After being targeted by the Black Lives Matter movement for not offering explicit proposals to stop African Americans from being shot by the police, Bernie Sanders has been continually attacked by activists and Hillary Clinton supporters for being “too white” and not doing enough to reach out to minorities.
The levels of vitriol directed at Sanders and his supporters has became truly ridiculous, with letters like this circulated after Sanders was interrupted by activists in Seattle:
Dear Bernie Sanders supporters,
Shut up and listen for once. When black women interrupt your candidate, don’t call them “thugs.” And when protesters hijack your hero’s microphone to have their story heard, it doesn’t mean they’re paid provocateurs in some elaborate plot involving George Soros and Hillary Clinton. You know who else propagates wild conspiracy theories about George Soros funding left-wing protesters? Glenn Beck and Allen West. So congratulations, white progressives – your fanaticism for Bernie has turned you into the thing you hate.
Of course there are no actual examples of Sanders supporters calling them “thugs” or inferring they were paid provocateurs, but then this is the internet age where facts mean little, and opinion everything.
Banter readers will remember I got involved in an almighty bust up with predominantly white ultra liberals over my criticism of the interruptions on a Huff Post Live segment, and refusal to believe that calling Sanders’ supporters and staff “white supremacists” was in any way productive. Part of my own anger over Sanders’ treatment stemmed from the fact that like Sanders, I am of Polish/Jewish extract and deeply, deeply resent flippant accusations of “white supremacy.” When you’ve had 6 million of your ancestors wiped out by real white supremacists (and all not so long ago) don’t expect a polite response.
How Bernie Sanders, the son of two Polish immigrants, who lost half of his direct family to the Holocaust and has worked tirelessly for those who have the least in America can be cast as “too white” is literally beyond my abilities to comprehend. In the competing narrative bloodbath otherwise known as American presidential politics, the media has run with this story and duly reported it as fact that Hillary Clinton is innately more sympathetic to the plight of minorities and will do more in office to combat racism and police brutality against African Americans and other minorities. This again has absolutely evidence free given Sanders has a well documented and extensive record on standing up for minorities and the oppressed. But of course the media needs a narrative and they’ll stick with it no matter what the facts say.
Let’s take an example. Here’s how the Guardian reported Sander’s latest rally in Las Vegas yesterday, in an article titled “‘It’s very white’: Las Vegas audience exposes Bernie Sanders’ Latino problem:
Short of dancing salsa, the Democratic candidate did all he could to woo this crucial constituency at a rally on a soccer field in Las Vegas on Sunday night.
He surrounded himself with Latinos on stage and promised to fight for agricultural workers and to shelter families from deportation. It signalled the start of an effort to narrow Hillary Clinton’s wide lead with the state’s Latinos.
There was just one problem: the audience at the Cheyenne sports complex was mostly white.
Latinos largely shunned the call to “feel the Bern”, leaving the crowd to dance stiffly to the Mexican music and a question mark over the campaign’s prospects in Nevada.
“I do notice it’s very white,” said Nathan Rudig, 33, a research analyst, eyeing fellow Sanders supporters. “He’s going to need the Latino and African American vote.”
The Guardian also reported that:
A poll by impreMedia/Latino Decisions to be released on Monday will make sober reading for the Sanders camp. Some 41% of Latino registered voters in 14 battleground states either had not heard of him or had no opinion.
This isn’t to fault the Guardian necessarily, but it is a theme has been repeated by the media over and over and over again and then reported on over and over again until the narrative becomes the reality. The fact that Sanders isn’t resonating with minorities isn’t necessarily because he is “too white” as the media continues to say. Most likely it is because he doesn’t have the national recognition Hillary Clinton does and isn’t benefitting from Clinton’s husband’s popularity with African Americans.
As is always the case in politics in the modern media age, image is everything regardless of whether it bears any resemblance to reality. Hillary Clinton, while obviously an infinitely better choice than any Republican, is a centrist, corporate Democrat who would largely represent the interests of the wealthy in America. Given the wealthy are overwhelmingly white, it isn’t difficult to see who would be a better choice for minorities. The truth is, Bernie Sanders isn’t great at kissing babies, sucking up to minority demographics or even talking to the media. That’s because he actually believes the time has come to stop playing games and drive through real change in government.
And if you believe this is somehow “too white” then we really are in serious trouble.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.