Don’t Blame Bernie! The Democratic Party needs to Look in the Mirror.
The following was written in response to a dear friend of mine who worked in the Obama administration and supports Bernie Sanders for President.
My friend recently posted this on his Facebook page:
“1) Bernie supporters, Barack Obama won the 2008 primary against Hillary Clinton largely because of his ability to overwhelmingly win African American voters. He lost the white vote by double digits. And, he lost the Latino vote as well. Hillary will likely win 2016 because of her ability to do what Obama did. Overwhelmingly win the African American vote. A total of three million more people have voted for Hillary Clinton. She has DOMINATED the African American vote — as Obama did in 2008. That’s just a fact. Please stop bringing up closed and open primaries. These were the dumb rules from the beginning. And, Sweet Jesus. Stop bringing up super delegates. They don’t matter. At all. Win pledged delegates and win the nomination. Complaining ONLY when the dumb rules don’t work out for our candidate is bullshit.
2) Hillary supporters, the Bernie campaign has activated more young people to take an action in a Presidential primary in history. Hillary is getting crushed. Just crushed with the youth vote. Young people not only believe that they can make a difference — but, they ARE. I have met many of these kids and it’s damn inspiring. That’s what our democracy should look like. Scoffing at and/or refusing to acknowledge the historic nature of the Sanders candidacy is just bad politics. First-time voters don’t care about party affiliation — just as many Obama voters didn’t care in 2008. The last thing we need to do is turn away young people from the Democratic Party through contempt. The future party should attempt to look more like the#NotMeUs platform and message. I think it would be smart for Hillary to go big on what Sanders has started: esp campaign finance reform.”
This was my response:
#1. I disagree with this, somewhat. The rules are not “dumb” — they are very smart and purposeful.
They were put into place to prevent a grassroots progressive movement like the Bernie Sanders campaign. Yes, the establishment Democratic party in 2016 is better than the Republican party, but that’s not saying much. That’s like saying I prefer to listen to Will Smith raps if my only other option is Vanilla Ice.
So, speaking about the process being corrupted is a legitimate and relevant discussion.
- The DNC process was set up from the beginning by Debbie Wasserman (and friends) to essentially anoint Hillary Clinton. From the debate schedule, to the corporate media narrative which is influenced by establishment pundits (the biggest “superPAC”), to more recent evidence that much of the DNC money has been funneled primarily to the Clinton campaign, to the fact that these Super Delegates and Closed Primaries are in place to elect the “establishment’s choice.” Looking at the 3 Million vote divide without analyzing all of these things is an incomplete discussion. In NY State alone we know that 3 Million Independents could not vote. 100k+ more Democrats were mysteriously dropped from the voter rolls in Brooklyn without explanation. Furthermore, in NY you would have had to change your “Indy” affiliation to “Dem” back in October if you wanted to vote in April. Clearly, many of the young people new to the process, as well as marginalized and disenfranchised communities of color were not paying attention to this back then.
As for “the Black vote,” I’ve written extensively about this and agree with you, somewhat. Bernie was never going to win in the South (for many reasons), and he has not had a national relationship with the African-American community until this election process, which is still a work in progress. But as Cornel West, Killer Mike, and Shaun King have all said, the more the Black community gets to know Bernie the better he does (this includes an endorsement from Ta-Nehisi Coates and support from Michelle Alexander). Because his policies and his history, align more closely with the needs and the demands of the community. I do believe Bernie could have done more to clearly position and define himself in regards to his relationship and commitment to the Black community earlier on. One of the best examples of Bernie’s lack of traction with the Black community was in Missouri where he lost the primary by LESS THAN 1%. Had Bernie spent more time in St Louis county after the Ferguson “riots”, or had he commented more fiercely in favor of the student protestors at Mizzou, I believe strongly that he would have won the state. Instead activists like Tef Poe were not enthusiastic to support him but they did not support Hillary either. Indeed, why should they be enthusiastic about a Democratic party which in their state has supported letting off Darren Wilson, and from the top down, has been in favor of crushing the concept of “Black Lives Mattering” rather than supporting it. As Poe said, “I voted for Barack Obama twice and still got tear-gassed.”
“I voted for Barack Obama twice and still got tear-gassed.”
But, when we begin to look more closely at the Youth vote, and when we begin to stop pretending that the Black vote (and the “Women’s Vote”) is not monolithic, the divide for Bernie is not nearly as big. With people of color and women, it has shifted toward Bernie the more people have gotten to know Bernie (especially with 18–35). I was recently at the Sacramento for Bernie rally which had about 16,000 people (on a Monday with two days notice), and although whites were the largest group (which is the case in all campaigns), it was noticeably diverse, and appeared to have more women there than men. We can then look at California (the largest delegate state by far, 475+), where Bernie has a 40% edge with newly registered voters. This is where the most important discussion begins… VOTING.
Voter turnout in America is embarrassingly low. Only 30% of eligible voters have thus far have participated in the primary process. On the Democrats side, it’s only about 13% thus far. We are literally nominating Presidential candidates with about 3% of the total population… “first one to 10 million wins!” — In a country of 320 million. That being said, the fact that we have “closed primaries,” and the perception of rigged elections with “super delegates,” “superPACs,” and phony corporate news coverage does not bode well for stimulating Democracy. Indeed, as much as Bernie has been able to inspire NEW and younger voters to come out, he also faces an immense problem with voter apathy and general feelings of disenfranchisement. Not to mention the fact that its not easy to vote! Most every state has DUMB rules. Instead of automatic registration, same day registration, national holidays for voting, open primaries, access for formerly incarcerated who served their time… we have bullshit like in California, where you have to register by May 23rd to vote on June 7th, even if you are a tax-paying citizen with a drivers license. Oh, and make sure you aren’t registered as “Independent” here because its actually an irrelevant white nationalist party. But if you are an “Indy”, make sure you are “No Party preference” if you want to vote Democrat. But, make sure you request a Democratic ballot and double check your registration online because the state may randomly switch your affiliation without your knowledge. Oh, and also make sure your signature on the registration form matches your Drivers License, and that its turned in within 3 days of the date you signed it.
Long story short, Democracy in America has a disenfranchisement problem, and the Democratic party has a credibility problem. And their establishment “presumptive nominee” has an enthusiasm problem. Not to mention all of her questionable politics when it comes to War and Wall Street. Overall, if “Establishment Dems” have a problem with the Bernie Sanders campaign or his supporters, that’s because they themselves are a part of the problem.
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Note: Full-disclosure, I am a college educated white male that supports Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter, Debt Free Public College, Universal Health Care, Overturning #CitizenUnited, and rethinking endless war in the Middle East. My feelings about Hillary Clinton and the Neo-Liberal agenda is best captured in this song…