2016: White Voters And Racism In The Age of Trump And Sanders | Blog#42

This primary season has been filled with talk about angry white voters; those who are voting for Donald J. Trump and those who are voting for Bernie Sanders. During the early part, there were many discussions about Trump’s success, attracting voters with his racist banter about Mexicans, drugs and rape, and his promise to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, with the Mexican government footing the bill. Since Black Lives Matter activists disrupted Bernie Sanders last summer and with his failure to garner the Black vote in the Deep South, much is being made of his success with angry white blue collar Democrats.

While both reporters and pundits have fixated on a portion of the white electorate, on the right and left, a variety of polls have demonstrated that Trump voters are hardly restricted to uneducated poor and working class whites, and include educated middle class voters and women. Sanders, on the other hand, has won the vote of the younger generation, in addition to working class whites of both sexes, Sanders appeals to female voters of all ages, especially younger women (Gen-Y, Gen-Z, millennials, Gen-X, and some Boomers).

In a very short radio report on rural California voters, the interview at 2:00 minutes caught my ear, not so much because the female voter is a Trump follower, but because of her beliefs on money and politics.

89.3 KPCC:  Trump campaign resonates in rural Sierra County

According to this voter, were it not for rich people, there would be no America. Clearly, in this rural California community that votes Republican consistently and, for a voter who favors Donald J. Trump, America’s history, by way of its slavery roots, has no impact on this person’s perspective. To this person and many like her, the wealthy made America what it is and they are still its backbone. How they became wealthy and why – the connection between much of American wealth, how it was accumulated and continues to be amassed – just doesn’t figure into this equation. There is no awareness of a connection between American capitalism’s reliance on a system of classes and racial sub-classes in order to function and, therefore, it just isn’t a part of her awareness or millions of Americans like her, regardless of social or educational attainment. This “failure” is a feature of our system of government and, by extension, the most consequential failing of America’s system of education. In a newly released Marist-PBS-Point Taken poll, the following findings were published:

“Nearly six in ten Americans assert the current wealth of the United States is not significantly tied to work done in the past by slaves, although most consider the history of slavery and other forms of racial discrimination to be at least a minor factor in the gap in wealth between white and black Americans.”


Absent these connections between wealth and the social strata in America, voters on both sides of the political divide vote against their own interests when they connect economic success with the political leadership by corporate wealth. In other words, the perceived business acumen and accumulated wealth of Donald Trump qualify him more than the political, legislative and civil service experience of either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. There is no awareness or understanding, that experience in the corporate environment doesn’t translate into civil service and vice versa.

This lack of political and economic sophistication strengthens existing biases in many ways, voting down stimulative, reparative and restorative initiatives at local, state, and federal levels.  This is as true of initiatives to endow Americans with social benefits that are widely accepted in most other nations, as it is to alleviate inequality, poverty, and discrimination. Thus, we keep repeating the vicious cycle of poor minorities being blamed for their own conditions, followed by a lack of willingness and conscious efforts to vote in politicians with a mandate to promote and enact policies that aim to end discriminatory economic and educational deprivation in disadvantaged minority areas. Every so often, either due to civil unrest or the rise of a movement, the cycle is broken for a short while, only to be followed by several more cycles of indifference. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This election cycle is different. This cycle comes at a time when several major changes have happened in America. The effects of the Great Recession have not abated. Millions of unemployed Americans who were laid off at the start of the recession never regained their jobs or replaced them with equivalent positions. Their children, millennials, now graduated from the nation’s colleges, aren’t faring any better in today’s job market. In ‘Tricky Timing For The Class of 2016, the New York Times reports:

“This year’s high school graduates were 10 years old when the economy hit the skids in 2008. Many college graduates in the class of 2016 were 14. Yet, their economic prospects remain darkened by the enduring effects of the Great Recession.

That is not to say there has been no improvement. The class of ’16 has more and better-paying job opportunities than earlier post-crash graduating classes, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. But for the most part, today’s graduates still face employment conditions that are worse than in 2007, the year before the recession, and are much worse than in 2000, when the economy was last at full employment.”

