Sanders Needs Minority Voters… and Minority Voters Need Sanders

Permit me a few minutes to talk about Bernie Sanders, my favorite candidate in the 2016 Presidential field.

Folks supporting Bernie Sanders for President, Spearfish, South Dakota, 2015.07.29.
Folks supporting Bernie Sanders for President, Spearfish, South Dakota, 2015.07.29.

A couple weeks ago, Sanders appeared by video at over 3,500 house parties in all fifty states. The Sanders campaign says about 104,000 people attended. Seventeen attended the event in Spearfish. About fifty attended the Rapid City Sanders event, and I’m told 168 went to the Sioux Falls Sanders event. Joshua McDonald, a Northern Hills resident organizing for Sanders, says his people are working on collaborating with Team Sanders in Iowa to canvass for Sanders in Sioux City on August 28. McDonald also says a couple of Black Hills State students want to organize a campus group to promote Sanders at school and around the Black Hills.

I’m excited about Bernie Sanders for the same reason I was excited about Dennis Kucinich in 2004 and 2008: he’s an anti-corporate straight-shooter, a real progressive liberal, a believer in single-payer health care, and an underdog. He doesn’t come from big money or big name. He’s not part of the power elite—how can I not like him?

While Sanders is the clear front-runner for runner-up to Hillary Clinton, Nate Cohn of the New York Times observes that the July 29 house parties show that Berniemania doesn’t reach beyond liberal white districts enough to grab the nomination:

An analysis of Mr. Sanders’s activist base shows that the turnout for Mr. Sanders was overwhelmingly concentrated in the country’s most liberal communities. There were actually more Sanders attendees in Portland, Ore., than in New Hampshire or Iowa. There was little or no activity in many nonwhite and conservative areas that possess the votes and delegates to decide the nomination.

Twelve congressional districts — all in Southern or nonwhite areas — had no Sanders events. There were no Sanders events in an overwhelmingly Democratic, minority-heavy district in New York City. There were no Sanders events in two heavily Hispanic congressional districts in California. There were no events in several congressional districts in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Florida [Nate Cohn, “Support for Bernie Sanders Is Deep But Narrow,” New York Times: The Upshot, 2015.07.30].

Cohn argues that Hillary Clinton would have crushed Barack Obama in 2008 if black voters hadn’t turned out in such strong numbers for him.

Black citizens did turn out for a Sanders event in Seattle this weekend—to disrupt it. At a rally to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Social Security, two Black Lives Matter protesters commandeered the microphone; pre-empted Sanders’s speech with their own speech and a demand for four and a half minutes of silence to recognize the one-year anniversary of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; then refused to surrender the microphone to Sanders and instead asked the crowd to “join us now in holding Bernie Sanders accountable for his actions.” Black Lives Matter Seattle cofounders Marissa Johnsona nd Mara Willaford issued a press release saying, “We honor black lives by doing the unthinkable, the unapologetic, and the unrespectable.” Sanders left the stage, shook hands with folks in the crowd, then went to an evening rally in Seattle that drew 15,000 people.

Sanders is talking more about racial issues, although he prefers to frame racial issues in the context of his forté, economic issues. When NPR’s David Greene tried to draw Sanders into criticizing Hillary Clinton for not using the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” Sanders refused to take that bait and instead focused on deeper issues than the words coming out of liberals mouths:

Phraseology, of course I’d use that phrase…. Black lives matter; white lives matter; Hispanic lives matter. But these are also not only police matters, they’re not only gun control matters, they are significantly economic matters. … Because it’s too easy for quote-unquote liberals to be saying, “Well, let’s use this phrase.” Well, what are we going to do about 51 percent of young African-Americans unemployed?

We need a massive jobs program to put black kids to work and white kids to work and Hispanic kids to work. So my point is, is that it’s sometimes easy to say — worry about what phrase you’re going to use. It’s a lot harder to stand up to the billionaire class and say, “You know what? You’re going to have to pay some taxes. You can’t get away with putting your money in tax havens, because we need that money to create millions of jobs for black kids, for white kids, for Hispanic kids” [Bernie Sanders, quoted in Jessica Taylor, “Sanders: ‘My Goal Right Now Is to Win This Election’,”, 2015.06.25].

I agree with Donna Brazile that “Black Lives Matter” has a clear relevance to the discussion of ongoing institutional racism in America. Responding with “All Lives Matter” misses the point that lots of black Americans (and lots of South Dakota Indians) don’t think we mean them when we say “All.”

