There is a stream of thinking running through my Twitter feed today emanating from the die-hard Democrats I follow. The gist of it is that it is Bernie Sanders’s fault that Hillary Clinton lost the election, because his ”wing” (read: those who believe what Democrats used to) dismisses black people, and now the Democratic party should excise and shun Bernie Sanders as it heads toward the 2020 presidential election.
Yeah, why would we want to pay any heed to the guy who was packing arenas, generating miles-long lines, and raising millions of dollars $27 at a time? What are we thinking about, winning elections or something?
In reply to a tweet about a story in Mic about Sen. Kamala Harris that reads “Kamala Harris, a rising Democratic star, faces a problem: the Bernie-wing of the party is skeptical of her,” a black writer for HuffPost offers, “She’s a Black woman and last year that demographic voted against Sanders at the highest rates. That “wing” has big probs w Black voters.”
A woman in my feed responds to it with, “There is no Sanders wing of the Democratic Party; Sanders insists he is not a Democrat, & @tomperez should do better than pretend Sanders is”
It's almost reflexive now for some Hillary supporters to paint all Bernie's supporters as sexist and racist. The speed with which they will jump on any reason for Hillary's defeat except "she was a lousy candidate" is breathtaking. (Yeah, Russia, yeah, Comey, yeah, media, but any decent candidate would've been so far ahead of Pussygrabber McFascist that no shenanigans should've mattered.)
The Mic piece, BTW, explains why some Bernie supporters distrust Kamala. Nomiki Konst explains:
“The Democrats will not win until they address income inequality, no matter how they dress up their next candidate,” Konst said. “If that candidate is in bed with Wall Street, you may as well lay a tombstone out for the Democratic Party now. Voters are smart; they can follow the money.”
RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of National Nurses United, has her reasons to distrust Kamala:
“She’s one of the people the Democratic party is putting up,” DeMoro told the [New York] Times. “In terms of where the progressives live, I don’t think there’s any ‘there’ there.”
Winnie Wong makes her case against Kamala:
“She is the preferred candidate of extremely wealthy and out-of-touch Democratic party donors,” said Winnie Wong, co-founder of the group People for Bernie, which played a prominent role the grassroots movement behind Sanders in 2016. “Her recent anointing is extremely telling.
The piece describes how Kamala Harris, as California’s attorney general, was the only Democratic recipient of Senate campaign donations from now-Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the Goldman Sachs-connected former OneWest Bank CEO. Prosecutors in her office “uncovered evidence suggestive of widespread misconduct” and recommended a civil enforcement action against OneWest; she let him off the hook.
That seems to me a more logical explanation for some Bernie supporters’ distrust of Kamala Harris than supposing they have a “problem” with black voters.
But maybe the meaning was that the black voters have a problem with the Bernie wing.
Indeed, black voters picked Hillary Clinton in the primaries at far greater rates than Bernie Sanders. I read pieces at the time that explained black voters have been taught over decades to distrust pie-in-the-sky promises like Bernie’s and to back the realistic, pragmatic candidate that will get things done. I read pieces that explained how Clinton better connected with black voters because she was seen as an extension of Barack Obama and/or because her husband had connected so well. I read pieces about how out-of-touch Sanders was with black people, coming from lily-white rural Vermont.
How’d that work out for her? And black voters? Because, according to FiveThirtyEight, it looks like the Democratic party isn’t connecting well with black voters in the post-Obama era.
Democrats can, and certainly should, connect with black voters. But the greatest concentration of black voters lies in Southern states that vote overwhelmingly Republican. Meanwhile, Hillary lost the election, as Michael Moore predicted, because of a Rust-Belt Brexit where white voters who had twice picked Barack Obama voted for Trump.
In a campaign where Hillary was struggling to fill a high school gym in the suburbs of predominantly-black Democratic Philadelphia, Bernie was bringing out thousands of voters in the freezing cold suburbs of predominantly-black Democratic Detroit. Where Hillary couldn’t half-fill a meeting room in sparsely-populated lily-white Republican New Hampshire, Bernie was packing a basketball arena in sparsely-populated lily-white Republican Idaho, leading to the largest Democratic caucus turnout in the nation’s history.
Some Bernie supporters’ problem with Senator Kamala Harris isn’t that she’s a woman who is black, it’s that she’s beholden to the men with the green. While Democrats picked Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the primaries, the general election proved to be hostile to the Wall Street-backed candidate. If they want to regain the White House, Democrats should consider how to earn the most votes in the states they need to win rather than who’ll get the most black votes in the states they’re guaranteed to lose.