Why Bernie Sanders Could Lose – And How You Can Help Him Win

I get it, I do. A lot of people are super-excited to see a socialist like Bernie Sanders surging in the polls. You’re thrilled by the size of his crowds, and you love the fact he’s apparently not backed by megacorporations, unlike Hillary Clinton. I was pretty excited to see him run, too, because in primary season, it’s great to have someone who can pull the more mainstream candidates to the left.

And I get that a lot of you are upset by what you consider rude and unnecessary interruptions by black activists. But the way many of you have responded? You’re doing a lot of damage. Progressive candidates won’t win without black votes. And Sanders hasn’t done a good job of convincing people of color that he’s their candidate. Those of you berating the activists for not being soft-spoken and polite enough aren’t doing him a single favor. You’d be doing him a kindness if you stopped yelling at them and started asking him to step up more on racial justice.

I’d like him to win, you know. If I can’t have Elizabeth Warren, I’d like to have somebody who’s willing to take on the moneyed interests. I’d like to have someone who’s looking out for the middle class. At the very least, I want him to be so popular that, even if he’s unelectable, he still lights a fire under the conservaDems who’ve been too timid to buck the system. That would be awesome. But none of it’s going to happen if you and me and him don’t take black activists seriously.

So this week, I’m going to be sharing quite a few posts I’ve been reading that have helped me understand the situation, why things are happening, and what Bernie needs to do in order to win. I hope you’ll listen to these voices. They’re telling you how Bernie can win. And that’s what you want, right?

Start here, please, with a piece by Zoe Samudzi that should answer many of your questions and objections.

Rather than berate black people for their lack of enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders, perhaps you should ask us why.

Why am I tired of Bernie Sanders?

Because of the white fragility continually employed to insulate him from black criticism.

Because of the tone-policing of black disruption and the condescending “you should be grateful for all he’s (read: white liberals have) done for you.”

Because his supporters patronizingly prescribe political opinion rather than respectfully engaging black dissent.

Black people owe white “allies” absolutely nothing. We don’t owe you for being slightly less oppressive than Republicans – not even if you actively support black communities. Basic human decency, i.e. working towards the dismantling of racism and other marginalizing structures, is not something for which any person should expect acclaim or praise.

Continue reading here.

Image shows Bernie at a podium during his Phoenix rally. He is in profile, silent, with his hands resting on the podium. Caption says, "When black voices are talking, are you listening? Without racial justice, there can be no victory."
Image by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0). Caption by me.
Why Bernie Sanders Could Lose – And How You Can Help Him Win
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12 thoughts on “Why Bernie Sanders Could Lose – And How You Can Help Him Win

  1. 1

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was thinking this myself just the other day due to all the people saying, “BLM is damaging their cause!” My response had been along the lines of, “No, they’re just exposing the progressives who are only superficially supportive but were never interested in engaging in actual action for the BLM cause.” This got me to thinking how such an attitude is actually hurting Bernie Sanders because I am a white supporter of Sanders and I have been meaning to engage in actions to get him elected. But the behavior of these progressives this last week+ has depressed me. It makes me less likely to do my part in getting Sanders elected.
    I’ve also considered asking some of these people if they want a trophy for being less racist than Republicans. I could get them one…in the shape of a fist with the middle finger sticking up.

  2. 2

    Listening, well reading.

    Thankyou – good article and agreed here.

    I posted this once before* here :


    Seen a few versions of it on facebook and other places too.

    But I hope its okay if I do so again now because I think it puts it very clearly and answers one of the more common objections to the “Black Lives Matter” hashtag.

    Except and conclusion :

    The phrase “Black lives matter” carries an implicit “too” at the end; it’s saying that black lives should also matter. Saying “all lives matter” is dismissing the very problems that the phrase is trying to draw attention to.

    That ^ I think makes a clear, good point too. Bernie Sanders, Hilary Clinton, any decent thoughtful person should be able to grok that I’d hope.

    * On the ‘some-people-of-color-bernie-sanders-fans-would-do-well-to-listen-to’ thread of 2015/ August /11th.

  3. rq

    Maybe you could do a write-up about how all these so-called liberal progressives have actually turned you away from Sanders, sort of a response to all those who say they no longer support BLM because of how they keep pushing Sanders to do better. :D
    You know, if they can call out the behaviour of black activists, why not call out their behaviour?

  4. rq

    Did you catch this one, Dana? Ha! Sorry? Not Sorry: Bernie Sanders Nixes Aide’s Apology to Black Lives Matter.

    BuzzFeed’s Darren Sands reported Saturday that Sanders’ African-American outreach director, Marcus Ferrell, emailed a group of activists asking them to have a “more formal” meeting with the senator.

    “I apologize it took our campaign so long to officially reach out,” Ferrell wrote the activists. “We are hoping to establish a REAL space for REAL dialog between the folks on this email and our campaign.”

    The email also said that the campaign wanted to “have a more formal interaction with the movement. We wanted to let you know that we hear you, we want to do a better job speaking out on the issues, and as a sitting U.S. Senator, possibly introducing legislation and making a constitutional change.”

    But when asked on the NBC show whether he felt an apology to Black Lives Matter was necessary, the Vermont senator told Todd, “No, I don’t. I think we’re going to be working with all groups. This was sent out without my knowledge.”

    Before that, Sanders had flatly said, “We will meet with everybody,” then rattled off the names of different constituencies, indicating that Black Lives Matter is no more or less important than any other group he may or may not meet with.

