OPINION: Bernie Sanders’ black women problem

Terrell Jermaine Starr, The Root | 7/19/2017, 10:19 a.m.
There’s just one issue that his supporters and optimistic writers refuse to consider: the voting power of black women.
A voter listens to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speak in South Carolina a day after her debate with rival candidate Bernie Sanders on Feb. 12, 2016, in Denmark, S.C. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Disclaimer: I do not hate Bernie Sanders. He does not owe me money. It’s really not that deep to me, fam. That white man means a whole lot more to Bernie bros than he will ever mean to me. I just want him to campaign better for black votes—especially those of black women. That said ...

Pump the brakes. Slow down. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

There’s no way Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) should be considered the Democratic Party’s 2020 front-runner.

Yes, he’s the most popular politician in the United States, according to a Harvard-Harris survey. But so what? That’s not the same as having to pick between candidates running for a presidential nomination. And sure, Sanders’ base is still quite active and, as Vox astutely reports, the Democratic Party is in bad shape and would do itself a disservice by dismissing a 2020 Sanders run. Given his celebrity, Sanders should be the overwhelming favorite three-and-a-half years from now.

There’s just one issue that his supporters and optimistic writers refuse to consider: the voting power of black women.

For all of Sanders’ talk of a “political revolution” and economic inequality, the candidate never seemed to understand that it’s all but impossible to make it out of the Democratic primary without winning over black women—especially those over 35 years old. Perhaps he didn’t have staffers telling him that 70 percent of black women voted in 2012, beating out any other voting demographic; some voter turnout experts argue that black people overall outvoted white men and women in 2008. Keep in mind that black voter turnout has been increasing since at least 1996, with black women leading that charge.

Ask Barack Obama. Black women win presidencies.

But, for some reason, the Democratic Party, Sanders and his supporters seem more interested in converting racist Donald Trump supporters while dismissing the electoral power of black female voters who’ve never wavered in their support of a party that consistently treats them like side pieces. Sanders told CBS News in November that he comes from the white working class and that he was “deeply humiliated” that the Democratic Party (you know, the party he refuses to join) lost its support to Trump.

Hmm. I guess he wasn’t humiliated by the fact that those working-class white folk voted for a man who essentially advocated for resurrecting Jim Crow.

If Sanders is supposed to be the Democratic front-runner, why is he so invested in earning votes from racist white folks who despise minorities, the most loyal voters in the Democratic Party?

No matter how much his backers forced Hillary Clinton’s support of the 1994 crime bill down our throats, he never could steal enough black votes from her. She went on to win the primary with more than 75 percent of their support, compared with just 23 percent going to Sanders. My own reporting found that some of Sanders’ senior black staffers felt that the campaign—or “the white boys,” as some of the black staffers referred to top campaign staffers—did not take Super Tuesday seriously and were convinced that fighting for black Southern voters was pretty much a lost cause.