Every once in a while, some combination of external circumstance and internal conviction force the truth out of the mouths of our politicians. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, during an interview with the Daily Beast, let slip an important nugget of truth lost on the majority of the electorate: Racist voters cost black candidates.
“You know,” Sanders explained, “there are 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.”
Bernie, had he taken an interest in furnishing actual factuals before he realized the potential blowback in the wake of his lapse in political judgment, could have served up a teachable moment for his ardent, vociferous supporters with more than a few bits of data or anecdotal evidence to back his claim. He could have launched into a short remark about how racism fails to sync with our stated American values, or touted the power of inclusion as a tool for positive, lasting change. He could’ve, after calling a thing a thing, simply steered the conversation elsewhere.
Alas, as today ends in -y and politics and truth make for infrequent bedfellows, Bernie decided to tell a half-truth, thus entangling himself in a whole-ass lie.
Sanders’ spokesperson told NPR that the former presidential candidate’s words were taken out of context.
“There’s no question that in Georgia and in Florida racism has reared its ugly head. And you have candidates who ran against Gillum and ran against Stacey Abrams who were racist and were doing everything they could to try to play whites against blacks,” he said. “And that is an outrage, and we have got to continue doing everything that we can to fight all forms of racism.”
Voters aren’t racist, it’s these pesky, racist political campaigns we can’t seem to get a handle on.
Sanders is absolutely correct in pointing to the blatant instances of racism and miscarriage of myriad campaign laws that muddied the presently messy, ongoing gubernatorial races in Florida and Georgia long before votes were cast in either. Still, Bernie’s focus on the campaigns (which I’d hope were staffed by actual American humans) leaves out the American humans that find themselves agreeing with and voting for them, and the communities that give us the racists that do the thankless work of imbuing our campaigns with that sweet, sweet racism the electorate can’t get enough of.