Andrew Gillum Florida governor race sees no Black Lives Matter impact

November 5, 2018 GMT

The 2012 slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin ignited both the Black Lives Matter movement and the political career of Andrew Gillum, whose campaign against Florida’s “stand your ground” personal defense law was instrumental in elevating him to Tallahassee mayor.

Mr. Gillum is now on the cusp of winning Florida’s governorship but BLM activism has been mostly disarmed as a political movement.

The demonstrations that dominated the 2016 election, cowing presidential contenders and dominating cable television shows, is missing in action in this year’s campaigns.

Those who claimed leadership roles in the movement are more interested these days in working the speakers’ circuit than leading protests in the streets.


It’s folks like Mr. Gillum who have emerged as serious standard-bearers, running competitive campaigns on left-wing platforms that go well beyond the race-tinged politics of BLM.

The movement, likewise, found champions in this year’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in Georgia and former NAACP chief Ben Jealous in Maryland.

The activists, however, are not out en masse showing support for these candidates or confronting their opponents.

Some analysts blame the lull in activism on voter fatigue that often afflicts midterm elections.

Duke University political science professor David W. Rohde, who studies voter behavior, said BLM activists could have soured on election politics despite having compatriots on the ballot.

“I suspect that the reason is that the activists in this movement have little or no faith in the electoral process as a source of positive change,” he said. “We know that African-Americans in general, are more likely to hold such views, and I would expect that opinion to be even more pronounced among this movement’s activists.”

In Florida, the scarcity of demonstrators belies an otherwise racially charged campaign.

Mr. Gillum, who would be Florida’s first black man elected to statewide office, invoked Martin’s named during a Democratic candidates debate before clinching the nomination in an upset. Since then he repeatedly accused his Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, of racism.

The most prominent demonstration by Black Lives Matter this year did not target the campaigns. The protests were aimed at the state’s “stand your ground” law after a white man shot and killed an unarmed black man after they were involved in a brawl outside a convenience store in Clearwater.


In 2016, crowds of activists hoisting placards and wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Black Lives Matter were a staple of every presidential campaign rally and many other political events.

The movement taunted Republicans and Democrats alike, forcing the later to adopt its Black Lives Matter mantra and its justice reform agenda or else face ferocious admonitions and possible banishment from the left.

A young Black Lives Matter activist crashed a fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and unfurled a banner that read: “We have to bring them to heel.”

And they did.

Before the protester was escorted from the fundraiser in Charleston, South Carolina, Mrs. Clinton offered an apology for 20 years earlier calling black youths “superpredators.”

Other grass-roots political movements have lost steam over the course of a few election cycles.

The Occupy Wall Street movement against economic inequality has all but vanished, although only after successfully pulling the Democratic Party hard left into socialist territory.

The tea party that dominated the American’s conservative landscape for a decade and reshaped the Republican Party has been mostly consumed by the political movement led by President Trump.

Although out of the national spotlight, Black Lives Matter is still part of the political conversation.

The BLM yard signs that in 2015 and 2016 were fixtures along city and suburban sidewalks still dot liberal green lawns.

The movement’s Twitter hashtag is still going strong.

TV personality Arsenio Hall gave a nod to the movement after federal agents arrested a Florida man, Cesar Sayoc, for sending pipe bombs to more than a dozen prominent Democratic figures and to CNN through the mail.

“I’m glad law-enforcement was able to take bomb maker, Cesar Sayoc into custody without harming him. Now, if we can just learn to do that consistently, with black teens! #BlackLivesMatter,” he tweeted.