The Far Left Is Still Out Of Touch With Black Voters

Is the far left going to stay overwhelmingly white and colorblind on issues of race?

This week, the internet was set ablaze with hot takes relating to former President Obama’s decision to get paid to speak at a health-care conference. The conference was organized by Cantor Fitzgerald, a bond firm, which apparently makes it an enemy of state to the far left. The consensus among the far left is that Obama’s decision to get paid to speak is evidence of political corruption.

On its face, this is just an absurd statement with no basis in fact: Obama is legally barred from running for President again, and his wife, Michelle Obama, has repeatedly indicated she has no interest in politics. How can the money be a bribe for the Obamas if they have no future in public office?

But when you dig deeper to the root of the criticism, you start to see some ugly truths about the far left and race in America. You start to see why Sanders’ movement was overwhelmingly white and struggled mightily to get the support of the people of color they needed to have any chance at winning the primary. There is a major disconnect between Sanders and his followers and the majority of Black voters in this country, and the latest spat with Obama is just the most recent indication of that.

Bernie Lost The Primary Because He Couldn’t Connect With People of Color

In order to properly talk about the disconnect between people of color and the far left, we have to talk a bit about why Sanders lost in the primary. His message primarily targeted the white working class and focused on “economic” issues versus “racial” ones. He rejected identity politics and had virtually no political capital with minorities even after decades in Congress. As a result, he lost Black voters 75–25 and Latino voters 65–35. His backers will point to Sanders winning the youngest overall cohort of people of color, but his turnout rate with this demographic was so poor that it was ultimately irrelevant. The far left uses Clinton’s turnout rates in the general as evidence of her being a “poor” candidate. Why are Bernie’s horrible turnout rates among young people of color not used as evidence of him being a poor candidate that couldn’t connect with Black and Brown voters?

By the middle of the primary, Sanders had said the diverse southern states “distort” the race and had abandoned any efforts to campaign there. We hear a lot about Clinton not campaigning in Wisconsin, but pretty much nothing about Sanders abandoning the south during the primary. With the diverse Democratic base in the southern states being a major reason why Sanders lost, you’d think that his movement would make a major effort to reach out to Black voters and find a way to meet them on the issues that they care about.

Nope. Instead, we are seeing a doubling down on a focus of the white working class and hostility to identity politics.

The Vitriolic Criticism Of Obama Highlights Black Voters’ Problems With The Far Left

In late 2016, nearly 9 out of 10 Black voters approved of President Obama. To many Black voters, he is the symbol of success for Black America. You might not agree with everything he has done, and I certainly haven’t agreed with everything, but you have to respect him for what he means to Black Americans — making it to the height of American politics and withstanding eight years of racist attacks. Sanders and his movement see Obama as symbolic of evil neoliberal corporate interests. Therein lies the disconnect. The far right holds disdain for Obama for some of the same reasons that the far left does: They see him as beholden to special interests instead of “those of the people.”

Black people can see this, they aren’t stupid. They see that the political fringe on the left and most of the right hates Obama for some of the same reasons. So when the far left comes out and says that the first Black President should be held to a different standard than Presidents before him — that he doesn’t deserve to get paid for his post-Presidential work or shouldn’t be compensated — the Black community feels that one of its largest symbols of success is under attack from an overwhelmingly white political movement.

Why does the far left believe the first Black president should be held to a standard of making less money? Why does the far left believe that the first Black president doesn’t deserve to be compensated for his work? These are the issues that resonate with the black community.

Why does the far left believe that the first Black president doesn’t deserve to be compensated for his work?

The rebuttal will be, well, the money is corporate, the money is from Wall Street. Well, nobody in the far left was coming for Sanders when he invested his money on Wall Street. Nobody on the far left was coming for The Young Turks when they took $4 million from Republicans. There are a plethora of organizations and publications on the far left that take big money from corporate donors, Republicans, and Wall Street investment bankers. But they are not viciously attacked for making money or taking in millions in donations. Why do they hold the first Black President to a standard they don’t hold themselves to? They haven’t just come for Obama either. They’ve heavily criticized activist DeRay and the Black women behind Safety Pin Box for making money for their work, accusing them of being beholden to corporate interests.

When Obama, DeRay, or Safety Pin Box is making money, all of a sudden the far left has a problem with it. But when their own organizations and publications are taking Wall Street or corporate donations, there is no anger, no criticism, no vitriol.

Do you see how Black people see this? How we look at this and say “They don’t want Black people to succeed or to be represented in politics, business, or media? They don’t want Black people to make money?” This is a movement that hates identity politics, refused to campaign in the diverse southern states, and calls out prominent successful Black people for getting paid for their work. Vox wrote an article saying that Obama shouldn’t have taken the money not because it was corruption (it clearly wasn’t) but because the optics could make it appear so. Well, think about how the optics of how the far left appears to Black people. From a Black perspective, you can see how the far left and the far right’s criticisms of prominent Black people appear very similar?

No Democratic Candidate Can Win The 2020 Primary Without Black Voters

Without Black and Brown voters, the far left is dooming itself to remain a fringe sect of the Democratic Party. They can never achieve the majority they need to enact the changes they want without massive support from people of color. But right now, it doesn’t seem like they are making any effort to reach out to people of color or come into their communities and hear about racial issues.

Bernie has long had a hyperfocus on the white working class, and maybe that’s what the fierce criticism of Obama and Clinton is all about — the far left trying to appeal to white workers who don’t really like Democrats that much. If the far left is trying to appeal to the white working class through criticism of Obama, it is a tactic that won’t have much success. By using the same “corruption!” attacks on Obama that the far right makes, all the far left is doing is alienating the same Black voters they need on their side to make any meaningful change to the Democratic Party. And there is no evidence that the white working class likes Bernie’s message more than a traditional Republican; I think Teachout and Feingold’s performances with mostly white electorates show that clearly.

Without Black and Brown voters, the far left is dooming itself to remain a fringe sect of the Democratic Party.

Currently, the far left is moving down a path that doesn’t get them the white working class and pushes away Black and Brown voters. This is a path toward remaining a permanent minority in the Democratic Party, especially as the Democrats become more diverse every year. Is the far left going to stay overwhelmingly white and colorblind on issues of race? Or will they come into Black communities in the south and talk to preachers, community center directors, afterschool program volunteers, and actually learn how racial discrimination isn’t just some issue to be dealt with after economic populism?

The answer to that question could determine the future of their movement.