The White Identity Politics of Bernie Sanders

The Sanders revolution has a problem. Identity Politics. Although it has been discussed repeatedly that Bernie Sanders is no fan of what he considers to be ‘Identity Politics’, he is clearly a proponent of that mindset. He simply favors ‘White’ Identity Politics of the male variety. Let’s take his misbegotten notion that white working class voters are somehow ‘forgotten’, or that Democrats are unable to ‘talk to’ people where he ‘came from’.

I suppose I should mention the fact that Bernie Sanders ‘came from’ Brooklyn, an area where Democrats seem to be holding their own quite well. Rather than him actually complaining that his hometown no longer feels connected to the Democratic Party (which is untrue), his actual complaint was based on race. He was not identifying with his working class neighborhood, he was identifying with his race. For a man who is deeply concerned about ‘Identity Politics’, which he considers to be distasteful, he has a laser focus on matters pertaining exclusively to the ‘White Working Class’. In fact, that seems to be the ONLY identity that he finds useful in political discussion.

While he claims that what he is really against is the use of identity as a singular reason to vote for a candidate, we can see from his speech on ‘Identity Politics’ that he is merely ‘berning’ down a strawman that he built for the occasion. He implores a young woman who would like to be the ‘second Latina’ in the US Senate not to think that saying, “I’m a Latina, vote for me!” is sufficient. As we can clearly see, she never indicated that that was her position in any way, shape, or form. In fact, she never once indicated that her goal was to run for office while using her ‘Latinaness’ as a mechanism for getting elected. It almost appears that he believes that women and minorities use their color and gender as a means to get elected. This completely ignores the fact that white men have been using THEIR race and gender to reign supreme at the ballot box for CENTURIES. It seems that the Senator has confused Identity Politics with ‘tokenism’.

Now let’s discuss the lynchpin of the Sanders Revolution. Free college. While free public college is a worthwhile goal, it is extremely difficult to ascertain how this will benefit every group equally in practice. It is imperative take a look at graduation rates by race to sort this out.

When we delve into graduation rates by race we come to the first problem with his ‘free college’ plan. Not only are there serious disparities among races as far as graduation rates are concerned, it appears that we also have disparities when it comes to school funding for poorer areas. Which only leads to one conclusion: if children of color and poor children are not receiving equal access to quality elementary and secondary education, then they are unlikely to be successful in college. As we can see from the data provided by The National Center for Educational Statistics, the extreme disparities in lower education are still lingering. And the disparities in drop out rates bear this out.

This means that minority students are less likely to graduate on time and with a GPA that will assist them in receiving a seat in one of our universities. Not only will they be less likely to be admitted, we also must account for the fact that we have a limited number of seats available, even for those who are able to pay, through financial aid, or self or parental funding. Obviously we would need to limit ourselves to accepting students with the test scores that would indicate that they have the ability to succeed. Therefore, we need to examine the SAT scores by race and gender to determine who would be most likely to enter those hallowed halls of higher education. It seems that Bernie Sanders’ refusal to delve deeply into ‘Identity Politics’ has led to quite a few blind spots on race and gender.

Once again, we see that the white student wins out over most other groups by test scores alone. While that is not the only criteria, it indicates that the standardized tests that we use would put most other groups at a disadvantage. While racial bias in college testing has been discussed for years, what has not been discussed much is the GENDER BIAS that some see as evident in those same tests.

Hopefully his free college plan would not lead to a stricter reliance on test scores to judge the prospects of future students, but hope is not really an assurance. Without having a written plan to ensure a type of ‘affirmative action’ in distributing the benefits of his ideas, his proposal remain woefully incomplete. The absence of specific policies to address this issue leaves his plan looking like a ‘white benefit’ that will increase disparities rather than alleviate them.

The total refusal of Bernie Sanders to specifically address the issues that concern minorities and women by actually focusing on solutions to the problems we face is and was problematic. The fact that he continues the push to ‘reach out’ to the white working class specifically without being specific in addressing the concerns of subaltern groups is VERY problematic. He plays the role of a ‘color blind’ progressive only when it comes to people who have color. His vision seems to correct itself when focusing on white people. Apparently the only color he has the ability see when it comes to people is ‘white’.