There are reasons that progressive black and brown folk have had their struggles with supporting Bernie Sanders—though no one does a better job of illustrating why than the Vermont senator and former presidential candidate himself.
In an interview Monday night with Seth Meyers on Late Night, Sanders said that progressives shouldn’t pin too much of their hopes on special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Which is a fair-enough point. Sanders explained that the political left needs to stay focused on “attacks that we’re seeing every day in a variety of ways, not only from the Russians on American democracy.”
Sanders listed the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and vote suppression as two such attacks. Again, so far, so good.
Unfortunately, Sanders continued speaking.
As the Daily Beast reports, host Meyers then asked Sanders if he worries that Monday’s Mueller indictments could give the left false hope, pushing them away from focusing “on the ballot box.”
“Yes. I mean, I think we’ve got to work in two ways,” Sanders answered. “Number one, we have got to take on Trump’s attacks against the environment, against women, against Latinos and blacks and people in the gay community, we’ve got to fight back every day on those issues. But equally important, or more important: We have got to focus on bread-and-butter issues that mean so much to ordinary Americans.”
Sanders said those “ordinary Americans” are “not staying up every day worrying about Russia’s interference in our election.” Instead, he said, “They’re wondering how they’re going to send their kids to college” or “how they’re going to be able to pay the rent” or “whether they can afford health care.”
The framing is strange—Sanders juxtaposes “ordinary Americans” against women, Latinx and black people and the LGBTQ community as if they were different groups. He also frames those “ordinary Americans” and their issues as “equally ... or more important” than that of the marginalized communities he lists before.
Systemic racism and sexism regularly affect those “bread and butter” issues Sanders describes: paying for college, rent and health care. Black and Latinx families are losing wealth, not gaining it. The Trump administration’s attacks on environmental regulations can also compound the damage suffered by marginalized communities, which are disproportionately affected by global warming and environmental disasters. Black and brown people regularly give a fuck about social justice issues, like police brutality and criminal-justice reform, along with their job prospects. At the same damn time. In fact, they understand better than other “ordinary Americans” how those circles intersect.
This line of reasoning from Sanders isn’t atypical. In the spring, Sanders defended Donald Trump voters.
“Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and deplorable folks. I don’t agree, because I’ve been there,” Sanders said. The greater point the senator was trying to make was that Trump didn’t win the election as much as the Democrats lost it.
But if Sanders continues to talk about people of color and queer communities in this way, one wonders what, exactly, the senator thinks he’ll gain—and whether he values the people he’ll certainly lose.
Read more at the Daily Beast.