After a long summer spent feuding with #BlackLivesMatter and alienating Obama coalition voters, Senator Bernie Sanders appeared to be going in the right direction with black voters. He released a pretty decent racial justice platform, stopped telling people how his 1960s-era activism gave him a lifetime hood pass, and hasn’t openly pined for white voters in months. None of this appears to have translated in the polls, though, as Sanders’ support remains overwhelmingly white, so Bernie made some moves this week.
First, he decided that drafting Dr. Cornel West as his most prominent black surrogate would somehow be a good idea, which would have worked if Sanders had a flux capacitor and a DeLorean set to 2007. Here in the present, Cornel West is about as appealing to black voters as a Rand Paul lecture on black party identification. West has been among the most unhinged of Obama critics.
Then, Sanders made an inane charge against President Obama part of his stump. Repeating a claim he’s made several times, Sanders took to MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes to explain that he won’t repeat Obama’s “biggest political mistake”:
I happen to have a lot of respect and affection for Barack Obama. Biggest political mistake that he made is after his brilliant campaign in 2008, he basically said to the millions of people who supported him, thanks for getting me elected, I will take it from here. I will not make that mistake. If I`m elected president, trust me, we`ll be directly involved and working with millions of people who will tell the billionaire class their day is over, they`re not going to get it all. They`re going to start paying their fair share off taxes. We are going to create millions of jobs. We are going to raise the minimum wage. Wall Street will pay a tax on speculation whether they like it or not because millions of people now will be involved in the political process.
Forget, for a moment, the political wisdom of insulting the guy whose supporters you desperately need, or the fact that President Obama actually created eleventy-billion jobs since taking office, and just pay attention to the factual claim Sanders is making.
You can make a lot of arguments against President Obama and his ability to enact his agenda, but I’ve got several hundred emails from OFA that say failing to directly engage millions of voters isn’t one of them. In fact, this president has made unprecedented strides in direct outreach to the public, which the press never stops complaining about. Of all the criticisms you could make against President Obama, this is the most baseless one possible.
If anything, the knock against Obama has been that he didn’t play the inside game very well, but the truth is that his biggest political mistake was being black. Sanders is at least correct that he’s unlikely to duplicate that one.
Here’s Sanders making the same argument last week, and in June: