Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Black Perspective on Hillary vs. Bernie

I don't browse Reddit, but today I was linked to a post there in which a black Redditor detailed a few reasons why black voters favor Hillary Clinton. I had been wondering about the black perspective of this primary race, and though that account obviously doesn't speak for all black people (and doesn't claim to), it does give some valuable insight that I hadn't considered.

So, I'm going to explore each of their points one by one. My intention isn't to refute their points, but just to give my own perspective.

1. Their first point is that black people are pretty used to broken promises at this point. What's interesting is that they don't just mention politicians as failing to live up to expectations; they actually mention Martin Luther King and the Black Panthers as examples of socialist promises that failed to pan out. I suppose their point is that socialist agendas simply aren't realistic, at least not in the face of the American political system.

This is certainly a valid criticism. Even if Bernie were to win the presidency, it's unlikely he could actually deliver on much of what he's promising. Not for lack of trying, I think, but it's true that much of it is, in fact, a pipe dream.

However, I would argue that having a president working toward those goals brings those ideas into the national conversation in a way that, typically, they just aren't. And if Bernie's speeches of the past few decades are any indication, he's not one to let up on that conversation. Ever. So, sure, much of his promises won't happen, but with that kind of drive, some of them will. Or, at the very least, Congress will have to spend a lot of time explaining themselves.

2. Their second point hits home pretty hard. In short, who is Bernie Sanders to black people? What has he done for them? Who cares what he says he'll do for them; what has he done?

I'm not saying Bernie hasn't done anything for the black community since the Civil Rights Movement; he's been in Congress for 25 years, and he clearly tends to fight hard in defense of minorities and the poor. So, if he's proposed or backed legislation that helped the black community, or if he's opposed legislation that would hurt them, why haven't they talked about this? Nobody knows what happened in Congress last year, much less, 20 years ago. It's the campaign's responsibility to find concrete examples in Bernie's history if times when he's fought for them. If he can't do that, then the black community has no reason to believe he cares. Period.

This is especially relevant when compared to point number 5 but, unfortunately, this Redditor did not arrange their points in a way that would make such a natural transition easy.

3. Their third point brings up obnoxious Sanders supporters. It's an unfortunate truth that fans influence the perception of the things they're fans of. While I'd love to say that reports of obnoxious "Bernie Bros" are overblown, I see it a lot myself. Though I'm sure most Bernie supporters are calm, reasonable people, many are also extremely condescending. Which I suppose is par for the course in political discussion. However, when neutral parties, criticizing every candidate equally, report that they get way more flak from Bernie supporters than any other group (including Trump supporters), it raises some serious concerns.

A rabid fanbase is not a helpful fanbase.

4. Their fourth point is the one that many people don't think about, though it's absolutely true not just of black people but of all minorities: they are not necessarily liberal. Sure, they tend to vote against Republicans because often Republicans seem inclined to enact policies that are either blatantly or subtly racist, but on many other issues minorities often lean conservative both socially and fiscally. Black and Latino communities are overwhelmingly Christian. And do you think the majority of Muslims support abortion? Do you think traditional Asian families are concerned about the wage gap?

The assumption that minorities are united in liberalism is false. They're united against discrimination, but otherwise their people run the gamut like everyone else, with a healthy blend of liberals, conservatives, and moderates. Bernie is far more liberal than Hillary, and that is not necessarily a good thing as far as minority communities are concerned.

5. Finally, black people just love the Clintons. The redditor gives a host of reasons why, which I recommend reading. However, the big point here is that they connected with black communities leading up to and during the Clinton presidency, and Hillary can hold that era up as evidence that she has the black community's back. That fact is simply understood in black communities, since it doesn't take much to remember what a president has done for you.

Comparatively, even if Bernie has a laundry list of instances in which he fought for the black community, nobody cares about what happens in Congress. So, telling people about these hypothetical instances would require education: an interested audience, time, and effort, all of which are scarce during an election.

Given all of that, yeah, I can see why black communities haven't rallied behind Bernie. I think it's unfortunate, of course, but I can't blame them either.

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