There are 125 days until the general election and while each major party has chosen their nominee, there is a small faction that refuses to give up the ghost for failed primary challenger Bernie Sanders.
Sanders’ campaign, or as I like to call it, “The Little Revolution That Wasn’t,” was a textbook guide for what not to do when running for the nomination of the Democratic Party.
Sander’s biggest mistake was his decision to discount the democratic base in favor of white working class voters, who tend to lean Republican or independent. Sanders incorrectly believed that white voters were the majority of the democratic base, which polls show is untrue.
In March, an article in The New Republic by Heer Jeet explains that Bernie’s “revolution” was “too white to win.”
“Clinton is winning a multiracial coalition that includes large numbers of whites, African-Americans, and Latinos. Sanders by contrast is winning largely in states which are overwhelmingly white,” Jeet wrote. “One of the key divisions in American politics is that the Republicans are an overwhelmingly white party, while the Democrats are a multiracial one.”
Broken down by demographics, Clinton consistently outpolled Sanders when it came to minority and female voters. Sanders only outpolled Clinton when it came to younger, non-partisan or independent voters.
Sanders’ supposed path to the nomination with the white vote was further explained by Kyle Cheney in an article for Politico in which he wrote, “Sanders’ goal was to emerge from Super Tuesday with a viable comeback path. But it’s unclear how he envisions proceeding from here. His team has sketched a strategy that involves running up margins in the predominantly white states that have responded better to his message.”
His campaign consistently ignored studies showing that the Democratic Party was not only more diverse and multi-cultural, but that this trend has increased each year. He continued this tone-deaf behavior by discounting Clinton’s big wins in southern states.
During an April debate with Clinton, Sanders remarked, “Look, let me acknowledge what is absolutely true: Secretary Clinton cleaned our clock in the Deep South, no question about it. That is the most conservative part of this great country. That’s the fact. But you know what, we’re out of the Deep South now. And we’re moving up.”
This comment ignores that the south has a large population of the black democratic vote and his comments about the south being conservative has no correlation in a primary election.
His supporters touted the argument that, “Clinton is winning in states that will vote red in the general election,” while ignoring that Sanders also won states that vote red in a general such as Idaho and Oklahoma. The problem here is that primary voters and general voters are two completely different electorates.
Primaries are about voters within a political party voting for their own nominee. Discounting an entire section of the country in an election where you’re trying to win the primary is not a smart move.
Sanders has never owned the fact that he simply did not sell his message well in the south, nor did he try and remedy the problem when it was brought to his attention. He naively continued to believe that once he got to the northwest states where his white base was, that he would do better. He decided that he didn’t “need” black voters, the very base of the party for whom he was attempting to become its nominee.
His discounting of southern black voters is indicative of a candidate who clearly doesn’t know that he needs those voters for his “revolution” in order to flip house and senate seats.
A smart candidate need only look at the state-level GOP obstructionism that affects people who need healthcare, abortion access and legal justice to know that discounting an entire section of the country as unnecessary is not the tactic of a serious presidential candidate.
This wasn’t the beginning of Sanders problems with black voters. In late 2015 at Netroots Nation, he appeared before a crowd who began chanting “Say Her name,” a reference to Sandra Bland, whose recent death after being pulled over by a Texas cop was still fresh in everyone’s psyche.
Sanders responded with, “Black lives of course matter. I spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and dignity, but if you don’t want me to be here, that’s okay. I don’t want to out-scream people,” then pivoted to talking about economic inequality.
Sander’s campaign botched reaching out to the Democratic base, as well as began peddling conspiracies of voter fraud and voter suppression in any state in which he didn’t win.
Sanders supporters flooded social media with claims of the primary process being undemocratic and biased towards him, reasons ranging from closed primaries to superdelegates.
Sanders is on record stating that he believed the use of superdelegates was undemocratic. However after the New York primary where Clinton won, his campaign manager stated that they would appeal to those so-called “undemocratic” superdelegates at the convention to overturn the will of the voters.
Condemning closed primaries, Sanders stated, “Today, 3 million people in the state of New York who are independents have lost their right to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary. That’s wrong.”
What he ignores is that each party makes their own primary rules and has since the beginning. Choosing to register as an independent means that you are forfeiting your right to have a say in another party’s primary.
New York, as well as California, also had specific deadlines in which to change your party affiliation if you wanted to participate in the democratic primary. Sanders campaign dropped the ball and failed to inform his supporters of this fact in enough time, then called foul when he lost both states.