Certain vocal tactics may be necessary to nudge Sanders and all candidates for the Democratic nomination toward giving more air time to the serious issues of police brutality and discrimination in the criminal justice system. However, folks shouting “Black Lives Matter” and yanking the microphone from a man who got arrested for protesting school segregation in Chicago are missing an opportunity for a much more positive, constructive dialogue. They are also missing a chance to mobilize their followers to back Bernie Sanders and fight the mostly white oligarchs offered by Republican Party who are far less capable of empathizing with the plight of their fellow Americans.

Blacks, Indians, and everyone else outside America’s privileged class should ask every candidate hard questions about racism. But they should also listen to Bernie Sanders talk extensively about the complicated issues of physical, political, legal, and economic violence that he vows to address. Then they’ll see that they can promote racial justice better by joining the white liberals at Sanders’s next house parties (that Spearfish photo was all white, wasn’t it?), making sure their issues are part of the conversation, and organizing to mobilize their friends and neighbors to support Bernie Sanders the way they supported Barack Obama.

47 Responses to Sanders Needs Minority Voters… and Minority Voters Need Sanders

  1. larry kurtz


  2. larry kurtz

    On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton leads with 50% to 32% for Bernie Sanders, 4% for Martin O’Malley, 3% for Lincoln Chafee, and 2% for Jim Webb. This is the most support we’ve found for Sanders in any state so far this year. It’s not surprising that would come in Minnesota for him- he has tended to do much better with white voters than African Americans or Hispanics, and the Democratic electorate in Minnesota is far whiter than in the country as a whole.

  3. I think Bernie is just making a play for the VP spot on the coronation ticket. If he makes a good enough showing in New Hampshire, she may have to comply by not completely destroying him with her uncoordinated PAC spending.

  4. larry kurtz

    Earth haters like ‘Spencer’ are clueless.

    Clinton will not pick Senator Sanders as a running mate: she will pick someone like Al Franken who can bring younger voters and a wicked bite to a general election campaign.

  5. He has plenty of diversity going on. Just look at the photo. Women, men, some with beards, some with hats, some with glasses, some standing, some younger than him …

    I like Bernie Sanders. I’m still not quite clear if he is or ever was a registered Democrat. I still don’t think he can get elected President. I’d love to see Joe Biden get into the race.

  6. Spencer, why make such a complicated ploy to avoid being destroyed by PAC spending when one could use my simple plan to avoid such destruction: don’t run for President? You’re looking at this through cynical GOP lenses: Sanders is not playing around. He’s trying to speak some important truths and move voters in the right direction.

  7. Bill Fleming

    Mr. Sanders drew a 28,000 person crowd in Portland, Oregon yesterday. “Feel the Bern.”

  8. This should be Obama’s primary, not Hillary’s. The DNC and Co. pulled the plug on Hillary and Bill allowing the “fairy tale” to be the anointed nominee. Obama survived only because punches were being pulled after they finally started to land in South Carolina and were having a lasting effect. The DNC and the Black Caucus shut Hillary and Bill up and made her step to the back of the line for the nomination. She deserves the nomination after having to put up with that treatment for Obama’s sake. It should be hers to lose. Exactly who is going to convince her and Bill to play nice this time around for a bunch of tedious liberal white men? They don’t even have an advocacy group. This primary could be brutal and quite entertaining but only if it needs to be. Right now it is looking like a 95% chance that Hillary will win the nomination with a 5% chance she might be sidelined due to a health concern/meteorite impact. If you accept it now, you will be fired up about it by the time the general rolls around.

  9. larry kurtz

    “Bernie Sanders in Seattle: ‘Too Many Lives Have Been Destroyed by the War on Drugs.’”

  10. Candidates, who doing photo ops need to include someone with an obvious disability. That is not to say that none of those in the photo do not have a disability, it is not obvious.

    With 15 percent, or more, of the population having some type of disability, Bernie and other candidates need to address that population.

  11. I think Bernie would be a very efficient president that would move the country in a more progressive way. I think Hillary would give what little we have left to corporate interests. When I hear her say that her husband screwed up with Glass-Stegall along with her statement that she would repeal that, I may find her intriguing, until then, I go to the white guy.

    Now if Hillary would make Warren her vice president, that would be a hoot.

  12. cory-the downside of bernie whom i like very much or kucinich, is of course voting for them and losing to republicans, which will determine the future of the nation and world. there are not enough riches in the US for republicans. three terms in a row democratic-will be rare.

    the last republican president won narrowly (by the supreme court’s “highly partisan resolution of 2000 election”-nyt 08.15.2006), yet precipitated world events (“axis of evil-evil doers…ect.”) that continue to this very day;

    as clarence thomas’ wife worked up appointee lists, sandra day o’conner loudly proclaimed a gore win would be a disaster for her, antoine (“come on, get over it” – a familair conservative phrase these days!) scalia’s son worked for bush’s law firm in bush v. gore, and william rehnquist’s decisive vote was based after-the-fact on an apologist notion stemming from the “Panic of 1873” (which involved a solution of illegally trespassing and surveying the black hills [by Custer County Commissioner’s Phil Lampert’s heros Harney and Custer for seizure and gold exploitation from the Indians-no wonder they still refuse to settle the matter]).

