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A Racial ‘Fracture’ in the Democratic Party

A Racial 'Fracture' in the Democratic Party 11:35

Barack Obama will be remembered in the history books as the first black president, but MSNBC’s Joy Reid says he might not be completely comfortable with that portion of his legacy.

"I don’t think that Barack Obama as a person or as a politician ever intended to be a racial provocateur,” Reid said in a Press Pass interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd about her new book, “Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide". “He was not intending to, as Jesse Jackson did, move the party demonstrably on race,” Reid continued.

Many African American voters hoped Obama would be bold on racial issues, Reid said. But Obama often found himself hamstrung as he fought to maintain support from black voters while remaining a credible leader to white Americans.

“He tried to govern as sort of this racial moderate that wasn’t there to fight racial battles,” Reid said. But the instant he made any comments that touched on his own experience as an African American, it all exploded in his face.”

Obama’s overwhelming support among African Americans in each of his presidential campaigns played a major role in his victories. Ninety three percent of African American voters in 2012 picked Obama over his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. In 2008, Obama earned 95% of the black vote.

Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign enjoys similar – though not quite as robust – levels of African American support: She wins 89 percent of the black vote in a hypothetical race against GOP candidate Jeb Bush, according to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from June. And her favorability ratings among black adults are higher than all the other Democratic candidates for president combined, according to a Gallup survey from August.

Reid points out that Clinton’s support in African American communities gives her a leg up compared to her Democratic primary contenders.

“Her saving grace now is that Bernie Sanders can do as well as he wants in the very white states of Iowa and New Hampshire. When he gets to South Carolina, if he can’t increase his support from African Americans, she wins,” Reid said.