Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders went to the progressive conference Netroots Nation over the weekend to try to establish themselves as the progressive alternative to Hillary Clinton. They ended up performing poorly in their confrontations with #BlackLivesMatter activists. Monday, in a Facebook Q&A, Clinton seized the opportunity to come off as more progressive than her would-be progressive challengers:
The two Democratic presidential candidates who appeared at the conference, Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders, got confronted by progressive activists affiliated with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. And neither of them responded terribly well: O'Malley accidentally echoed the opponents of #BlackLivesMatter, while Sanders's crankiness didn't exactly ease frustrations with him or his supporters.
Hillary Clinton got to skip out on all of that drama. And when she finally got asked how she would have responded, during a Facebook Q&A on Monday afternoon, she didn't just have the benefit of the extra 48 hours and a polite questioner — she (and her campaign) had the advantage of being able to think through the response as it was typed. So it's hardly surprising that Hillary's typed response was more respectful to the #BlackLivesMatter movement than O'Malley or Sanders's attempts to respond to the protesters:
Of course, it's impossible to know whether Clinton would have been as calm and respectful if she'd been on stage instead of O'Malley when protesters took the microphone Saturday for an impromptu presentation on the deaths of black women in police custody. But her response is consistent with her campaign so far: Clinton has a "tough on crime" history, but her 2016 campaign has made a visible effort to embrace reforms in criminal justice and policing, and to talk about racial disparities in doing so.
This doesn't mean that #BlackLivesMatter protesters will never come after Hillary Clinton at some future event. But what happened over the weekend doesn't appear to have been a wake-up call for her campaign; rather, it was the culmination of something they appear to have been preparing for.