by Valerie Morales
During Super Tuesday, a Bernie Sanders die-hard texted me while I was watching the election night returns. I’ll call the Sanders-phile Andrew. He fired off this emotional and angry text to me in the midst of the dramatics that read in part “old black people are a part of the problem. I can’t trust anyone who votes for [Joe] Biden. And now I want Trump to win for you clowns to learn.
“I can’t wait till millennials take care of baby boomers. I hope they stick em all in senior citizen homes for fu**ing up the economy.” Andrew was raised in upper-middle-class home with two loving parents, though at that moment his home training didn’t show, nor did his graduate degrees in finance and mathematics.
I replied “Lol. First, take care of y’all selves. That would be helpful.”
Not giving an inch Andrew clapped back with hyperbole. “85% of people are struggling, boomer. Be quiet.”
Then came the history he was oh so glad to share.
1991: Biden attacked Anita Hill.
1994: Biden wrote disastrous Crime Bill.
1995: Biden wrote Omnibus Counterterrorism Act which became The Patriot Act.
1996: Biden voted against Gay Marriage
1999: Biden repealed Glass-Steagall Act (legislation that allowed for bank regulation)
2001: Biden voted for the Patriot Act
2002: Biden voted for the Iraq War
2005: Biden voted to end bankruptcy protections for students
2018: Biden presented George W. Bush with the Liberty Medal.
Andrew lost my attention once I looked up at the tv screen and saw the 3-hour lines to vote in Texas that felt like voter suppression. Andrew’s whining was secondary to what people of color have to go through to vote but I get his point. He was angry that older black people, who he is acquainted with through church and family and his upbringing, can’t see that Sanders is the truth.
What was lost upon Andrew in the midst of the Super Tuesday Bernie Sanders disaster is that Bernie Sanders is a slow learner. Four years ago, he lost the state of South Carolina by 180,000 votes. He was trounced all over the South by black voters over the age of 45, primarily black women who Sanders ignored in his policy platforms as if black women were non-sequiturs. No talk of black women and health care. Black women in the military. Black women and job discrimination. Supporting black mothers. Sanders had a script and he stuck to it.
But 2020 was supposed to be different. He had moved into South Carolina after his withering defeat in 2016. He had an organization, money, plenty of disciples who spent a lot of time spreading Sanders's income inequality, and Medicare for All messages. What did that get him?
Bernie Sanders lost South Carolina by 150,000 votes. His net gain from four years ago was 30,000. What was accomplished? Absolutely nothing. Sanders received 13% of the black vote from voters 45 years and older. What have the last 4 years been about for Bernie Sanders? Middle-aged black voters are turned off and Sanders has to ask himself why.
When Jim Clyburn endorsed Joe Biden in South Carolina he said Joe Biden was a “good man”. It was more than political emotionality seeping out of Clyburn’s pores because when a black man says a white man is a “good man” he is talking about something deeper than an election. Notice that Clyburn didn’t say that Biden was a good politician. There’s a worthwhile debate about Biden’s political efficacy. But a “good man” translated from black folk speak into the King's English means you can trust Joe Biden. He’s not going to call you boy. He’s not going to prevent you from voting. He’s not going to define you by racial stereotypes. He’s not going to create a ruckus in Olive Garden and demand the server not be black. He won’t betray you. You can trust Joe Biden. You can trust him.
The “good man” phrasing coming from Clyburn doesn’t absolve Biden of all of his political baggage, much of which has kept me on the Biden sidelines. But it does say something about character in a historical moment when the leader at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has severe character flaws. Barack Obama was the last “good man” in the White House. He is Joe Biden’s friend. He is Jim Clyburn’s friend. Trust him was the message on Super Tuesday. Trust Joe.
The problem with Bernie Sanders’ revolution is that he wants to write a check he just cannot cash when it comes to middle age black voters. Middle age black voters, for the most part, are practical. They’ve been around the block. They’ve had dreams squashed. They’ve been lied to and lived to tell the story. They have kids, mortgages, tithes, tuition. They don’t have the financial or emotional luxury to withstand all the turmoil that change requires. Blowing the house up feels radical and self-defeating and frankly, a lot of folks are going to have to give something up.
Black folk want a candidate they can trust and a candidate who has empathy for their experience. Young voters see Sanders as someone who speaks to their turmoil. But older voters experience Sanders as ignoring their history because he has the privilege to do so. Slavery. Lynchings. Jim Crow. White supremacy. Driving, walking, eating while black. Understanding and acknowledging black trauma matters to middle age black folks.
The system is crooked, both economically and socially, because of racists who created and profited from institutions that determine who has financial value and who does not. That part of the equation is met with Bernie Sanders silence.
After the Super Tuesday results were autopsied ad infinitum, my friend Andrew calmed down a little. He texted me that “baby boomers are trash” then was quiet for about ten minutes. Reflective about Sanders’ epic fail hours after being despondent, Andrew couldn’t ignore that Sanders dropped the ball. Frustrated, Andrew cataloged Sanders’ sins.
· He didn’t show up at the Bloody Sunday remembrance in Alabama because, as Sanders put it, he had 10,000 people in Los Angeles waiting for him. Weak excuse when you consider Sanders was ahead in California. He didn’t even need to be there. Black folks in Alabama and all over the south took Sanders’ absence as a diss. A f**ck your tired history moment.
Cardi B is a huge Sanders supporter. She should have been with him in South Carolina. She should have had her own event. She would have gotten that crowd so lit for Bernie. ‘Bernie so good. He gonna do good for us when we need it. Makes sure you vote for Bernie’. No Cardi. But instead, Bernie brings out Killer Mike. C’mon, man. Killer Mike? He hasn’t been relevant in a decade. What about Fifty [Cent]? Why isn’t he posting Bernie short films on Instagram to get the base fired up?
What happened to growing the base? You can’t grow the base if you’re not willing to negotiate and compromise. 40% of Dems identify as progressive which means 60% are not. Are Not. Hello? How are you going to convert the skeptical? You can’t shout them down. You have to meet them somewhere in the middle. And when your own base doesn’t show up, it’s catastrophic.
In 2016, there was a huge anti-Hillary movement that was so contagious as a virus, it infected the general election and delivered Donald Trump into our lives, for the worse. But what if it wasn’t just Trump who gained? What if Bernie Sanders also was a recipient of the hate Hillary crowd? What if those who said they loved Bernie Sanders in 2016 were acting out their disgust for Hillary in a huge misogynistic tantrum, and Bernie was just in the right place at the right time?
With Hillary out the picture in 2020, Bernie has been reduced and some of the shine has dissolved. It makes him less potent as a rival and more fragile as a revolutionary figure. He hasn’t helped himself with a political I.Q. that had him admiring Fidel Castro and ignoring black trauma. His base not keeping up their end of the bargain on Super Tuesday made it worse.
The last thing Andrew texted me the day after Super Tuesday was a photo of Joe Biden. A meme. He wrote, “I hate this Scorpio.” He followed that with “why do we care Bernie can’t win the South. It’s not like those states are going to vote for him in the general. We’re okay. We’ll survive this.”