Does Bernie Sanders Have A Race Problem?
Bernie Sanders is attracting thousands to rallies across the country, including a rally in Washington that was attended by 15,000 individuals and another in Portland with 20,000 in attendance. But it’s an event that occurred earlier Saturday that’s attracting attention to Sanders and his campaign.
Is Bernie Sanders – an aged Vermont U.S. Senator seeking the Democratic nomination – having trouble connecting with minorities? Recent events seem to prove so.
In a Seattle city park Saturday, Bernie was scheduled to be the final speaker in a lengthy program that day to honor the anniversary of Social Security. Shortly after Sanders took the stage, a group of protesters from Black Lives Matter Seattle overtook the stage and microphone, the Washington Post reported.
The group’s alleged leader asked the crowd for a moment of silence on the one-year anniversary of the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of Michael Brown before turning her attention to Sanders. In doing so, the speaker asked the crowd to “join us now in holding Bernie Sanders accountable” for what the group called inaction on addressing police brutality and other issues supported by the group.
This isn’t the first time he’s been interrupted by members of the group. In July, activists also disrupted another political forum attended by Sanders and fellow nomination seeker Martin O’Malley. Bernie was attempting to make remarks to the crowd of 3,000 at the Netroots Nation event in Phoenix, but a raucous group kept interrupting his speech by slogan chanters with the same organization.
Not all minorities feel this way about Bernie, as evidenced by a tweet Sunday.
newStream©: Black Bernie Sanders supporter to BLM protesters: You don’t speak for the majority http://t.co/BsbUJrKWti
— greychampion (@greychampion) August 9, 2015
It isn’t for lack of effort that Sanders isn’t connecting with the black voters. Later in the month of July, he held a rally at a black church in Louisiana. While his visit was greeted warmly by those in attendance, it underscores the obvious problem Bernie will face in the presidential race. His best-attended event in Louisiana that weekend was a 4,500 person rally where nearly the entire audience was white.
Successful campaigns by Democrats in the past 20 years have relied heavily on two groups of voters that are not turning up in any significant numbers to hear Bernie speak: African-American and Latinos. Sanders speaks to predominantly white crowds, but President Obama courted – and won – voters from minorities, and they turned out in record numbers to support their candidate.
Part of the problem may be that Bernie is pushing his political agenda, an agenda that includes “democratic socialism.” Sanders looks toward Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark as ways that his socialist programs can be successful and combat economic injustices, but Bernie concedes that a multi-ethnic political coalition is needed in order to produce the results in America.
His ideas are being called racist and Nazi-esque by the National Review‘s Kevin Williamson. Calling it “Nordic Exceptionalism,” Williamson wrote that Sanders and the politically left want to change America’s diversity situation to be more in line with the mostly-white Nordic countries.
“The real differences between relatively homogeneous northern European societies and the sort of society we have here in the United States is rarely if ever seriously addressed by our democratic socialist friends… ‘We’d like to make America more like Norway or Finland’ is, among other things, a way of saying, ‘We’d like to make America more like a virtually all-white society.'”
For his part, Bernie has a long list of accomplishments regarding civil rights movement. He attended the March on Washington in the 1960s, and Sanders was arrested during a protest against school segregation. His policy includes reforms for unemployment among blacks and how money spent to jail an alarmingly high African-American population.
Yet Sanders is conceding to the activists, writes Jazz Shaw. On his campaign’s website, a new portion revealed Sunday is devoted to racial injustice under the “issues” tab. And his campaign announced later Saturday that Symone D. Sanders, an African-American woman, would join his staff as a press secretary.
But will it be enough for Bernie to win the Democratic nomination? Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic pack, according to a Monmouth University poll, but voters are becoming increasingly okay with the idea of Sanders atop the ticket. Her support has slipped from a high in January, but Sanders still trails by more than a three-to-one margin in the most recent polls.
[Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]