    The following disputed 1876 election was decided by one vote of the republican supreme court and one electoral vote as a result. Rehnquist asserted only his vote could avert a national crisis so “he took it [the shot]”. Rehnquist reasoned “that because the republican, though not as smart as the democrat, was more likeable” in 1876, Gore detractors could take similar glee in his vote against gore in 2000.

    15 ACJ 2, bush v. gore (spring 2013)

  13. Deb Geelsdottir

    I haven’t found a policy position where I disagree with Sanders. He’s more Wellstone than Wellstone. I read the Wapo article about the Black Lives Matter people interrupting his rally and thought that was so odd. Of the candidates thus far, he’s probably their best bet.

    Spencer, where do you get your information about all the back room maneuvering you describe? Have you researched several options and reached your conclusions? Help me out please.

    I think Sanders is looking at the root causes of America’s struggles, rather than grabbing onto superficial or sensationalist memes. Yes, indeed, I believe Black Lives Matter, along with American Indian lives and Latina lives and Somali lives and all the rest.

    But rather than divide those folks into separate groups, is there a root cause or causes to their struggles? If national attention and resources are brought to bear in a focused way on that cause or causes, can’t more positive good be done? Wouldn’t that be much more effective than working on black issues, then Latina issues, then Somali issues, etc? Various minorities would not be pitted against one another and against poor whites, in a fight for limited attention and resources. (That “pitting against” has a centuries long history as a common tool of the oligarchy.)

    My understanding of Sanders’ rhetoric is that he is focused on the root cause, which I, like him, believe is economic. The American Oligarchy is highly detrimental to the nation as a whole, and minorities especially. Sanders wants everyone to have a place at the table.

    Isn’t that the real American Way?

  14. Focused on the root cause—that’s the best response I can imagine, Deb. Black lives matter, and words matter, but we have to be willing to target our message at those who need to hear it most and back that message with sensible analysis and policy like what Sanders can offer.

    And oh, how my goosebumps tingle at the thought of a candidate more Wellstone than Wellstone. Leslie, I’ll take my chances for that kind of courage and authenticity.

    Spencer, don’t try to convince us Democrats to buy into your Republican fantasies of how Obama won by favors rather than merit. Barack Obama was not a likely winner. Lots of people said 2008 was Hillary’s time, not his. He took on a presumptive frontrunner and won, because first he smartly outcampaigned Hillary, and then because he outcampaigned John McCain. He earned it. No Tea-revisionism allowed.

  15. Roger Cornelius

    I’m not buying Spencer’s yarns for one minute, he has not provided any evidence of any such scenarios he has portrayed, only speculation.
    Remember Spencer, Bill Clinton has often been called America’s first Black president for a reason.
    As far as Sanders outreach to minorities goes, it is his campaign organization to make those vital contacts in minority communities. President Obama campaigned hard in targeted areas to get the maximum effect and was successful, as Cory has pointed out.
    President Obama also had the most effective use of digital media than any candidate in both of his campaigns, if Sanders hopes to win he needs to copy President Obama campaign template.
    Crowds of people are great and build great enthusiasm, but Sanders needs to reach voters that understand what a Social Democrat is.

  16. The last few days have been record breaking rally numbers for Sanders. Last night in Portland, 20,000 with 10,000 tuning in online. Tonight in California, it will be neat to see the numbers.

    He has also picked up first big labor endorsement.

    Given that our media is corporate owned, the GOP definitely corporate owned, HRC corporate advocate …. not too shabby start so far. Now, the “yeah, but he can’t win” business is coming from corporate folks. We have one shot at NOT settling for the lesser of all evils. We can unified stand up and stand with him that enough is enough — or wuss out and give our social security, medicare, and any regulation of Wall St. and banks to the wealthy, because they, uh, deserve it?

  17. Jim Webb, the former Republican turned Democrat and now a complete ass, has given his nod of disapproval to the Iran deal. This has been will likely stay at around 2% or less until the cows come home or Tehran John comes to his senses, which ever comes first.

  18. larry kurtz

    Which works best for you: Hillary Clinton/Al Franken, Joe Biden/Julian Castro or Bernie Sanders/Patty Murray?

