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Why Isn't Hillary Clinton Doing Better With African-American Voters?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Hillary Clinton has some help in trying to motivate African-American voters this year.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot. Tolerance on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot.

INSKEEP: President Obama is focused intently on the black vote and the youth vote in 2016.

We've called another Hillary Clinton supporter, James Clyburn, congressman from South Carolina who's on the line. Congressman, good morning.

JIM CLYBURN: Good morning. Thank you so much for having me.

INSKEEP: You just heard Scott Detrow say that according to at least one survey, black voter enthusiasm is down in 2016. Not as much enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton, why?

CLYBURN: Well, in 2008, we were trying to make history, which we did. In 2012, we were trying to preserve history, which we did. And I think that you may recall that going into the 2012 elections, all the prognostications were that the black turnout would not be as great as it was in 2008. But in states like Ohio, I remember very well, it exceeded it. And I think that you are going to see the black turnout exceeding expectations this year as well.

INSKEEP: Are you saying you think African-Americans are not so enthused, but they're going to dutifully show up?

CLYBURN: Yes, I do. I think that with 50 days left in this campaign - or whatever number of days there are - there's plenty time to build enthusiasm.

INSKEEP: Can I just ask, congressman - forgive me, time is short - but Donald Trump's argument - essential argument is that African-Americans vote again and again for Democrats and don't get anything. That's his case. It's been criticized, but you can hear African-American activists who say essentially the same thing. Is that wrong?

CLYBURN: Yes, it is absolutely wrong. Just look at the history. I always say you can best tell of what a politician will do by looking at what he or she has done.

I would ask all of those people who are making those statements, who is responsible? Which party is responsible for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the 1968 Fair Housing law, the 1972 amendments to that act? Which party was responsible? Lyndon Johnson was not a Republican. He was a productive Democrat.

INSKEEP: Can you point to something that Hillary Clinton has done that she would - you would argue...

CLYBURN: Absolutely. When Hillary Clinton was still a college student, she came to my home state of South Carolina to help us when nobody knew who she was. Her name wasn't even Clinton, it was Rodham. She came out of her motivation of getting juveniles out of prison cells with hardened criminals. That's what she did. She went to Alabama and masqueraded in order to expose the segregations of academies. Now, if that is not a commitment to doing right by the African-American community, I want to know what is.

INSKEEP: Congressman, I've got to just ask one stark question in the few seconds we have left. In your view, is Donald Trump a racist?

CLYBURN: I don't know whether he's a racist or not. That's not a word that I ever use. I do know that what he's saying time and time again, I think are more than dog whistles on race. They're howling wolves. He sounds like wolf howls to me. And he is racially motivated in almost everything he says and he does.

INSKEEP: James Clyburn is a Democratic representative from South Carolina. Congressman, it's good to talk with you again.

CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.