Bernie Sanders Cancels Speech on Racial Justice Because He's a "White Jewish Man"

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Ok, some of you may be thinking, "Aha, it's Purim tonight, and it's traditional on Purim to engage in satire. You almost got me, Bernstein." Nope.

Bloomberg News:

At a town hall on "racial and economic justice" in Flint, Michigan, Sanders was scheduled to deliver a prewritten speech… "They talked over the idea and decided it was probably better to let the people of color who were on the panel discuss instead of him giving a traditional speech," [Sanders spokesman] Casca said in explaining why the speech was scrapped. He added: "He does not have those experiences. He is a white Jewish man."

In fairness to the Sanders campaign, the speech apparently was not meant to be about racism or racial justice writ large, but a specific appeal to the African-American community. And it's true that Sanders is white, and therefore hasn't had the experience of being black. But (a) I'm not sure what adding that he's Jewish accomplished, beyond that the campaign seems determined to highlight his Jewish identity this time around to obscure the fact that he has surrounded himself with antisemites. It also results in perplexing headlines such as, Sanders Campaign Says Status as 'White Jewish Man' Disqualifies From Giving Racial Justice Speech, as if Jews have never been victims of racism; and (b) You would think that if he wants the votes of African Americans, refusing to directly appeal to them on the grounds that he's white is a combination of silly, counter-productive, and overly-politically correct–especially given that Sanders, to his credit, was a civil rights activist back in the early 1960s.

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  1. So…I presume that since white, Jewish men are excluded from such discussions, they won’t be getting the bill for all this “racial and economic justice”?

    No taxation without representation, after, all, is a principle of economic justice, isn’t it?

    1. No taxation without representation is rather milquetoast, wouldn’t you agree? If one’s representative votes for the imposition of a tax without your unambiguous consent, what type of representation does one have?

      1. Eh, better than nothing at all.

  2. It is odd, David. But the Sanders campaign is sort of flailing right now, hoping to latch on to something that clicks with Dem primary voters…black voters especially. It’s sort of depressing and sad to watch. (I say this as a non-Sanders voter who–nonetheless–supports several of his policy positions. At least, supports them in part.)

    1. Sanders campaign is basically dead.

      I will say, the amount of party rallying around Biden is nothing short of amazing, in such a short period of time. Between SC and Super Tuesday (a period of 3 days?), two of Biden’s main competitors dropped out and endorsed him. Then right after Super Tuesday, Biden’s other competitor dropped out and endorsed him. Meanwhile, Bernie’s main competitor spent her capital attacking Bloomberg in the last debate, giving Biden a free pass, while endorsing no one).

      I mean…wow. If the GOP had done this in 2016 (All dropped out and endorsed…say Rubio…) before Super Tuesday, we wouldn’t have a President Trump. Instead, Cruz and Carson and Rubio and Kasich all stayed in through Super Tuesday, splitting the vote.

    2. Most of the Dem candidates seem to have somehow assumed the average Dems are of the Twitter Bluecheck/Bay Area Castro variety that cry out on social media regularly for racial segregation and paperwork for sexual consent but I guess thats not true. I suppose the average is more like my parents who are Dems for some inexplicable reason despite disagreeing with nearly every major issue the modern party focuses on today.

  3. Whoops….

    Point 1: Bloomberg news is covering the Democratic candidates again!. Yay…-ish.

    Point 2: Identity/grievance politics rears its ugly head again…

  4. “the fact that he has surrounded himself with antisemites”

    Odd definitions of “fact” and “antisemites” ya got there.

    AIPAC does not represent Jews. It represents Israel. There’s a difference.

    1. If AIPAC had never existed, all the individuals in question, and there are a bunch more of them not mentioned in the Post editorial, would still be antisemites. And the notion that Omar in particular is considered an antisemite because she insulted AIPAC is a prevalent but false myth. https://reason.com/2019/02/12/why-rep-omar-was-accused-of-indulging-in/

      1. I’ll have to beg forgiveness, but as a non-Jewish person, I’ll defer to the majority of American Jewish people on the point of what is/isn’t antisemitic.

        And on the topic of antisemitism and Bernie Sanders campaign (and, for that matter, the antisemitism of Democrats and Republicans in general), you’re out-voted.

    2. One of my less favorite anecdotes is the story of the Association of German National Jews in 1933, a group of German Jews that came out in support of Hitler, opposed Zionism, and demanded the expulsion of Jews from Eastern Europe.

      Sadly, the group was declared illegal, forcibly disbanded, and their leader was arrested by the Gestapo in 1935. He was then sent to a concentration camp, and died in 1939.

      Moral of the story. Even Jewish people can be stupid and self-deluded.

      1. Add disingenuous to your list. Citing to the New York Post as an actual news source in support of a debatable (and questionable) assertion is a scoundrel’s tool.

  5. I would imagine that Sanders’s problem is that black voters want to nominate someone who will beat Trump, and of the paltry choices remaining, they think Biden is the candidate most likely to do this.

    Perhaps it’s a question of which candidate black voters think will appeal to white swing voters.

    Which means that Biden represents black Democrats’ idea of what white people like. Not flattering, is it?

    1. No, your reductive, racial mind-reading isn’t particularly flattering. Was it supposed to me?

      1. Was it supposed to be

        (I’d complain again about the lack of an edit function, but the descent of this site’s commentariat into a cesspool of anti-liberal bloodlust renders the software platform a relatively trivial matter of concern.)

        1. “cesspool of anti-liberal bloodlust”

          OK, fine, black Democrats will vote purely on emotion and won’t consider whether the candidate they support is politically viable. Is that the more enlightened speculation?

          Or perhaps in your eagerness to use weird mixed metaphors your logical processes are impaired.

