During his battle for the Democratic nomination, it became clear that Bernie Sanders was having trouble gaining support from the black electorate. Some theorized that it was the Sanders camp’s insistence on framing the racial justice narrative within the confines of Wall Street and income inequality – a narrative that some in the black community felt failed to penetrate the complexities of “white supremacy” deeply enough in the broader sense.
Sometimes, it was Sanders’ unprepared remarks that seemed to dig his hole a little deeper. One example is when CNN’s Don Lemon asked him back in March, “What racial blind-spot do you have?”
“When you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto, you don’t know what it’s like to be poor,” Sanders responded.
The answer seemed to write itself. But social media erupted and turned the minutia of Sanders’ flawed thinking into a full-blown liability.
“He knows that all Black people don’t live in ghettos, right?” Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post said in a tweet.
“Of course, many white Americans know exactly what it’s like to ‘live in the ghetto.’ Many, including immigrants have, do and did,” MSNBC’s Joy Reid said in another tweet.
“Most African-Americans are not poor. The AA poverty rate is too high, of course, at about 28%, but that’s not most or all,” Reid added.
Whether you agree with this assessment or not, in states with large African American populations, Clinton was, and is, way ahead of the Sanders campaign. As POLITICO’s Gil Troy wrote earlier this year, and again, whether you agree or not, “Hillary Clinton has street cred on the racial issue that Bernie Sanders lacks.”
That racial divide between black voters and Sanders supporters was never more apparent than during Maryland Congressman and civil rights icon Elijah Cummings’ speech at the Democratic National Convention this Monday night.
As Cummings spoke about his party’s fight for civil rights, the environment, equal wages, and other social issues, chants of “No TPP!” began to rise from a certain faction of the audience.
Cummings was co-chair of the Democrats’ platform committee, which inserted language that didn’t specifically oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping trade deal that President Barack Obama put high on his second-term wish list. But the deal, and the language in the platform essentially protecting it, is a flashpoint for Sanders’ backers; they believe trade pacts are responsible for triggering the decline of American manufacturing and causing wages to stagnate.
Sanders used Clinton’s support for TPP as a cudgel against her in the primary debates. But his supporters publicly harassing Cummings, a widely respected lawmaker and African American leader, isn’t a good look for a faction that, by Sanders’ own admission, got clobbered by Clinton in the South, home to the largest segment of the nation’s black population.
Watch Cummings’ speech in the video below. The Sanders supporters begin interrupting at about 5 minutes in: