Al Sharpton met Al Sharpton to discuss the black vote and dole out "black approval ratings" over the weekend. The civil rights activist appeared on Saturday Night Live as a statistical analyst and sat down with cast member Kenan Thompson's satirical Sharpton character on a parody version of Sharpton's Politics Nation. On SNL, Sharpton measured the presidential candidates' black approval ratings, with some politicians scoring embarrassingly low.
Sharpton and... er, "Sharpton"'s discussion of the presidential candidates' ability (or in some cases, an extreme lack of ability) to gain ground with black voters zeroed in on a prominent issue in this election cycle. The Black Lives Matter movement that formed following the deaths of two black teenagers, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, has helped bring key issues for black voters like voter ID laws and criminal justice reform to the forefront of the presidential primary.
"My algorithm is called the 'Black Approval Ratings Scale,'" Sharpton, playing statistical analyst Charles Richards, said. "Each candidate gets a number between one and 10 based on their standing in the black community."
Unsurprisingly, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received Sharpton's highest grade of the night with a rating of 7.2. "Secretary Clinton gets a 7.2 rating with black voters because her husband is Bill Clinton, who, despite recent outbursts, is beloved in the African-American community," he explained.
Thompson agreed the former president seemed to do no wrong. "Bill Clinton could walk into the BET Awards after-party, sit at Rihanna's table, and order up a bowl of mac 'n' cheese, and everybody would say, 'That seems right,'" he said.
Sharpton applauded Clinton's rival Bernie Sanders for his participation in the civil rights movement but said he comes off as being out of touch with black voters, which hurt his rating. "Senator Sanders gets a score of 6.3," Sharpton said. "Yes, he was active in the civil rights movement. But for some reason, he seems like the kind of person who still calls Muhammad Ali 'Cassius.'"
Republicans fared far worse than their competition across the aisle on Sharpton's "Black Approval Ratings Scale." Sen. Ted Cruz, who said the Black Lives Matter movement was "disgraceful" for embracing a rabid rhetoric during a speech on Oct. 14, 2015, was given a score of 2.1. But Sharpton held his severest criticism for GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.
Sharpton gave Trump a negative rating (-1,048) on his "Black Approval Ratings Scale" and warned it could drop lower still. "Black people should never trust a white person whose hair is more processed than theirs," Thompson added. Trump made his distaste for the Black Lives Matter movement known during a September interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. "I think they're trouble. I think they're looking for trouble," he'd said, before adding "The fact is all lives matter. That includes black and it includes white and it includes everybody else."
The skit skipped over Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who, despite trailing Trump and Cruz in delegates, has yet to end his campaign.
Sharpton may have been rating the top four presidential candidates in jest, but the skit speaks to a major issue of this year's presidential race. As Clinton and Sanders attempt to one up the other regarding their racial awareness in an attempt to appeal to African-American voters, the Republican Party has failed miserably in its outreach efforts thanks largely to their support of voter ID laws, which Democrats and civil rights activists argue work to suppress minority voters. You don't need Sharpton's failing grades of Cruz and Trump to realize it's time for the GOP to get serious about embracing a diversity strategy.