          1. “Biden is “safe, and they realize the importance of getting Trump out of there, and they want to go for a sure thing, they want to go for something comfortable, something familiar,” said Darryl Hayes, 61, who was at Biden’s St. Louis rally on Saturday and said he generally likes and agrees with Sanders’ policies but thinks Biden is more likely to win both the primary and the general election….

            “Voters in Jackson said they think Biden is less polarizing and more realistic than other candidates at this point in US history.

            ““Look at the result of having a female candidate for president. Look at the result of having an African American man successfully run the country. I believe there was a blowback,” said Dr. Mary Elizabeth Gilbert Manogin, 35, of Trump being elected despite his racist rhetoric and misogynistic comments.

            “Manogin was at the event with her mother and 15-year-old sister (who can’t yet vote but supports Bernie Sanders). She said she would have loved to vote for Elizabeth Warren, but “unfortunately we are not there. The past few years have shown that to us.”

            ““I think our country is in the stage where it’s not a matter of what we want, it’s what we need,” said Lonnie Harris, 65, in Jackson, adding that he thinks Biden has the most experience and insight into how to run the country and maintain relationships with foreign leaders.”

            https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/nidhiprakash/joe-biden-campaign-black-democrats

            1. “Black Women Went to the Voting Booth With Pragmatism on Super Tuesday…

              “…in more than a dozen interviews with black women in downtown Oakland who are casting their ballots at or around drop boxes near the Alameda County Courthouse, most of them told The Root they preferred voting for Warren but ended up picking a male candidate. The women ranged from ages 18- to 62-years-old, all of whom provided very nuanced explanations for their votes for Biden and Sanders. While Sander has garnered far greater support from younger black voters over Biden, black millennial women aren’t completely removed from the fears of their parents and grandparents.

              “Elo Ratliff, 31, cast her vote for Biden after leaving the courthouse around 7 p.m. after strongly considering Warren. But the need to remove Trump from office and white America’s doubt over whether a woman could do it informed her decision not to support Warren.

              ““She would have been my preferred choice, but I was also thinking about who would ultimately be the one who would represent us well in the Democratic Party and I don’t think she had enough to get us there,” Ratliff said. “I also like Bernie to a certain extent. But I thought Biden would be the best one to represent the Democratic candidacy and have the best chance.”…

              “The talk in states with large black voting populations was clear: let them white folks have their little say first. We’ll get the last word. And, indeed, black folks are on their way to having the last word with the vast majority of black people voting for Biden on Super Tuesday. There are a lot of primary states left to go, but the moderate white establishment is circling around Biden for a wide range of reasons. Black women, based on interviews The Root has conducted during the 2020 cycle, are paying close attention to all of this….

              [after interviewing a black Biden voter]

              “I struck up a conversation with Nicole Randle who drove up to a ballot drop box near the courthouse to leave her vote. She voted for Biden, but not because she was her preferred candidate. Like most of the women I spoke with, Randle said Biden was the best hope against Trump. But she prefers Warren….

              “”…And I think, just right now, they’re not gonna vote a woman in there. They’re not just gonna do that.”

              ““Who are the they?,” I asked.

              ““The majority of people,” she responded.

              ““White people?,” I asked.

              “She looked at me and nodded her head, “Yeah. Thank you.””

              https://www.theroot.com/black-women-went-to-the-voting-booth-with-pragmatism-on-1842093255

              1. oops, [after interviewing a black *Sanders* voter]

          2. The reference to anti-liberal bloodlust was, like my frustration over the lack of an edit function, not personally directed at you.

            Don’t have time to read the rest of your comment now. Hopefully I will later.

  6. Unlike the VC’ers, Sanders actually knows some black people, or at least finds it appropriate to discuss serious matters with them, and no doubt has discussed whether it would be better for a person of color to speak. So I’d give him some leeway on this.

    1. And it’s captcrisis with the win for the most racist comment in this thread!

      For those in the cheap seats, captcrisis presumes to know the race of all the VC commentors AND presumes to know how an entire racial population wants to be spoken to.

      1. I meant the VC bloggers, who unquestionably are all white (and male).

        Though you, also, apparently don’t know any black people. You live in a world of presumptions as to how they might feel about things. Actually sounding them out seems outside your experience.

        Sanders lives in a world where black people exist and discuss things with him. They told him it would be good to have an all-POC panel to discuss this subject. He took their point. Wouldn’t you? (That is, if you actually hung about with POC and listened to them.)

  7. Yes, it sounds sort of silly, but Bernstein predictably puts the thing in the worst possible light.

    First, despite the implication of the headline, the quote is not from Sanders but from a campaign spokesman.

    Second, the reason appears to be that the campaign thought having a panel of black speakers address the topic would be more effective than having Sanders do so. That doesn’t seem wildly unreasonable.

    Third, the snark about Jews being victims of racism is irrelevant. The subject was “racial and economic justice,” presumably in the US today. Does Sanders have personal experience with that? I doubt it.

    1. It provides for pretty fun comment threads, but good lord does Prof. Bernstein hate hate hate Bernie Sanders!

    2. “First, despite the implication of the headline, the quote is not from Sanders but from a campaign spokesman.”

      Well, that makes all the difference, because it’s not like he’s Bernie’s spokesman or anything. Oh, wait.

  8. Sanders, to his credit, was a civil rights activist back in the early 1960s.

    Many communists infiltrated and campaigned on civil rights platforms in the 60s in an attempt to destabilize and bring down American society. The communists were the most radical and violent civil rights activists.

    The key difference today is they don’t have to hide their actions in legitimate political movements.

    1. Jubulent is just an update of this guy

      These comments sure are delivering!

    2. You might have heard of the phrase “heightening the contradictions”? Thanks

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