Bernie Sanders and the Black Vote, Part 1: A Different View
This piece is the first of three articles I’m writing over the next few weeks. In this series, I will lay out my view of where Bernie Sanders stands in this run to the White House. Part One will be an overview of the political landscape, as I see it. Part Two will be about the role of Gatekeepers in Black politics. The third and final installment will be about the Magical Words that Bernie Sanders can use to attract the mysterious Black voter. I hope you will stay with me through all of this.
The Last Time
The next three sentences are going to sound exactly like every other article on this subject:
For anyone to win the Democratic nomination, the Black vote is crucial. This requirement is true of the entire field for 2020, including Bernie Sanders. In 2016, Hillary Clinton molly whopped Bernie in the intentionally front-loaded, deep red southern states among Black voters.
Here is where I deviate from those other articles:
Anyone that discounts the influence of well-compensated Black Gatekeepers (politicians, media, and clergy), name recognition, party brand loyalty, DNC shenanigans, and the Bernie (media) Blackout is not telling the whole truth. Bernie was a relative unknown being bludgeoned by Clinton-loyal Black national figures and the media. He was lucky to get any Black votes in the South, to be honest.
Why This Time Is Different
Something we should keep in mind is that the lion’s share of the Black vote is going to be split between Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden if he jumps in the race. Gatekeepers will be divided between Harris and Biden camps. Booker will also pull a few percentage points. Party loyalty will be less of a factor. Bernie’s name recognition is off the charts now. Senator Sander’s popularity will make another media blackout very difficult. His presence and a massive following on social media will make a total blackout impossible. In a way, these factors will serve to level the playing field for garnering the Black vote. Then it all boils down to messaging and campaign cash.
Messaging the Bern
Contrary to Gatekeeper consensus, Bernie’s economic message resonates with Black voters. Otherwise, his astronomically high approval rating with Black people makes no sense, at all. Here is something that may shock you, but like other humans, we have the same basic needs.
Only one thing in the United States can be exchanged for ALL of those things- money. The message appeals to us because we mostly live as economic second class citizens in our own country-
Senator Sanders’ Progressive and anti-racist record is long and undeniable. If the Senator’s platform is anything like 2016, he’ll be just fine with Black voters. In reality, Bernie would only need 20-30% of the Black vote in this crowded field to remain competitive. This situation virtually ensures that the candidate that can earn a decent share of the Black vote while leading with other voter populations will win the nomination.
The first 24 hours after announcing, the campaign raised $6M from 223,000 individuals. That’s right- $27.00 per donor. There is no official record for First Day hauls. But, of the folks that did share, Bernie crushed everyone. (Side Note: Berners ain’t shit! $27!!! Hahaha!)
Additionally, donors gifted the campaign with reoccurring donations amounting to $500,000 per month. One of the most significant campaign expenditures at this level is national television ads. But, alternative or new media is likely to play an even more prominent role for 2020 than it has in the past.
Furthermore, Bernie’s social media footprint is ridiculous. (i.e., he has more Twitter followers than Harris and Booker combined). His online videos get more eyes than CNN. His coveted email list is likely more extensive than the one the DNC has. He also has the disruptive power of Nina Turner-led Our Revolution in his corner. He will not have to burn the same amount of money as his opponents on TV spots. Therefore, Bernie Dollars will go further.
Just to assure that we are trafficking in reality, I’m going to say something we all know to be true. No matter who the nominee is, Black people are going to vote Blue at a rate well above 90%. The group that should concern all of us in November 2019 is White Women. We genuinely need White Women allies to concentrate a good chunk of their efforts on their peers.
One element that was not present in 2016 is the American Descendents of Slaves (#ADOS)movement. While voices were saying that Bernie should have a Black agenda, much of it was centered around BLM and police violence. The growing DOS movement is laser-focused on financial solutions for descendants of Black slaves in the United States. This level specificity, and the increasing cachet of this group will make them nigh impossible to ignore. Their arguments are much more pointed than Reparations-focused organizations of the past. The Gatekeepers have been attacking ADOS. The attacks have been mostly ineffective. For 2020, Gatekeepers will only serve as a buffer between traditional Dems and Black voters. That does not apply to Bernie Sanders. It offers an opportunity to get a step ahead of his peers by doing something for racial justice through Reparations. Anything.
If he takes it on, he will likely promise to add John Conyers’ HR 40, The Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, to his platform. If managed properly, he could get exceptional traction with Black America. We shall see.
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