Black Democrats Have Plenty Of Reasons To Be #NeverBernie
I don’t hate Bernie Sanders, I simply do not like his ways.
I also don’t like deification and mythologization of politicians. Many people seem to believe the myth that Bernie Sanders is, in fact, the most popular politician in America, who black people are in love with, because he’s just like MLK Jr. That is a myth. These days I am often confronted with some catch phrase wielding aficionado of all things Bernie, who proceeds to tell me IN DETAIL just how popular and important Sanders is to the Democratic Party, ESPECIALLY Black Democrats. And I’m told about his popularity so much, it’s clear that also he’s the most popular politician since Napoleon. That ever present Harvard-Harris poll from 2017 has traveled enough miles to fly to the moon and back, yet Bernie is still not leading in all of the 2020 polls. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?? Even with Black Democrats, who his people like to claim Bernie is so popular with, even though he lost us by 50 points, he is not winning. There are many many many reason why Democrats haven’t united behind Bernie as we did for Hillary in 2016 after 8 years of Obama. I won’t go into all the details about the 2016 primary or reflect on all of the bridges that were burned, weakened, or stressed, but some of it factors into the never Bernie argument. I’ll just give you my synopsis of why many black people who had open minds for a second run of Bernie’s, like myself, have gone from “maybe” to “hell no never fuck off” in the past two years. For me, it began the Sunday before the election in 2016 when I noticed a tweet of his that gave me pause and made me suspicious of his motivations.
What the hell was the purpose of this tweet? On its face, it looks to be an unnecessary defense of the MAGA hat wearing angels who spent the campaign season denigrating Mexicans, wearing “Grab My Pussy” shirts, screeching “LOCK HER UP!”, and making excuses for Trump’s racism and sexism. But as I explored Bernie’s past comments, paying close attention to each new hot take while considering the meaning of it all, I began to see the intent. Hillary Clinton had made her entirely correct and prescient “basket of deplorables” comment about Trump Voters earlier that Fall. People all over were still attacking her for it, and MAGA people on social media were naming themselves things like “MAGA Deplorable Sam”, completely owning the label of “deplorable”. Hillary was already struggling with white working class voters, yet Bernie was completely comfortable dragging our nominee with his backhanded attack on her for a months earlier comment. Also, she was talking mess about the precious white people that Bernie needs for his revolution. This isn’t the only time he felt the need to attack Hillary or Democrats for insulting his vaunted white working class either. He was all in his feelings for months after the election; his joy was lecturing Dems on how destructive Identity Politics are while using White Identity Politics to lob bombs at the Democratic Party for not winning the white voters that we never win anyway.
Ahhh, humiliated. Interesting how a man who has never been a Democrat is suddenly deeply and passionately humiliated because we are a multicultural party that doesn’t center white people, and therefore cannot win a majority of them. Why wasn’t Bernie humiliated that HE couldn’t talk to black women?Because Bernie cannot fail, he can only be failed. It’s why he’s so loved.
Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician since Shaka Zulu, and blacker than John Lewis (who his fans call a sell-out), so, why weren’t black women in LOOOVE with Berndog? For Black Women like me, we always wonder what the trade off will be to bring people, who officially left the party when black folks got voting rights, back into the Democratic fold. What humiliations will we be forced to face so that Bernie can use the Democratic Party as his vehicle to drive white people into his loving arms? We, the internet-less people, have faced Bernie’s attempts to erase our color and womanhood from the political debate when he campaigned against Identity Politics. Well, he thought he was opposing Identity Politics here when he attacked TOKENISM, which he believes is the same thing as Identity Politics.
“It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ That is not good enough,” Sanders told a crowd at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston, according to WBUR. “What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industries.”
Not only has literally NOBODY ever implied, denoted, connoted, or even declared that people should “vote for me because I’m a woman,” you can easily see the salt he’s shaking on Hillary, along with his anger at Identity movements that didn’t benefit him. Who was it that rejected Bernie in favor of Hillary? Give yourself a cookie if you said, “everybody but white independents and youth voters.”
Mr. Sanders fought Mrs. Clinton to a draw among white voters, exit polls showed. But he was trounced among nonwhites, who cast four in 10 votes. The decisive edge for Mrs. Clinton: She won African-Americans by more than 50 percentage points.
The voters that Bernie forgot existed until he was interrupted by Black Lives Matter at Netroots, and again in Seattle, were not interested in being props and mascots. Those who he had decided were not an integral part of his Revolution had decided that they didn’t feel like being sidelined so he could make sure white people were centered by the Democratic Party, just like they are by the Republican Party.
