The Righteous Mission of Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ perspective on the world is deeply wrong. He has spent his career defending oppressive socialist regimes across the planet while criticizing the supposed predation of the United States; he has generated no legislation of significance in decades of public service. His platform currently advocates for tax rates that mirror those of the Nordic countries, spending tens of trillions of dollars on various government-provided entitlements, and the destruction of well over 150 million people’s private health insurance plans.
But there is one area in which Bernie Sanders represents the better angels of the Democratic nature: race.
Sanders is currently being excoriated by a radical segment of the Democratic Party for his racial views. Despite the fact that Sanders marched with Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement, he is now viewed as retrograde in his racial viewpoints. That’s because he believes that socialism is a cure-all for racial discrimination. For example, Sanders refuses to endorse racial reparations, stating instead that broad-based governmental programs ought to benefit those who are lowest on the income ladder. He has likewise stated that candidates ought to be judged based on their ideas rather than their intersectional characteristics. In 2016, Sanders stated, “One of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics.”
Sanders, in other words, separates people by class rather than race. That’s wrong, too: In America, we’re all individuals who move between classes with remarkable rapidity. We are not the 1 percent and the 99 percent; in fact, a huge number of those in the top 1 percent every year were not in the 1 percent in prior years, and will not be again in future years. We do not have a stable hierarchy of income in the United States. Sanders, by his own statement, grew up in a lower-middle-class household in Brooklyn; he now has two vacation homes despite never having worked a serious job.
But if we’re going to talk about damaging divisions in America, class divisions take a back seat to racial divisions. That’s because America doesn’t actually have a real history of class divisions — we’ve been an overwhelmingly middle-class country for centuries, as Alexis de Tocqueville noted. But our racial divisions have been all too real, marking the greatest blot on America’s history.
Proponents of intersectional politics point this out, suggesting that those racial divisions continue to dominate American life. But that’s simply not true. In reality, America is less racist now than it ever has been; laws that discriminate on the basis of race are unconstitutional; racial politics has been relegated, for the most part, to mind reading the supposed motives of political opponents. Sanders implicitly acknowledges that truth when he calls for solutions that do not take into account race as a key factor.
And for that sin, Sanders is being othered by many in the Democratic Party. He’s viewed as old-fashioned, hopeful, naive — Trumplike in his view of race, a proponent of a hackneyed baby-boomer “Green Book” mentality. He’s outdated and wrong.
Thus Sanders must be ousted for his failure to conform to the intersectional politics that now dominate the Democratic Party. But here’s the thing: At least when it comes to his implicit treatment of race, Sanders is closer to the truth than his Democratic opponents. And if Democrats don’t recognize this, they’ll be abandoning the possibility of a broad-based coalition that crosses racial lines in favor of a racially polarized one that exacerbates them.
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