In a separate report on Black graduates, EPI reports that unemployment for Black graduates is still worse, now, than it was for white graduates in 2007, before the start of the Great Recession. Black unemployment is always higher than unemployment for the general population.

According to a new Gallup report, a 356 billion dollar hole in the economy can be traced back directly to the millennial generation, as it is unable or unwilling to spend as much as is needed in order for the multiplier effect to be felt, causing the economy not to grow as much as it needs to in order to sustain itself. A ‘multiplier effect’ is an economic term used to describe the benefit to an economy when people spend money and that money then causes more orders to be placed, which in turn causes more jobs to be created, which in turn causes more money to be spent…

Remember, their parents aren’t spending much, either, because they either don’t have “good jobs,” or they are supporting kids who don’t have good jobs, or may themselves also be supported by their parents, in a multi-generational living arrangement that is now so common, both because of a generalized shortage of affordable housing nationwide, and they aren’t earning a living wage. Such is the new normal and the life of the American Precariat.

As I’ve written in a collection of pieces over the past year, leading up to this primary election, the mainstream media ceased to provide much if any real reporting on employment and the state of the long-term unemployed and underemployed, emphasizing, instead, the number of jobs, rather than their quality. In, Jacobin’s ‘Burying the White Working Class,’  writes:

“While the Economic Policy Institute projects that the US working class will be 49.6 percent “non-hispanic white” by 2032, 77 percent of all minimum wage (or below) workers today are white. Half are white women, who it should be noted joined young working-class women of color as an enthusiastic core of Sanders’s base. And as Tamara Draut shows in her new book Sleeping Giant — which stresses the diversity of the new working class — 63 percent of all workers without a bachelor’s degree are still non-Latino white.

Instead of acknowledging the size and importance of this part of the electorate, Democratic Party elites have simply constructed a new narrative to suit their interests — a narrative that was on display after West Virginia. Following Sanders’s win a significant chunk of the punditocracy came to the conclusion, mostly by abusing the hell out of exit polls, that a vote for the Jewish socialist was actually a vote for white supremacy.

After decades of being told white workers would never support socialism because they’re racist, we’re now told that they support the socialist candidate because they are racist. Yes, this is where liberals are in the year 2016.

How did we get here? How did we get to the point at which universalist, social-democratic politics — the antithesis of Reagan’s welfare queen and the very set of policies we’ve long been told white workers would never support out of racist spite — have become the last gasp of white supremacy? Where a working-class program — that would disproportionately help women and people of color — is the new white flight?”

Indeed, this is the juncture at which, every time it appears as if there is going to be a meeting of the minds and circumstances, something or someone intervenes to put everyone back in their place. The last time the planets were aligned almost perfectly like this, in terms of political and movements for civil rights and economic equality, April 4th, 1968 happened and it took another forty eight years, the rise of the police state, complete with a mass-incarceration and killings of Black men and women, a couple of serious economic bubbles, book-ended by a very serious recession.

Now, as the Democratic establishment fully expected the unchallenged primary of Hillary Clinton, the phenomenon of Bernie Sanders is the surprise hiccup in an otherwise flawless grand plan. On the other side of the political divide stands the unlikeliest of all candidates in Donald J. Trump. Unlikely, not because of his xenophobia and misogyny, but his lack of membership in the Koch-blessed establishment elites. Now that he’s eliminated all of his primary opponents and has all but formally been nominated, the shocked establishment troops are falling in, one by one, in their acceptance, official and tacit, of their presumptive nominee, much to the bemused horror of Liberal onlookers.

As I’ve written many times, however, the horror that is taking place on the right is a distraction from the real fight. That fight is taking place on the left, as the neoliberal establishment desperately tries to grab power as it rebuffs and even casts out its own. Nevada was just the scene of a rare and most blatant scene of anti-democratic behavior. As RawStory reports:

“According to the Las Vegas Sun, Clinton took 20 of the 35 pledged delegates Nevada will send to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer.

Sanders supporters — who  were slightly outnumbered by fans of Clinton — shouted down speakers, with California Sen. Barbara Boxer called a “b*tch” as she tried to speak. Supporters of the Vermont senator complained bitterly as Democratic leaders quickly attempted to gavel the proceedings to a close.

