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Has Hillary Clinton Done Enough To Reach Out To Black Voters?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Hillary Clinton holds a couple of rallies in Florida today, hoping to motivate African-American support, among other things. The black vote was a vital part of President Obama's coalition. And while there's no doubt that Clinton will win the black vote, too, it's always an open question just how many people show up. Leslie Wimes has criticized Clinton's approach in the past. She is founder of the Democratic African-American Women Caucus in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Welcome to the program.

LESLIE WIMES: Hi, how are you? Thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: I'm glad you're with us. What's wrong with Clinton's approach?

WIMES: Well, she has basically done what Democrats typically do in the past. She's taken the black vote for granted. She thinks that simply by saying President Obama is supporting me, Michelle Obama is supporting me, that black people are just going to turn out for her without having to court our vote. And that's not...

INSKEEP: That's not true?

WIMES: That's absolutely not true. It's not going to happen.

INSKEEP: Let me ask you, though, if she's trying harder recently. There was a New York Times analysis this week of language in the first presidential debate, something that might have been missed by some of the white viewers perhaps, but she said specific things. She talked not just about racism but systemic racism, racism in the systems of society. She talked about implicit bias, people who think they're trying to be fair but still get it wrong. And a lot of activists, according to The Times, were excited that she picked up their language.

INSKEEP: Well, you know what? Her rhetoric of today simply doesn't match her record of yesterday. And people, black people, aren't believing her. And it's interesting because last night - you know, it's funny, I'm on your show today. Last night, I had dinner with one of her people who is working her campaign. And I will tell you this - they're not in the black community. They're not knocking on doors. They're not engaging with the community. So she can go on television and she can say what she thinks people want to say, but she's not actually doing those things. She's not doing what she needs to do to engage the black community, so they're not going to turnout.

INSKEEP: Do you mean she personally is not there or that the whole campaign has failed to reach out?

WIMES: The whole campaign, the whole campaign is not there. They've - they've reached out to me, actually, and asked me for help. Well, why would I do that if they're not taking the initiative to get out there and knock on doors and say, hey, we're here with you. So going on television and saying what they think people want to hear means nothing. I mean, we all know, according to the polls, that her trustworthiness is in the toilet. So why should...

INSKEEP: What did you mean when you - I'm so sorry. What did you mean when you said a moment ago that her rhetoric of today doesn't match her rhetoric of yesterday?

WIMES: Well, fair or not, she's, you know, forever tied to her husband's record, you know, his crime bill, what has happened with mass incarceration with - in the African-American community, that's forever going to be linked to Hillary Clinton. You know, her superpredator, her, you know, all of that, we don't forget it.

INSKEEP: Oh, making use of that that phrase superpredator at one point in the '90s. OK, go on.

WIMES: So she's going to have to show us that she means what she says, and just coming out and saying black lives matters, do you think that we don't know that our lives matter? We do. We know that she's a far better candidate than Donald Trump. We know that. But how are we to actually believe what she says if she's not going to actively engage the black community? And the campaign is not doing that. You can have rallies. You can present President Obama and Michelle Obama, but if you're not actively engaging the black community, how are we to believe what you say? How are we to look at you and say, well, you're not - all you're doing is just running your mouth basically.

INSKEEP: Just very quickly, you clearly don't support Donald Trump. But you are saying almost the same thing as Donald Trump when you say that Hillary Clinton only cares about African-Americans at election time.

WIMES: But the difference between myself and Donald Trump is I care about black people.

INSKEEP: And you're hoping that Hillary Clinton will come around.

WIMES: Absolutely, and I think that she can. Don't get me wrong. I don't think that it's too late for Hillary to come around. But you have to show black people action. You can't just talk.

INSKEEP: OK. Leslie Wimes, thanks very much.

WIMES: You're absolutely welcome.

INSKEEP: She's president of the Democratic African-American Women's Caucus in South Florida. She also runs Women on the Move, which is a networking group for black women. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.