For Blacks, his plans seem to be plans where we are relegated to a position in which we can never have our issues addressed directly by Bernie unless it relates to stereotypical “black things” like Mass Incarceration and poverty. Oh, he added Environmental Racism, which could stem from his dragging at a debate during the primary, or from being dinged on Sierra Blanca. Regardless, its obvious Black issues are not near and dear to his heart.
“Yes,” he said unequivocally when asked for a second time whether he really thinks race relations would improve under him.
The reason why he’s so confident, you probably won’t be surprised to hear, lies in taxing billionaires “to create millions of jobs for low-income kids so that they’re not hanging out on street corners.”
Even though he’s the most popular politician since Alexander the Great, Bernie lacked the necessary facility with words to make any kind of sense on race relations. When he was explaining to Black America that poor (this means black) kids hang on street corners too much, and need jobs in order to help racism go away, he sounded a bit like Cliven Bundy. It is not Bernie’s way to blame white people, the ones whose votes he needs, in any way, shape, or form for any racist behaviors unless it is so egregious he has no choice but to risk losing a few white votes to defend black people.
Bernie still panders to the voters he needs for his revolution; he always has done this in a style more suited to tone deaf racism apologetics than to Civil Rights work, and he always will. As time has gone on along its way, I have come to a conclusion about Bernie Sanders and his many gaffes on race and racism; gaffes that plays a role in why so many Dems are unwilling to consider Bernie for nominee. One issue is that Bernie hasn’t learned anything new on race since his days protesting in college, but that’s just his basic problem with black people. Many of the other issues stem from one important fact: Bernie is not a Democrat. His base is not our multicultural base, with black women playing a prominent role in decision making, while liberal women, men, and LGBTQ have equally prominent roles with underserved group being centered. His base is nearly monochromatic, it simply doesn’t look like the party, and his inability to communicate with black people keeps it that way.
In October, when asked in a New Republic profile how uncomfortable he appeared talking about race, he answered, “OK, see, this is an issue I’m not really — what I don’t want to do is get into me.” When told that it wasn’t about him per se, Sanders said, “It’s a complicated answer. It’s a good question, but I prefer not to get into it right now.”
He really CANNOT discuss race.
Uncomfortable. That is the same word he used to describe the feeling of those voters who won’t vote for black candidates because they feel uncomfortable voting for black people. These voters are by definition, racist, yet to Bernie they were NOT necessarily racist just because their racism wouldn’t allow them to vote Black. Then he decided to clean it up.
“There’s no question that in Georgia and in Florida racism has reared its ugly head. And you have candidates who ran against Gillum and ran against Stacey Abrams who were racist and were doing everything they could to try to play whites against blacks,” he said. “And that is an outrage, and we have got to continue doing everything that we can to fight all forms of racism.”
Notice he calls the racism of the voters “playing whites against blacks” in that mealy-mouthed sort of “they don’t know any better” way that white people often use to somehow make white people a victim of racism rather than a culprit? Who the hell that is black has time to sit through another campaign season of right wing racism and left wing apologetics? Who has time for the divisive rhetoric, attacks on base democrats, or the vicious rancor of 2016?
Bernie’s base is comprised of white people, and his outreach goes to the very same white people Democrats lost for generations when we passed the Civil Rights Act. Black people are merely supplemental distractions it seems; our votes are counted by his campaign as rightfully his so long as he claims enough white votes to win the primary. This assumption isn’t without merit, as Black people generally do the right thing and vote against Republicans, but is this really acceptable? Do we deserve this treatment? Is it fair to sideline a loyal group of Democrats in order to center and focus on white people who likely will not even be receptive? If black voters have to sit through a General Election watching Bernie, a man we did NOT choose in 2016, and will NOT choose again, spend his days telling us how unimportant our skin color is while he passionately attempts to attract voters with the WHITE skin that apparently DOES matter, will we show up? Will THEY, the white voters he is so desperate for, even show up for HIM?
Bernie not being a Democrat means he can freely discuss the importance of the White Working Class and REFUSE to discuss issues affecting people who are NOT White. Bernie not being a Democrat means he doesn’t have to worry about inflicting damage to the fragile bonds between groups that keep our coalition stable. Bernie not being a Democrat means he can speak to Red State crowds while castigating Dems with no compunction about what harm he may be causing with his denigration of Identity Politics (Civil Rights), or his nonstop attacks on the party as a whole. Bernie not being a Democrat meant that the Unity Tour could be used as a mechanism to attack Dems rather than heal the divide between Bernie and Hillary voters.
“Let me tell you something else some of you might not agree with,” Sanders said. “It wasn’t that Donald Trump won the election, it was that the Democratic party lost the election.”
