Top Five Reasons Bernie Sanders Will Not Save the Democrats

11/14/2016 by Dylan James Harper

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In the wake of what many considered a stunning defeat in the presidential election, the Democrats are desperately searching for answers. After an intense primary, Bernie Sanders is seizing the moment attempting to position himself as a leader of the party. This is a strategy that will likely not pay dividends down the road for many reasons. Here are the top five.

Demographics - Bernie Sanders’ failed primary is actually extremely similar to Clinton’s failed presidential race. Both were able to do well with college educated whites, but offered little motivation for poor whites and communities of color to come out and vote for them. In both cases, this resulted in a loss. The Democrats have been increasing the number of people they leave out in the cold for years, and Bernie Sanders is an extension of that. While some might correctly argue he’d have won over more whites than Clinton did, it would have been the same college educated whites in non-swing states that did Clinton no favors. Sanders’ base isn’t what the Dems need to win elections, it’s the reason they lost.

A Shrinking Middle Class - The fabled “middle class” has defined the post-Eisenhower political era. From electing Reagan en masse, to promoting “tough on crime” (read: anti-black) types like Bill Clinton on the left, the middle class has historically been the group that decides elections. That is no longer the case. Sanders, who has spent years in the senate accomplishing very little in a very safe state, doesn’t seem to have realized that, making middle class issues like jobs and college tuition the staples of his candidacy, rather than focusing more on issues primarily impacting the extremely poor, and people of color.

Whiteness - Sanders failed spectacularly to win over people of color in the primary. This isn’t an accident. While Clinton played her cards very close to the chest prior to the presidential race (where she tipped her hand and used the same “tough on crime” (read: anti-black) rhetoric that got her husband elected), Sanders seemed to openly neglect the black and Latinx communities. Sanders supporters love to point to individuals of color as counterexamples, voters of color made their opinions very clear. Sanders, who used some of the similar “China” related rhetoric that’s been a dog whistle for whites in manufacturing for decades, seems reluctant to embrace anything but that going forward. A Democratic Party that still thinks they can win elections catering to white-centric issues will not be a Democratic Party that wins election.

Trump - Sanders came out almost immediately after the election and declared a willingness to work with Trump. Many on the broader left were thrilled by this, thinking Sanders would help steer Trump to the left and minimize the damage. This is not what will occur. Trump was always going to pivot left to some degree because he wants to get re-elected in 2020, and to do that he needs to make sure that the poor white voter base that got him elected isn’t too negatively impacted. You know who will be negatively impacted by a Trump presidency? The same people both Clinton and Sanders offered nothing: the Latinx community, the black community, the LGBT community, the disabled community, and marginalized communities in general. Sanders’ promise to work with Trump is a promise to all those communities that he still doesn’t care about them.

Immigration - Immigration, along with the environment (where virtually everyone on the left will be better than Trump), will likely be one of, if not the, biggest issue of the 2020 presidential election. While Sanders’ rhetoric is certainly better than Trump’s, his policy is more of a mixed bag. While he’s certainly less barbaric than Trump will certainly be with the millions of undocumented individuals already in the United States, he wants the same “secure” border to protect “U.S. jobs” (read: white people) that Trump does. The Latinx community will be the most influential and powerful demographic in U.S. politics going forward, and they’re also the community that is the most impacted by “anti-immigrant” (read: anti-Latinx) rhetoric and policies. Sanders doesn’t understands this, and believes the Democratic Party can rebuild itself on almost exclusively his base of college educated, middle class white people. It can’t. Almost certainly not in the short term, and definitely not in the long term.

The Democrats might be able to survive for awhile longer simply as a result of Trump’s probable inability to govern. He’ll likely be all over the place and struggle to campaign in 2020. In the long term, however, a Democratic party that doesn’t include the very poor and marginalized communities will not survive. These communities understand the politics of neoliberalism have failed them and want a different answer. Sanders, who may describe himself as a “socialist” due to lack of access to a dictionary, is a neoliberal. He is not the answer to any of the Democratic Party’s problems, and any future that includes him will be a dark one for the party. 

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