Friday, September 25, 2020

Confronting Reality

One-time Democratic congressional candidate, MSNBC host, Democratic activist and current podcaster Krystal Ball realizes the Democratic Party "panders to identity" rather than addressing issues which affect minorities and struggling Americans. Citing an important study described in The New York Times by authors Ian Haney Lopez and Tony Gavito,  She recommends for Joe Biden

It's time to let go of the identity politics which change nothing substantive and only serves to assuage the consciences of white liberals. Less 1619 Project, more Battle of Blair Mountain. Embrace the class war and see what happens with that black and Latino enthusiasm if only the donor class would let him.

She adds

But all is not lost, my friends. There was a strategy that effectively appealed to Latinos, black and white voters alike. I'll give you one guess what it was. These voters were most persuaded by a message that linked class and race in a broad strategy against elites.

The research is right. The key is to link racism and class conflict. Democrats should call for Americans to unite against the strategic racism of powerful elites who stoke division and then run the country for their own benefit. This is not to deny the reality of pervasive societal racism but it does draw attention away from whites in general and toward the powerful elites who benefit from divide and conquer politics. This, of course, was exactly the approach of Bernie Sanders.....

This begs analysis in three key areas:

1) Good for Ball that she would emphasize racism among elites, rather than among the American people as a whole. Liberal pundits and the mainstream media too often emphasize the latter to the exclusion of the former while the Democratic political class, as Ball has noted, typically simply turns a blind eye to the racism of elites.

2) Bernie Sanders did in fact do extremely well among Latinos in the Nevada caucus.  However, this was the only state among the four which mattered (Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina the others) with a large number of Latinos. Further, we don't know why Sanders proved so popular with that cohort in Nevada, with one theory being that the youth (among whom Sanders was popular everywhere) leaned on their parents, often less conversant in English and American culture generally, to vote for the Vermont senator. It is unclear whether Sanders' appeal to Nevadan Latinos reflected a general popularity throughout the nation with that group.

3) "This, of course, was exactly the approach of Bernie Sanders." No, it wasn't. Bernie's message centered on class and though he always has had liberal views toward minorities, he was led kicking and screaming into showing real concern about blacks or Latinos. The approach Ball approvingly cites was that of Elizabeth Warren, whom Ball, a fervent supporter of Sanders, criticized regularly.

It's only fair to concede, as someone pointing out the disingenuous nature of Sanders supporters, that the inter-sectionalism which Ball describes (but which term she assiduously avoids) was not one of the two reasons I preferred the Massachusetts senator to the Vermont senator. 

But it is now only a few days shy of seven months since the pivotal South Carolina primary and a few days later, Super Tuesday, which effectively ended the contest for the Democratic nomination. And the supporters of Bernie Sanders still can't face reality.

The reality is that black voters crushed the campaign of Senator Sanders.  Exit polls indicate that in South Carolina, Biden won 61% of the black vote while his closest competitor received 17% of that vote.  Exit polls indicated Biden won approximately 63% in Virginia, 72% in Alabama, and 60% in Texas and North Carolina. At his best among black voters, Sanders trailed Biden in Minnesota by four percentage points.

The former vice-president did extremely well, and the Vermont senator very poorly, among blacks for reasons related to both Biden and Sanders. This occurred despite Sanders' strength among blacks who are young- as he was strong with other young voters- which obscured the flat-out dominance held by Biden with middle aged and old blacks. 

That doesn't mean that Biden would be a better President generally than Sanders, that he is a better general election candidate than Sanders would be, or that the issues which most concern blacks are ones Biden will more effectively address.

It means only one thing: Joe Biden owes his nomination to African-Americans. The South Carolina primary was the first in which a majority of primary voters was black (still are black, no doubt). But he wouldn't have surged to the nomination without South Carolina and, specifically, without African-American voters in South Carolina. 

When the South Carolina primary was held, Sanders clearly was in the lead for the nomination.  Recognizing that, those voters, a majority of them African-American, overwhelmingly opted for Joe Biden, for whatever reason. They didn't especially want Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, or Pete Buttigieg and they most emphatically did not want Bernie Sanders. It's difficult for Sanders' acolytes, and somewhat less for those of us for whom he was second choice, to face that reality. But it doesn't erase reality.


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