same time, I believe I can say to you, I have had a long history of working with the situation of African Americans.”

He didn’t clarify exactly what he meant by “the situation” but later discussed the importance of criminal justice reform.

Lincoln Chafee, another breathing human on stage, was not asked the question.