    The exchange between Sanders and Todd was a study in how black advocates are treated by some progressives in a Democratic Party that depends on black votes to win on the national level. In the case of Sanders, his campaign avoids any specific endorsement of policies of concern to black advocates—in this case the specific policy agenda of Black Lives Matter. Meanwhile, progressives have had no problem loudly endorsing, supporting and repeating the concerns of other groups under the Democratic Party’s wide umbrella—even though those groups are less loyal. It’s hard to imagine Sanders saying that he’d meet with immigration or LGBT advocates just as he’d reach out to “all kinds of groups,” in a clear effort to negate their relative importance.

    What we see with Sanders when it comes to black-agenda priorities is a resistance to supporting items of importance. This is in contrast with what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also a Democratic presidential candidate, has said on the campaign trail as she speaks bluntly on racism in the criminal-justice system, white privilege, police brutality, racial profiling and overincarceration.

    Meanwhile, the group of voters in America with the highest percentage of participation is black women. Sanders has attracted massive crowds at his rallies but would appear to be a phenomenon among white progressives who are resistant to focusing on the specific policy concerns of Black Lives Matter. Those specific demands have been public for over a year and can be seen here.

    (Thanks to Tony via the Discuss: Racism thread on Pharyngula.)
    So he’s kind of doing the waffle-dance – yes, no, there, back, turn around and do it all again. He’s making some of the right moves, and then… sort of… short-changing them, I guess? I dunno.
    Either way, that bit about ‘phenomenon among white progressives’ seems slightly disingenuous, considering that many of those progressives have been decidedly unprogressive when faced with issues highlighting the plight of black people in USAmerica. ‘Phenomenon among white privilege’ might be more accurate.
    Do better, Bernie Sanders. Do better. Please do better. As one white progressive to another.

  5. 7

    See also the discussions on Shakesville.

    And from another Shakesville article (about Sanders throwing his aide under the bus):

    That is, of course, rhetorical—because unfortunately I know exactly what he’s doing: He’s bellicosely sticking to his message, which is tailored very particularly to straight white cis working class men, and insisting that it should appeal to everyone else, too, because he is an undeterrable subscriber to the notion of trickle-down social justice.

    And yes, do also read Melissa’s transcript and evaluation of the video of HRC’s meeting with the BLM activists.

    It’s not a clear cut case for or against either of them.

  6. 8

    It’s too bad — in the first bit of time after the BLM actions, it looked like Sanders might actually listen and make a commitment to improve and to address concerns re: actually dealing with racism. If he’d done that, I could have felt better about supporting him — now he’s starting to look like a different sort of lesser evil, if that.

  7. 9

    I saw that go by, and I’m pretty damned appalled. Also with the comments of “well, he damned well SHOULDN’T apologize…”
    srsly? you sound EXACTLY like the Tea Party bigots when any of their faves walks back a stupid statement that’s costing them politically.

  8. 10

    yeah, some moderate fanfare over hiring Symone Sanders, a new racial justice bullet-point online added to the platform and then…
    not much that I’m hearing.
    because I think the BLM and other black activists I’ve been following are fair-minded enough to acknowledge a good-faith, ongoing effort to engage and get active.

  9. 11

    Thank you for putting this out there. I don’t have personal stake in this particular issue and had been left with some questions which have neatly been answered here and in the comments. I’ll go over my reaction below and how it changed, feel free to skip it if that doesn’t interest you.

    At first, I found the interruptions disturbing and annoying. I skipped the last minute or two of the video of it but I got the basic point. I didn’t understand why they were targeting Bernie specifically and had the usual thoughts about harming a candidate who is more progressive on many issues that will impact everyone, blah, blah, blah. So far, I had the general reaction they wanted – I was no longer in my comfort zone with this issue. That was the point of the interruption.

    When it came up again however, I listened. I was looking for an understanding of what was being attempted here. I am not a child, I can follow the logic that other people may care more about their safety from being randomly ASSAULTED and/or MURDERED than my comfort. That in fact I also care more about whether people are being attacked and possibly killed in random fashion than I care about whether I like how they speak when they explain this to me. I’m very confused (and at times disgusted and/or ashamed) that anyone would stick with an argument about tone at this point.

    I think perhaps the short circuit with some progressives is they are not considering that the police in these cases are extremist bullies. They’re already getting our lunch money in the form of taxes and salaries yet they’re still attacking and in many cases murdering people on a whim. All of the classic bully defenses are brought up by their apologists. Downplaying, backpedaling, unfortunate incident but surely it doesn’t happen often, victim blaming, and talk about “politeness” of all the batshit crazy things.

    In my mind I assume the people at BLM tried talking to the Sanders campaign privately first. I really hope they did anyway. But I’m not going to scrounge the internet to prove or disprove that, I don’t really need a source of cheap indignation on this issue. Because the entire conversation isn’t about me and how I want to talk to people. The only way to continue focusing on that is to say I don’t care about or don’t believe that black people are being systematically bullied and murdered. In my country. By a government I support with my taxes. Which they also must support with their taxes.

    I already knew the conversation wasn’t about me when I read this but it helped me answer one of my last remaining questions: What does the path forward look like? What does the BLM movement want? What can I do? I now have a much better idea on how to answer these questions. Thank you.

  10. rq

    I don’t understand how an apology would hurt Sanders in the least possible way – it’s a nice gesture, it shows he’s listening, and it shows he cares. He may not mean it to the fullest, or understand why he needs to apologize, but it at least sends a message of approachability. So yeah, do better. :P

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