The ever-rightward moving Democrats are using their most reliable constituency to thwart Sanders.
The last thing that Democratic Party leadership wants to see is another Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. It is probable that he would have won the 2016 nomination and the presidency itself if they hadn’t used a variety of means to rig the system against him. Now they are terrified of the prospect that a new campaign will expose and challenge their corrupt relationship with corporate interests once again. Sanders is popular and they are well aware of that fact. The voters want his signature Medicare for All plan, free college tuition, and an increased minimum wage. A candidate who runs on those platform positions will win the party nomination and election. But Democrats hope to win with nothing more than platitudes and anti-Trumpism, just as they did during the 2016 debacle.
The current weapon of choice is telling lies that will turn black voters against Sanders. The strategy is both shrewd and cynical. If Sanders doesn’t get black support in the early southern primaries, where Democrat almost always means black, he will be in a difficult position as the campaign moves to the rest of the country. The effort to stop Sanders is a rationale for choosing Kamala Harris as the machine favorite. But they are leaving no other stones unturned. Getting a black face as a Sanders rival is just one way to skin the cat. Telling lies about Sanders is another. His statements are carefully dissected and any words or phrases that might trigger black angst are amplified or even made up out of whole cloth.
This insidious plan has been in place for some time now. During an April 4, 2018, speech in Jackson, Mississippi, Sanders referred to Barack Obama as “an extraordinary candidate, a brilliant guy.” His words of praise ordinarily would not have elicited much attention but the effort to get him is a serious one. The comments were spun and presented as an insult. The effort was all the more important because Sanders was discussing the loss of some 1,000 seats held by Democrats in Congress and state houses. They used a phony anti-Obama trope while also negating the substance of his remarks about their many failures.
This big lie was not the last. It was followed by a claim that Sanders dismissed the seriousness of the racist vote theft and suppression that cost Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum gubernatorial races in Georgia and Florida, respectively. Sanders words were again examined for any possible opportunity to claim racial animus on his part or a lack of concern when expressed by others.
An interview with The Daily Beast began with a reporter euphemistically discussing “racial oriented” campaigns. Sanders quickly dismissed the beating around the bush and said, “Why don’t we use the right word—not use the phrase ‘race-oriented.’ Why don’t we say ‘racist,’ how’s that?” Those words were disappeared from the interview but his comment “…a lot of white folks out there who are not necessarily racist who felt uncomfortable for the first time in their lives about whether or not they wanted to vote for an African-American” received great attention. Only those discerning and media savvy knew that the outrage was ginned up cherry picking and distortion.
The treatment of Sanders is getting worse. They are no longer content to take words out of context, they now tell outright lies. The Hill falsely reported that Sanders would deliver a State of the Union response at the same time that Stacey Abrams was delivering the official Democratic Party response. Abrams is second only to Kamala Harris in the Democrats’ plan to use black women as window dressing to cover up their inaction born of corruption.
This falsehood had the desired effect. Sanders was seen as stealing Abrams limelight and being tone deaf about black people. He was labeled a racist and sexist. In fact, he gave his third annual response only on social media and after Abrams had spoken. She got the television networks and Sanders had Facebook Live once she was finished speaking.
The contretemps may seem silly but it is a harbinger of worse things to come. The fact that black people are trapped in a party that works against their interests always leads to some sort of madness. Sanders policy proposals are in sync with the politics of black voters. But in 2016 the ever-present concern of nominating someone considered a shoe-in, Hillary Clinton in this case, made him an also ran among a group who want what he is offering.
Despite the Democrats’ machinations and collusion with corporate media, Sanders is the front runner for 2020. If black people don’t support him, it should be because they have seriously considered his candidacy but choose to look elsewhere. If he doesn’t get black votes, it should not be because of bald faced lies spread by the same people who raised more than $1 billion and still lost to Trump.
Bernie Sanders is not as left wing as he is often depicted. He is willing to water down important proposals in a vain effort to make them palatable to people who don’t want to see them enacted at all. On foreign policy issues he is as much an imperialist as the rest of his party. But the ever rightward moving Democrats will not consider Sanders at all. And they are using their most reliable constituency to thwart him. Sanders hasn’t even declared his candidacy but one tool is already being used to his detriment and it makes a mockery of what is left of democracy in this country.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.