Every American has the right to vote, in theory, but there are rules and deadlines that must be followed to exercise that right. There may be an argument to be had about how democratic those rules and deadline are, but the time to have that conversation was not the day of the primary after your candidate already lost. It was months before.
It’s difficult for a candidate to tout how undemocratic a primary process is, when said candidate won almost every state that held caucuses, which have widely been considered the most undemocratic electoral process.
The final nail in the coffin of Sanders hypocrisy was his appeal to the superdelegates to clinch the nomination. Arguing that he was the more electable candidate over Clinton, Sanders urged superdelegates to switch sides, thereby overriding the will of the voters and hand him a nomination that he lost by every possible metric.
Jamelle Bouie wrote in an article for Slate “When he looks for ways to nullify Clinton’s popular vote and pledged delegate majority, when he touts his support among working-class whites and dismisses (predominantly black) Southern Democrats and their votes, Sanders is attacking the coalition that elected Barack Obama—the coalition that arguably made his progressive movement possible—whether he realizes it or not.”
As if Sanders ineptly-run dumpster fire of a campaign wasn’t doing enough damage on its own, his supporters didn’t help him make his case by any means.
In an article for the NY Times, Charles Blow wrote about the rise of what has come to be known as “Brocialists.” Brocialists are white, typically male supporters of Sanders who are self-proclaimed progressive liberals who put class issues over race and gender issues and have a habit of condescendingly explaining to black people why they should vote for him, and harassing them when they refuse.
Marcus Johnson wrote in an article for Medium, “Brocialist theory purports that once the class struggle is complete, issues with race and gender will simply melt away. But it is important to remember that socialism is an economic system, nothing more. It is not a cultural system. Racism (and sexism) can still thrive in socialist countries.”
Typical comments from brocialists range from, “Don’t you all know Bernie is in your best interests?” to “Bernie marched with MLK, what has Hillary done for you?”
Blow described it as, “Tucked among all this Bernie-splaining by some supporters, it appears to me, is a not-so-subtle, not-so-innocuous savior syndrome and paternalistic patronage that I find so grossly offensive that it boggles the mind that such language should emanate from the mouths — or keyboards — of supposed progressives.”
Taking that point of view further, hidden beneath this “Bernie-splaining” is the not-so-subtle hint that black people “owe” white progressives a Sanders presidency as repayment or a “tit for tat” for voting in Barack Obama.
The refusal of black voters to fall in line for their candidate has led to an all out temper tantrum from progressives, some so bad that they mirror the same insults and rhetoric that is typically seen from far right conservatives.
These same brocialists have gone as far as to proclaim that they will vote for Trump in the general election as a middle finger to the democrats who refused to roll over and give them what they wanted. This scorched earth style of politics is not indicative of what the progressive ideology is supposed to be, but rather of a spoiled, privileged demographic who would suffer the least, if at all, under a Trump presidency.
Sanders truly believes that he started a revolution. The problem is, you cannot have a revolution full of people who need a revolution the least. His white base was really an uprising of white populism, people who desperately want to re-center white identity in the Democratic Party.
Johnson continued,”That’s why brocialists fight to keep the focus off of race and gender. They see their interests as at odds with those of minorities and women who want to be represented in government and business. That’s why they ignore the fact that Black people were left out of the New Deal for a quarter century (as whites moved into the middle class with unions and social security, building wealth, Blacks remained in poverty).”
Sanders, knowingly or unknowingly, built a movement of people who ignore the concerns of the Democratic base because they don’t appeal to the white working class, and the worst part was he never condemned this behavior. He never condemned the racist, sexist rhetoric that came daily from his supporters who deemed black people or women “too dumb” to know what was in their best interests.
He plowed ahead with only one thing in mind, clenching the nomination. The problem is he plowed over every demographic that he needed to achieve this, and has resorted to a spoiled, privileged temper tantrum, still believing that he deserves a nomination that he lost by every possible metric, and is on his way to Philadelphia to demand that mommy and daddy give him what he wants “or else.”
What he doesn’t know is that his “or else” no longer holds any power. Clinton has officially clinched the nomination and only 8% of his supporters polled now say they will not vote for her. With the entire country having pivoted to the general election, Sanders is now the old curmudgeon left out in the cold.
He had a chance to end this primary with dignity. Instead he chose his own self-interest, and his non-revolution is now in a pile of ashes, right next to his campaign.