Yes, Bernie Does Look Like America

And why even that is irrelevant

Image Source: Johannes Eisele / AFP/Getty Images

Now that Senator Bernie Sanders has announced his candidacy for President in 2020, several of his former supporters are eagerly rushing to his support. Some contrarians, however, have begun to address what they feel is the elephant in the room: Bernie’s race. Speaking to NPR recently, Arnie Arnesen stated:

I think it’s time for us to start creating a new bench. And the new bench isn’t old, it shouldn’t be white and it probably shouldn’t be male.

Arnesen is not alone in this critique. Many even made it during his 2016 run. Bernie himself has commented on this point with the following:

We have got to look at candidates not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or gender and not by their age. I think we have got to try to move us toward a nondiscriminatory society that looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for.

And that is where one would hope the conversation ends. After all, it is basically the “content of their character” line from Dr. King. Nevertheless, disagreement continues based on Bernie’s race. Some people complain that Bernie does not look like America and therefore cannot represent America. Well, that is just not accurate.

It is true that America is an increasingly non-white nation. That said, it is still mostly white, by a rather strong majority, at about 61% from the latest census data and even as high as 76%, if you count Hispanic/Latin whites. If we are going talk about the power of a federal branch being condensed to a single seat, which is what makes the Presidency distinct from Congress and the Supreme Court, then the most representative candidate, just going by the numbers, is going to be a white person, and that will be the case for about thirty more years, based on current projections.

Not that this is an advantage for Bernie, mind you, and it would be utterly fatuous for anyone to believe that. His being white is irrelevant to his ability to represent a mostly-white nation, just as it is irrelevant to his ability to represent the parts of the nation that are non-white. His policies and experience as a statesman are what attest to that. As it currently stands, a program of Medicare-for-all, tuition-free public college, and raising the minimum wage to a living wage would do more for racial minorities in this country than the Democrats have managed to do since the mid-60s, or are we to believe that the working-class and lower-income households of America do not consist disproportionately of dispossessed and exploited non-whites?

It never ceases to amaze me that those who get on a podium and speak to minority issues seem to want to block every public program that would especially help those same minorities. I think that really gets to the heart of the issue: Bernie is not opposed because he is “too white.” He is opposed because he would actually be willing to serve black, Latin, Asian, Native American and other minority groups as eagerly as he would the whites of this nation. Some people, even in the Democratic Party, are afraid of that, because uniting America around our common humanity as citizens makes it harder for corporatists and sellouts to divide and conquer the people with a subtle racism that we now call “identity politics.”

So yes, Bernie does look like America, and even if he did not, I would still vote for him. And if he does not make it, then Tulsi has my full support.