Despite all of Bernie Sanders’ laudable successes, he’s been hamstrung by his consistent inability to make inroads in communities of color. It was the basis of my original “demographic ceiling” thesis, which I had pegged at 30 percent. He exceeded that, but getting to 38 percent is cold comfort to those who wanted to see a real movement blossom. And the early state results bear it out: You do not build a liberal movement by bringing together white people, then hoping that people of color come along for the ride. You start with those communities of color.
And as the early state results make clear, that never happened.
From the exit polling:
Bernie Sanders, Support from Blacks, Latinos
The Nevada results among Latinos have to be a mistake (entrance polls are polls after all), since actual results clearly showed Hillary Clinton handily winning Latino precincts.
In the 76 precincts in Clark County where we believe that a plurality of registered Democrats are Hispanic, Mrs. Clinton defeated Mr. Sanders in the delegate count by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent. In the smaller number of majority Hispanic precincts, she seemed to win about 60 percent of the delegates, and she won perhaps 65 percent of the delegates in the precincts where Hispanics appeared to be a particularly large share of registered Democrats.
Colorado was a caucus state in which only about 2 percent of the state’s population participated in the Democratic caucus. And we know that caucuses weed out less active and engaged voters. But even then, we can use geography to extrapolate Latino performance. There are two majority Latino districts in the entire state, Costilla (68 percent Latino) and Conejos (59 percent Latino). Sanders got 20 percent and 40 percent, respectively. But really, the number of votes was so small that it renders any analysis essentially meaningless. If you have a system that discourages people from participating, Latinos won’t be the people voting.
In Massachusetts, 10 percent of the population is Latino, yet just 6 percent of voters were, according to the exit polls, too small a sample size to get valid results. However, we can again turn to geography:
So why is it important to start from the bottom up?
1) You don’t try to impose your framing and issues on people who have different priorities. YOU may think Citizens United, income inequality, and global climate change are the biggest threats facing the country, but when your community is being gunned down in the streets and families are being torn apart by immigration authorities, everything else pales in comparison. More jobs don’t solve either of those problems.
That’s obviously not to say those issues aren’t important, but when your entire existence is under threat, that has to be foundational to whatever movement you are building.
2) You don’t become resentful of other groups when they don’t follow along. The ugliest part of this primary campaign has been the accusation that certain Democratic voters don’t matter, especially since those voters being dismissed are disproportionately brown and black. We have a long way to go toward bridging racial divides, and the last thing any movement needs is an us vs. them attitude. And, given the makeup of our modern liberal coalition, you automatically doom yourself to failure if you turn your biggest natural allies into the “others.” Leave that shit to the Republicans.
3) Everyone is on the same page from the beginning. Related to the above, I cringe every time I see a white progressive demanding that black or Latino voters explain their support for Hillary Clinton. Do you not realize how horrible that looks, and how offensive that is, that white people are demanding that people of color justify their choices? It’s beyond cringe-inducing. It’s deeply disturbing. And I realize that most people doing that aren’t coming at it from a racial standpoint, but that’s the way it’s received.
So if you build the movement with maximum inclusiveness from day one, everyone can be on the same page and avoid those ugly moments.
4) You will be more effective. Bottom line, no white-dominated liberal movement will succeed when 40 percent of Democrats are people of color. And people of color will be reluctant to join a movement led by little-known whites. History has made us justifiably suspicious of the Great White Savior. So building from the ground up, with full inclusion of people of color in leadership, will allow for a broad-based coalition that can have the numbers to topple the system. Because you know what, screaming at people of color about the oligarchy and corrupt Clinton really isn’t doing anyone or any movement any favors.
So why am I harping on this? Because I want to build an effective movement, and the Sanders campaign didn’t prove to be an effective vehicle for it. Yet the goal is one worth pursuing, so we need that movement.
Sanders’ supporters are a critical component of that broad-based movement, so I am desperate for them to see this failing so that we can avoid it next time. Yes, desperate. Pretending that Sanders won Nevada Latinos or that he’s making material gains doesn’t do anyone any favors, akin to sticking one’s head in the sand.
As many of you well know, I’ve been just as critical about the diversity numbers here at Daily Kos. This site won’t be as effective as I want it to be until our audience numbers resemble those of the liberal coalition, and we’re far from those. All the criticism above, I’ve directed at myself. It is my biggest failing leading this site over the last 14 years, and one I am working hard to rectify.
All I ask is that same level of introspection and understanding about what Sanders has built, and how it has failed to genuinely become a movement. His movement’s challenges are the same as mine, and the solutions aren’t easy. But they are worth pursuing if we truly want to build something that will someday deliver Sanders-style politics to the White House and—this is critical—every office below it.