In May of 2015, when Bernie Sanders announced his campaign for President, pundits dismissed it as a vain attempt to pull Hillary Clinton to the left. If Sanders was going to be competitive he needed to find a way to raise at least $100 million dollars without the aid of a Super PAC, he needed to convince the nation that socialism isn't a dirty word, and he needed to convince the Black and Latino communities (the King Makers of the Democratic Nomination process) that a white man who they have never heard before of and who is on the verge of dementia can be their ticket to combat institutional racism.
Not only has Bernie Sanders done most of these things, but he has done them so well that there will be lasting impacts into American politics for decades because of his efforts. Sanders' fundraising strategy is so effective that analysts will be studying for years on how he was able to energize an often apathetic voting bloc into donating every time he sends out a tweet. A Sanders Democrat will soon become an identity for those who believe that the Democrat party resembles the GOP, and believes that socialism has worked for Europe and that an American adoption wouldn't be a crazy idea but rather a good one.
Sanders has pushed this nation to the left and brought socialism into the equation, something that no pundit would have imagined less than a year ago. However, in order to have the political revolution necessary to bolster this unlikely candidate, there needs to be revolution. Not a strong showing in New Hampshire. A Revolution. And Sanders hasn't built that yet.
This race is close because Sanders is a strong candidate, but also because Hillary Clinton did this to herself. Clinton's emails, her wall street transcripts, the corruption within the DNC led by her former national campaign co-chair, her conservative voting record, and her Mitt Romney style of campaigning have brought her down from her pedestal and into the mud with the rest of the candidates. That isn't the success Sanders needs to unite the 99% and bring us all together for revolution. That is just Hilary Clinton being really bad at this.
The lack of support needed for Sanders' revolution is evident when you look at his support among the black community. If you compare the records and policy proposals of Sanders and Clinton on race relations and racial justice, you can give Sanders the edge. If you listen to their rhetoric instead, he doesn't even come close.
Sanders is a gifted public speaker, but on issues of race relations he comes across as barely human sometimes. When asked in the MSNBC/Telemundo Democratic Townhall about if he would push immigration through in his first 100 days his response was ".. I'm not a dictator here. It has to do with a little bit of cooperation from the Congress." What happened to his political revolution? Isn't he supposed to vote "anyone who says no" out of office? His tax reform and free college tuition plans are much more difficult to get through than immigration reform, but now his answer requires giving the American populace a dose of reality? I am calling horseshit.
Ta-Nehisi Coates in his now famous piece, calls out Sanders for not supporting reparations for slavery. Coates claims that this criticism is part of a larger snub on Sanders who has not done everything he can to ensure that his revolution is opened to people of color. Sanders wants to restructure wealth in this country, but ignores that race has played a huge part in structuring that wealth. Coates describes Sanders as "A Democratic candidate who offers class-based remedies to address racist plunder because that is what is imminently doable, because all we have are bandages, is doing the best he can. A Democratic candidate who claims that such remedies are sufficient, who makes a virtue of bandaging, has forgotten the world that should, and must, be. Effectively he answers the trenchant problem of white supremacy by claiming “something something socialism, and then a miracle occurs.”
Reparations might be a step too far for the average voter, but the issue still remains. Sanders wants a revolution when it comes to overthrowing the big banks and campaign finance reform, but stops short of calling for a racial revolution while at the same time comparing himself to Martin Luther King Jr. Many black leaders believe that there needs to be a revolution and a massive political shift in order to begin fixing race relations. I tend to agree and if Bernie needs and wants the support of the black community, but has done nothing except offer some non-radical policy changes in his platform that is already filled with radical ideas, then he doesn't deserve their support.
This is about us, not him. #FeeltheBern is about advancing the debate beyond his candidacy. By realizing that there are issues worth struggling for and that it requires all of us to have the guts to stand-up and say "enough is enough."
If the deck is stacked against ordinary Americans, it is absolutely stacked against people of color. Not only are they making less and working longer hours, but people of color are in fear of their lives because the police have put a target on their communities. The police regularly target black and Latino communities to fill their insanely high quotas. It's no wonder then when the militarized police take a black man's life every 28 hours, that they are rewarded with legal immunity. This racial profiling helps propel the white supremacy necessary for their jobs to exist. If the system is rigged economically, Sanders must also adopt the mindset that the system is rigged socially as well. Racism is the reason for the inequities in the system, not just economic consequences of racism.
Bernie Sanders has almost done it all. He built his campaign off the donations of poor college students, not wealthy banking elites. Sanders developed well thought out socialist plans and proved that he could pay for them by instituting some common sense taxes on the wealthy and closing tax loopholes that are ridiculous. However, if he is going to win this nomination he needs to realize that he isn't the racial justice champion he thinks he is. Sanders not only needs to step up his language when talking about institutional racism, but he needs to give us a reason why #FeelTheBern isn't just for white folks.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is right and I like Bernie too, but at the same time neither of us will not sit back and claim that he is the heir to the great Martin Luther King Jr., that the supporters of Black Lives Matter should support him, or that Sanders would do anything for race relations besides put a few more dollars in the pockets of the poor. Racism is conquered when we push back, when we talk about privilege, when we dismantle barriers, and Bernie just assumes we know he is talking about people of color when he talks about the poor. That ain't enough Bernie, you have actually say something in order to stand up for it. Get the courage to use the language, join the movement, and realize that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about economic rights 2nd and racial justice 1st.