In a tweet posted by Nevada journalist Jon Ralston, the Nevada State Democratic Party defended excluding 58 Sanders delegates.

According to the party:

There were 64 Sanders Delegates and Alternates whose validity was challenged because of the following issues:

  • They were not registered Democratic voters in Nevada By May 1, 2016.

  • Their information — such as address, date of n=birth and name — could not be found and they did not respond to requests from the party and campaigns to correct it.

They continued, “Of these 64 Delegates and Alternates, six were allowed to be seated after their appropriate information was provided and 58 were denied because of the reasons outlined above.””

Real Clear Politics provides more video footage in its reporting in: ‘Chaos At Nevada Democratic Convention; State Party Chair Flees Building As Sanders Supporters Demand Recount.’

(Update/clarification: This situation escalated out of control when Roberta Lange, Chairwoman of the Nevada State Democratic Party & member of the national DNC Executive Committee subjectively called the results of a voice vote, adjourned the meeting using a gavel, and left. According to a Democratic Party spokesman, the national party or its Chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, “did not have a part in this.”)

While caucuses have rules that differ from open and closed primaries, party chairs aren’t supposed to vote instead of their state voters and their representatives… But this is what this primary has come to, and Nevada is not alone in having a number of irregularities in getting from the voters to a final result for the nominee. As Politico’s Daniel Strauss reports in, ‘Sanders crashes into Democratic Party wall; The Vermont senator’s camp seethes over real and perceived slights from the party establishment.

“The most recent flare-up occurred last week, when Sanders publicly released a letter to Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz accusing her of stacking the deck against him on the convention’s standing committees. “[W]e are prepared to mobilize our delegates to force as many votes as necessary to amend the platform and rules on the floor of the convention,” wrote Sanders, several days after a tense phone conversation with the chairwoman.

According to a Sanders official with knowledge of the call, the senator demanded more representation on the committees but Wasserman Schultz would only assure him that he would have representation.”

Indeed, to many a Sanders supporter, too many things have either magically happened – like three million New Yorkers being scrubbed from the voter rolls – or gone completely wrong, like the Nevada convention, to add up to coincidence or the happenstance way things were set before Sanders declared his candidacy. Remember, the DNC chair is supposed to represent the party and not its presumptive nominee. Is this the best, most trustworthy public face the DNC is able to put on its primary?

There is a lot riding on this coming election for tens of millions of voters. When the party that is favored to take the presidency can’t inspire even a modicum of confidence, it is a sign of trouble to come. Hillary Clinton had better be prepared to give Bernie Sanders his due. She is in no position to throw away Bernie’s votes. Whatever the liberal wing of the party may feel about progressives, at the end of the day, they are no less Democrats and they are entitled to the representation they won in nineteen states and counting. The DNC and, by extension, the Clinton campaign are committing grave errors in judgment by conducting a less than honorable election process. This is neither how a party is unified, or voters assured that they matter. Continuing to tinker with the balance of power in the primary, all the while painting Sanders voters as racist and unworthy Democrats or outright outsiders, will have dire consequences in the general election, if Hillary Clinton is the party’s nominee.

While, undoubtedly, there is a portion of the white Democratic electorate that is unconcerned or not quite as concerned with racial equality as it should be. Be that as it may, that segment is an integral part of the party’s voter base in a nation which has yet to come to terms with its original sin. To paint Sanders voters racists who aren’t even real Democrats not only is less than truthful, but it is a tactic that is sure to backfire, not only with progressive voters, but also the independents who are watching from the wings.

The presumed victor, Hillary Clinton, is far less favorable in the public’s opinion than was Barack Obama, or any other Democrat before her. If many more shenanigans are allowed to go on, at the DNC level or in the States, even Sanders himself may not be able to corral the troops back in, especially as Donald Trump continues to exploit Clinton’s vulnerabilities by positioning himself to her left.  Sanders may well prove to be right to have questioned his opponent’s judgment. Hillary Clinton doesn’t have one voter, much less millions of voters, to waste.


Watch PBS’ Point Taken:


89.3 KPCC: How do you make California’s communities of color ‘Feel the Bern?’


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