Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Bernie's Gift To Democrats

When I first saw and heard on You Tube Bernie Sanders' response (beginning at 18:42 of the Tube video below), I thought it was a good response. Reviewing it, I think it's a very good response. Vice explains

On Monday morning, Sanders appeared on The Breakfast Club, a hip-hop morning show in New York that has become a regular stop for Democratic candidates. (Sanders was also on the show in 2016.) He touched on issues ranging from decreasing mass incarceration to Medicare for all, largely focusing on how his economically populist initiatives can help African Americans. But things got touchy, to say the least, when the hosts pressed him on some race-specific issues that are bound to keep coming up as 2020 approaches....

In recent weeks 2020 hopefuls Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have voiced support for reparations for black Americans, though they haven't explained what that exactly means. And though they were vague about the specifics, the moral stance was still a big moment for Democrats, considering Sanders, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton hadn't taken that stand. Sanders, faced with questions about giving money to descendants of slaves Friday on The View, voiced his opposition, saying, “I think that right now, our job is to address the crises facing the American people and our communities, and I think there are better ways to do that than just writing out a check.”

In all fairness, Warren and Harris were, to their credit, vague about their support for this hideous idea, which does not let them completely off the hook. Vice continues

On The Breakfast Club, Sanders was taken to task for his stance. When host Charlamagne tha God asked why it seems like he's been "dodging the reparations question," Sanders responded, “Well, the question is what do we mean by reparations?” When defined as economic empowerment for black Americans, he said that ending discrimination in the banking system and paying attention to distressed communities is how he intends to make that happen.

Years ago I was asked by an avidly pro-life friend whether I was "pro-life." I foolishly stated "yes' without asking what she meant by "pro-life,"  thus probably leaving her with the mistaken impression that I condone abortions at any stage of pregnancy for any reason at taxpayer expense. In this instance, Sanders' initial response "the question is what do we mean by reparations" did not prove to be sufficient, but was (and is) necessary. Nonetheless

once the question was point-blank about cash payouts Sanders quickly gave a hard no. “I think the way we go forward is to build America together,” he said, pointing out white and Latinx communities are also struggling. “We’re going to pay attention to the needs of working families and low-income families in this country in a way you’ve never seen.” That wasn't exactly the response Charlamagne was looking for, who pointed out, "the government has systemically oppressed [African Americans] in a way that they haven't for other people," pointing to slavery and mass incarceration. "There should be something done specifically for African Americans," he said. Sanders stuck to his view that tackling mass incarceration and other inequities is a way to help mend that history.

In an earlier post, I argued in part that wealth inequality, addressed by Sanders and Warren, contributes to the racial wealth gap. Reforming the tax system, as well as policies pertaining to a whole range of matters- including but not limited to criminal justice, housing, day care,  health care, transportation- can dramatically mitigate racial injustice. Concentrating resources on distressed communities- as Sanders noted- is critical.

Obviously, Sanders understands that. He did not mention (though it shouldn't have been necessary) that making cash payments to people on the basis of race is politically toxic to a general election electorate. He realizes, though, the slippery slope this would create. "You mean a check to every African-American?" he asked. "Well, then, a check to every Native American."

Bernie Sanders may have done a favor to the other Democratic presidential aspirants and especially to the eventual nominee.  This may have deflated the issue. Before the opposition expressed by Sanders, reparations were becoming a major issue in the primary process with candidates virtually compelled to be favorable, which would not have gone unnoticed in a general election campaign.  Donald J. Trump would have been ecstatic.

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