  19. Bernie and Patty if that is the bracket in the pool. Both work for me. I like Al Franken and I like Julian Castro. Biden kind of spooks me in a lot of ways as you never know what he is gonna say. Hillary kind of spooks me because you know what she will say. She lost me with the Keystone XL and the “advisers” she put in charge of the decision.

    What say you Mr. Kurtz?

  20. Sanders/Warren or Warren/Sanders = The dream team.
    Clinton/Castro = What we are going to have to settle for if we want to win.

    I am very concerned about the “corporate” bend of the Clintons, but I still think Jeb will get the GOP nod and only Hillary can beat him in my estimation. Its a choice between the “corporate” gamble or another unnecessary war. What do you want?

    Hopefully, Hillary will be a liberal surprise in the White House the way Supreme Court nominees have been over the years (Warren, Stevens, and Souter). The Clintons need to redeem themselves and a Hillary Presidency would give that couple their chance.

  21. Deb Geelsdottir

    Well Winston, you took the words out of my mouth. I will add a little though.

    Sanders/Warren for 4 years followed by Warren/Murray or Castro for 8. 12 years of liberal policies, not to mention SCOTUS nominees, would bring the nation back to life and back to the top of the heap! America could be a City on the Hill again.

    I long for an America I can be exuberantly proud of. I don’t want to hear another defensivelyrics snarled “We are the greatest nation in the world.” I want it to be genuine and full throated. I want us to be welcomed by smaller nations, rather than participating in the killing of their citizens.

    Of course, all of that also requires liberal majorities in Congress too. It’s doable.

  22. mike from iowa

    What redemption does Clinton need? The vast right wing conspiracy against Clinton was the only real thing going. All the accusations of murder,infidelity,children out of wedlock were bogus as was Benghazi. Clinton and Dems got our fiscal house back in some semblance of order until dumbass dubya and his wars and taxcuts screwed the pooch all over again.

  23. i agree w/ both the above posts. we are at a sea change (npi) moment and need to “take it back” as rick said. win the senate, maybe the house, the presidency (THIRD TIME IS A CHARM) and put the SCOTUS in a more protectable, predictable position. Partisanship in the court seems fatal. and then there are reforms, campaign finance, health care access and affordability stripped from insurance vagaries, wall street regulation, environmental regulation, and peace.

    dems are better than repubs, though some will argue (for what purpose?) that they are the same. 2008-2015 demonstrates clearly they are not. we shall see if bernie can make a difference too.

  24. Roger Cornelius

    Today it was reported that Sanders is making all the right moves in addressing the Black community.

    He allowed Black Lives Matter protestors to open one his gatherings, this is the proactive movement he needs to make.

    Hopefully he will the same moves with other minorities and women. He could put Trump on the GOP on the ropes by addressing their War on Women.

  25. mike from iowa

    Sanders is going to speak at Jerry Fatwell’s Liberty(imitation) university. Heard he drew r7 0r 28 thousand in California.

  26. Kim Wright

    I think Sanders raises some important issues that not only Hillary but the Republican candidates (all 17+ and growing)should at least address. I especially appreciate your neutral commentary, Corey, and strongly believe that Sanders will not only be a contender but a pain in the a** of the mainstream political parties!!! While I don’t agree with him on several issues, I appreciate his straight-forward presentation and what he brings to the process! He is far from the Democratic version of a Donald Trump!

  27. larry kurtz

    Can a Sanders/Murray ticket beat a Donald Trump/Mia Love slate?

  28. Kim: my “neutral” commentary? Yikes! I need to try harder! ;-)

    Sanders speaking at Liberty? Fascinating!

    Roger, yes, if Sanders is making proactive moves with Black Lives Matter, he could also seize the moment with Trump’s war on women.

  29. CH,

    I laughed to by the neutral comment. Sanders is looking to me like the Gene McCarthy of 2016 and will likely drive Clinton out like McCarthy did Johnson. And, who filled the void in 1968? The sitting Vice President. History repeating itself?

  30. larry kurtz

    Oh, Troy, we get that your party doesn’t want to face Clinton in the general: your silly post at Pat’s Place was dripping with perspiration over that prospect yet you come here to recite your catechism again.

  31. larry kurtz

    Did y’all see Roy Blunt is in deep doodoo in Missouri?

  32. mike from iowa

    Did Nixon have Bobby assassinated so he could face HHH?

  33. Larry,

    I’m a Republican and not a Democrat. I accept that to win elections we have to beat whomever you nominate and always presume Democrats will ultimately select the toughest to beat. And, it is that presumption which stimulates my expectation Clinton will not be the nominee (nor Sanders). Who that will be will be within the purview of Democrats.

