Bernie Sanders And The Myth Of “The Black Vote”(Draft)

There has been a river of ink spilled on the topic of Bernie Sanders and black voters. In major news outlets this was mostly to paint Bernie and his supporters as straight white men without disabilities. The truth is a lot more complicated than that and gets down to the myth of a monolithic black votes. Black people are not elves, dwarfs, or orcs with those races stereotypical and non-deviated from behavior. The “Black Vote” is as complex as the “White Vote”.

This may be a shock to most people who don’t get their news from any place outside the latest Twitter trend, CNN hot take, or release from “The Briefing”, Hillary’s campaign mouthpiece but, Bernie Sanders got a larger share of the black vote than the white vote in some states, especially in the Midwest.

I was born and raised in Missouri. I volunteered both here and in Iowa during the primary season. Bernie Sanders is believed to have received one his highest shares of the black vote here, he got ~30% of Democratic black voters. Black voters generally vote about 90% to 10% for Democrats vs Republicans. Guess what? Bernie Sanders got 19.8% of the total vote in Missouri. That means get got less than that percentage of the white vote. Bernie Sanders received a share of the white vote that was more than 12% LOWER than his share of the black vote.

Hillary Rodham Clinton got 19.9% of the total vote and ~65% of the black vote in Missouri. So the percentage of her vote that was provided by black people is quite a bit higher than Sanders. That doesn’t mean that Sanders was supported by a greater percentage of white voters than black voters, quite the opposite.

Bernie Sanders also received about 30% of the votes of black Democrats in Illinois. He got 28.5% of the vote share in that state. He necessarily got a lower % of the vote share among white voters. Hillary Clinton got 29.5% of the vote share in Illinois, and ~65% of the black vote. Again her share of black support was much higher than Sanders but both of them had more support among black voters than white voters as a % of their total.

Its also worth noting that Bernie Sanders had the support of a far greater number of independent voters than Hillary often by margins as great as 70 to 30. He also had significantly more support among Republicans voting in the primaries. These voters greatly drive up the percentage of votes for Sanders from whites. The share of Democratic voters who are white vs black is much smaller than among all Sanders voters.

What is another giant gaping hole in the prevailing narrative that Sanders is unable to appeal to voters who aren’t straight white men without disabilities? The exit polling for female voters in Missouri. Bernie Sanders got 44% of female voters in the Democratic primaries and 56% of male voters in the Democratic primaries.

The Democratic primaries had a male/female vote split of 45/55. That results in an almost identical number of votes from both genders. The numbers are almost exactly the same for Illinois. Sanders is not in fact the candidate of men. Again Hillary Clinton has a much larger percentage of female supporters compared to every other candidate. However Hillary has only about 30% of female voters total in the Missouri and Illinois primaries.

Bernie Sanders was far behind Hillary on the percentage of all black voters that supported him for reasons that had nothing to do with his outreach or personal and campaign actions. These were primarily historical reasons. Black voters occupy a unique niche in American politics in that they vote Democratic at a rate far outpacing that of any other sub group of the population.

Among other demographic groups Bernie Sanders tended to receive a much higher percentage of support. Bernie Sanders received higher support among other racial or regional groups almost in proportion to the percentage of these voters that voted for Democrats vs Republicans.

Sanders ran almost even among Latino/Hispanic voters depending on the political culture of the state. He tended to win them in more liberal or more northern states. Similarly he vastly under-performed among black voters in the South. Sanders appeared to win among voters classified as Asian in nearly every state and among native tribes. He had landslide victories in states such as Alaska and Hawaii.

According to 538 the percentage support of Republicans among the non-white demographic groups were: 7% black, 29% Hispanic/Latino, 33% Asian/Other. What does this have to do with the percentages of these voters who supported Bernie Sanders? More moderate and conservative voters supported Hillary Clinton while more liberal or socialist or lefty voters supported Sanders.

Voters who are financially, religiously, or genderally conservative who would otherwise fit more snugly among Republicans vote Democrat due to the racial history and trend of the two parties. These voters supported Hillary Clinton at a much higher rate than Bernie Sanders according to exit polls and pre-vote polling. Because black voters vote Democratic at a vastly higher rate than any other demographic this powered the much better numbers for Clinton among them.

This is not the only reason for the higher support for Clinton among black voters but it could easily account for as much as a 20% boost for Clinton. Removing the 25% most conservative black voters would be about a 20% drop in Clinton’s share of the total among black Democrats turning a 65 to 30 win into more of a 40 to 30 win.

One of the major boosts to Hillary’s support was the fact that she married Bill Clinton. This marriage resulted both in her greater exposure to black Americans and her moderation of policy from living in a more conservative part of the state. Her network of political connections far outstrips that of Sanders. Its part of the reason no one thought he had a chance and there was a huge blowup about how her endorsements weren’t securing her the large advantage that was expected. These factors probably easily account for the rest of her advantage.

Conclusion: Sanders had a massive influx of non-Democrat support boosting his numbers with white voters, he lacked the southern name recognition and political connections to campaign effectively in the south, and yet he still had a higher percentage of votes among black voters than among whites.