A leftover from yesterday via the IJR but too enjoyable not to share belatedly. You would think President Troll and his social-media staff, starting with Dan Scavino, would be all over this, tweeting out the video clips to embarrass Bernie. This is Sanders’s chief vulnerability, after all. He lost the nomination to Hillary in 2016 because black voters were overwhelmingly behind her. He’s facing the same problem potentially against Joe Biden or Kamala Harris. His weird “let the Boston bomber vote” pitch is actually a play for black voters in South Carolina, just to give you a sense of how eager he is to improve among that group this time. He was at the She The People forum yesterday for minority women to make his case to them directly.
Annnnnd … it did not go well. Not only that, but if there’s a constituency within the Democratic Party that can take shots at Sanders without fear of being pilloried by Bernie cultists, it’s the audience at She The People. Events don’t get much woker, after all, than forums for very politically engaged women of color. Berniebros are going to have grin, bear it, and hope that this isn’t a portent of how the primaries go. If it is, the socialist revolution is going to end up dashed on the rocks of identity politics.
You can watch a quick highlight reel of Sanders getting jeered at Politico but you’ll lose some of the context that way, and the context is important. Bernie’s problem is simple: He’s a class warrior, not an identitarian, the sort of old-school leftist who wants to make things better for the working class of every color. He often seems uncomfortable when asked about policies drawn along racial rather than class lines, like reparations for the descendants of slaves or open borders to admit poor Latino laborers. The difficulty for a candidate like that at an event like She The People is that the event itself is drawn along racial and gender lines. You don’t go there to explain how redistribution from the wealthy to the lower classes will obviously benefit many, many millions of women and minorities, you go there to explain how your policies will benefit women and minorities specifically. By design.
Case in point, he’s asked here about what he’ll do to help black women and rolls into a nice enough answer about bringing the party together behind whoever the nominee is in order to defeat Trump. Polite applause. But then the moderators — and the audience — press him: What about black women specifically? Bernie doesn’t think that way, though, and so he has no real answer.
Joy: Yeah, And for black women specifically?
Bernie: I’m sorry?
Joy: For black women specifically.
Bernie: Black women will be an integral part of what our campaign, and what are administration is about. Okay? And that means…
Amy Allison: Were you finished with your..? pic.twitter.com/UUSS5udfYr
— Tormund XtopHodor, First of His Name (@tommyxtopher) April 24, 2019
He’s all but silenced when he half-heartedly mentions black women being an integral part of the campaign without offering specifics. The crowd knows a vacuous pander when it hears one.
Second verse, same as the first. What are you going to about white supremacist violence, he’s asked. What I’m going to do, says the class warrior, is improve people’s lives with better wages, universal health care, and comprehensive immigration reform. Right, says the moderator, but what about white supremacists?
Bernie Sanders was asked by a woman of color in the audience what he would do about the rise of white supremacist violence as President.
Instead he started talking about minimum wage and Medicare For All.
The audience claps when the moderator clocks him.
— chris evans (@notcapnamerica) April 24, 2019
Imagine Bernie Sanders’s befuddlement, having just vowed to transform America as we know it with a set of radical economic and political reforms, upon seeing those reforms brushed aside so that the panel can drill down about his plan to deal with the sort of thugs who marched in Charlottesville. For a socialist, this must have felt like a Twilight Zone episode.
The last one is the best one. Desperate to prove his wokeness, Sanders ultimately resorts to touting the credentials he earned during modern America’s long battle over racial equality — and draws the loudest grumbles yet:
After getting called out for dodging specific questions about minorities, Bernie reminds the audience he "marched with MLK".
He wags his finger at them.
— chris evans (@notcapnamerica) April 24, 2019
I supported Jesse Jackson when he ran for president in 1988 too, he went on to say. And in fairness to him, that’s not nothing: His point is that he’s been conscious of racial injustice since his youth, has promoted black candidates in the past, and did both of those things at a time when doing so was unusual for whites, including white Democrats. It’s bracing to hear a largely minority audience deliver what’s best described as an audible eyeroll upon listening to Sanders tout his participation in the civil-rights movement, but having sat through the rest of Bernie’s spiel they’re clearly interpreting it as a fig leaf meant to hide the fact that his policies aren’t race-based. MLK’s been dead for 50 years. What has Bernie done for black women lately?
It’s just one event and, like any single political event, it doesn’t represent the totality of Democratic opinion. Watching this, though, you can imagine a reprise of the 2016 dynamic in which Bernie piles up votes among working-class whites and committed progressives whereas his opponent piles them up among centrists and minorities — and this time that opponent might not be someone as lily-white as Hillary Clinton. It might be Kamala Harris. What happens to the Democratic Party if the field narrows and the primaries become a sort of referendum on the “white candidate’s” class-conscious populism and the “black candidate’s” race-conscious politics?