Common Dreams - December 2018

"Even those who openly mock the concerns of the white working class, undermine their own alleged commitment to marginalized voices when they ignore the diversity of Sanders' supporters."

A recent CNN poll shows that among potential Democratic candidates in Iowa caucuses Senator Bernie Sanders has the highest approval rating from people of color. And the diversity of the Sanders-inspired left was on display at the Sanders Institute Gathering in Burlington Vermont earlier this month, which I covered on my podcast, The Katie Halper Show.

But empirical evidence has not stopped much of the corporate press—including many "liberal" or "progressive" outlets and commentators—from condemning the senator as having "a race problem."

Over the past week we saw Jonathan Martin of the New York Times (who happens to be white) claim that Sanders "has done little to broaden his political circle and has struggled to expand his appeal beyond his base of primarily white supporters." Meanwhile, Clara Jeffery, the editor-in-chief ofMother Jones (also white), recently presented not only Sanders' supporters but the left movement in general as white. Linking to a written exchange between two Splinter journalists about Sanders, she tweeted, "In which white lefties have a debate that somehow does not discuss the fact that Bernie has no real purchase among the POC base of the Democratic party. And that problem has not improved for him, if anything it seems larger…"

But despite evidence like the new CNN poll, in which Sanders had the highest approval among non-white voters, outlets reporting on the survey studiously avoided mentioning that key finding which undermines the media narrative about Sanders' struggle to appeal to minority voters. While it's only one poll, and his favorability among voters of color isn't far ahead of Joe Biden's, it's newsworthy and significant precisely because it undermines the media narrative about Sanders' alleged struggle to appeal to non-white voters. On social media people who happily call Sanders #FakeJews, and defend Hillary Clinton's use of prison slave labor, continue to vilify Sanders as somehow "racist."

Most politicians could "do better," when it comes to addressing and speaking about racial inequities, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and classism. But the claim that Sanders is exceptionally problematic is absurd, given, for example, that Biden opposed integrated busing in the 1970's; mistreated Anita Hill during the confirmation process of Clarence Thomas; called Obama "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy"; and said "You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking."

Sanders' critics smear him as blinded by straight, white, male privilege. The mere mention of class gets Sanders and others condemned as class reductionists. The irony is that many of the most vocal critics attacking him for being insufficiently intersectional fail to address class altogether as an aspect of identity. ...
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