  34. Andy Card is behind the “poll” that shows Bernie ahead of Hillary. He and Marlin Fitzwater conducted the “poll”. Republicans are full of shit and corruption.

    Oh, Andy Card was one of the neocons behind the Bush drive to war with Iraq. Fun dude and what a card.

  35. mike from iowa

    Misery wingnuts tie Blunt’s challenger to failed Obama administration. Obama’s failed policies are more akin to the second coming of old JC, hizownself. Wingnuts know administrative failures by rote-Nixon,Ford,Raygun and two dumbass dubyas

  36. Bill Fleming

    Thanks for the explanation Troy. I’ve been wondering why you seem so sure Hillary will drop out. You remind me a little of Ron Paul when he said once in a GOP primary debate ‘any of us can beat Obama.’

    The reality was that none of them could. I think the same is true of your current field. None of them can beat Hillary. Over half of them couldn’t beat Bernie Sanders. Trust me on this. ?

  37. Bill,

    I smell the beginning of wagers. ;)

  38. Troy, I can’t imagine that Hillary Clinton would drop out the way LBJ did in 1968. She’s invested far too much in this campaign already, more so than LBJ had in the blessedly shorter 1968 campaign season. She has a big pool of dedicated followers smarting over her loss in 2008 who are determined not to let her get bumped out of line again this time. She won’t back down from Bernie Sanders; she’ll let slip the dogs of war.

  39. CH,

    I hear you. The resolve of HC is impressive. But, over history, the Dems have been much better and more proactive at “pulling plugs.” Frankly, I wish the GOP was as good as Dems in this regard.

    My gut is her missteps from the day she resigned as SOS that continue are creating an environment where the email issue becomes especially problematic and embarrassing for Democrat leadership. Watch BO as this develops as I think it will come down to whether he wants to defend her or not. BO naturally will begin thinking of legacy and how he is perceived on the last day is huge. Subconsciously I think what Biden wants will come into play here as well. Which most signifies an Obama 3rd term and affirmation of BO’s Presidency? JB, HC, or BS? Is there an implication President HC is more a third term of her husband or BO’s?

  40. larry kurtz

    Israel should be bombed back to the Bronze Age.

  41. Roger Cornelius

    The GOP in typical fashion has to go negative, big time.
    First mainstream republicans must behead Trump and send him back to a career as an entertainer. Some in the GOP know he is a joke and can be beaten by Hillary or Bernie.
    Secondly, the GOP has to have a full onslaught of attacks on Hillary to get rid of her before the general election since they know they can’t be her regardless of who their candidate is.

  42. Don’t you get it Roger!? Trump is a Hillary shill, whether she recruited him or whether he just thinks his bottom line will be better with Hillary as President – everything he does is for her and for his own fun. Trump doesn’t want the GOP nomination. He wants Republicans to lower the boom on him to justify him making an independent run that will split the Republican vote and put Hillary in the White House. Republicans know this so they tread carefully.

  43. BLM response to the meeting with HRC. “Asked whether Clinton actually proposed policies in the meeting, Jones said, “Not that I recall, no. In fact, I know that she didn’t because she was projecting that what the Black Lives Matter movement needs to do is X,Y, and Z—to which we pushed back [to say] that it is not her place to tell the Black Lives Matter movement or black people what to do, and that the real work doesn’t lie in the victim-blaming that that implies.”

    Bernie has figured out how to incorporate Black Lives Matter into his platform. Hillary and the first Black President, have not finessed it through yet. I would think that they are putting forth a lot of resources to do so though as they both know that the road to the White House is paved by the minority vote.

    Trump is now on record to support Planned Parenthood. Let us see what now becomes of the republican process to defund this incredible operation that helps so many women and men.

  44. Thinking about what Troy said—dang, if Barack Obama is looking for a third-termish affirmation, he doesn’t go with Clinton. If legacy drives the thinking (and now I’m allowing myself to get sucked into some Spencer-type opposing-camp wishful scenarios), Obama backs someone who wins the Presidency thanks to what he did as President and the support he offers. HRC wins on her own and makes the Obama Presidency look like a detour from her ascendancy.

    Maybe Obama watches how they handle “Black Lives Matter.” If what Jerry sees continues, if Bernie incorporates while Hillary lectures, if Bernie engages and evolves while Hillary pursues her course single-mindedly, Bernie becomes Obama’s third term, right?

    Reviewing Larry’s question about Sanders picking Patty Murray of Washington as his vice, I say nuts to that. Sanders picks Bill Murray. That locks in five times as many voters as pot. Vice President Bill Murray—a brilliant antidote to Trump, and a real Cinderella story.