Racism and Sexism, those twins of mayhem, played a much larger role in that election than most white men will admit, even today. The xenophobic chant of “Build The Wall” went toe to toe with Hillary’s “Stronger Together” and kicked our asses in all places where cows outnumber humans. So we were VERY SAD AND MAD that the electoral college even exists. We needed time to regroup in 2017 and perhaps nurse our wounds. But with Bernie, it’s never too early to kick the Democratic party when it’s down for the count, and at that time in 2017, the Blue Wave wasn’t even a breeze from a butterfly’s wing yet. And face it, Bernie is the most popular politician since William The Conqueror, and is the Second Coming of that King of Progressivism, FDR himself. Even so, the fact that he chose to spend the “Unity Tour” going around the nation spewing divisive rhetoric was completely demoralizing to many Hillary voters. But he persisted.
It is his class over race mantra that has gotten him into this situation where he faces challenges in connecting with people who are actually affected by the racial caste system that he doesn’t have time to discuss now or ever. Black community leaders received his dismissals for years, and even while going over issues with him, Bernie seemed oblivious to their reality in his refusals to even consider race as an issue that mattered.
Sanders “was just really dismissive of anything that had to do with race and racism, saying that they didn’t have anything to do with the issues of income inequality,” Reed told The Daily Beast. “He just always kept coming back to income inequality as a response, as if talking about income inequality would somehow make issues of racism go away.”
This is also how Bernie interacted with black groups and at forums during the primary. While he is constantly offered Kudos on his activism in the 1960s, Bernie hasn’t shown any inclination towards promoting racial awareness or being an ally to the black people in his state.
“Racial profiling is a fact of life here. Vermont incarcerates black people at the fourth-highest rate in the U.S., but no one talks about that. I have been beating on that drum for a while now, and I hoped that Bernie would up that mantle, but he has not. He is like a lot of Vermonters who like to congratulate themselves on how progressive they are but sweep these issues under the rug.”
That is how Bernie treated nearly every group of black people he encountered during the primary, and in the time since the primary, not much has changed.
Wednesday night, after the Jackson forum, Mr. Sanders faced sharp criticism from some African-Americans who thought he had reduced the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, to merely being what Mr. Sanders called a “charismatic individual.”
Sanders remains as dismissive as ever and oblivious to the things that offend black voters.
Class over race is a bit too understated to fit his beliefs; class over everything fits much better. Women and LGBTQ, like Black people, have been on his list of problematic groups that are pretty much distractions from what he sees as the “real fight”, which is income inequality. His income equality plan doesn’t really do a thing to decreases disparities between White men and everyone else, it simply seeks to offer everyone the same thing regardless of white men’s unearned advantage in accessing whatever benefits he chooses to offer.
I should remind people again that I don’t hate Bernie. I come at politics from a different angle than he does, and I will fully admit that I believe his way is bad for black women. His way is “A La Carte Socialism” that focuses on middle and working class whites, and panders to their youth with promises of Free College that his plans cannot deliver. I believe in a bottom up approach that seeks to find which programs actually help the poorest and those oppressed by society because of their identity. To me, what helps a transgender Native American woman thrive and survive in this nation takes priority over offering Blake, Becky, and Chad whatever Free Shit it will take to get their votes. And this is probably why Bernie failed and will continue to fail in his terrible outreach efforts that consist of photo ops and his fans trolling black people, especially the women, on social media.
Sanders’ main challenge is connecting to black women, the Democratic Party’s most important voting demographic. If he wins them over, he has a shot. As much as people think I hate Sanders, I really do believe that he is a dynamic candidate. He deserves respect. In return, Sanders needs to respect and honor the fact that black women can lead his assent, just as they did for Obama. Or, they can hand him his second L in 2020, just as they did when he didn’t take their votes seriously in 2016.
I don’t see this changing at any time in the future. I doubt Bernie Sanders will suddenly wake up and realize that his fixation on the white working class to the exclusion of all other colors of people (because OUR color doesn’t matter) is kinda racist in and of itself, and also off putting. Hopefully Bernie will decide to sit this one out and be proud of getting full credit for the Conyers Medicare for All plan, that Bernie wrote his own name on and copied, becoming mainstream. If not, we will suffer through another campaign season of black people being told how distracting our race issues are, and hearing Bernie say weird shit about Ghettos and Street Corners that could have come from Lee Atwater. Don’t bother coming at me about writing this piece, it won’t have the slightest bit of effect, because I literally have no reason to give shit about complaints. If you bother me even one time, I’ll be writing another piece about your deity that you’ll hate even more. Until next time.