Bernie Sanders and Civil Rights

A blogger I follow has said he is voting green again. I have no problem with that whatsoever. But the specific reasons he gave were unconvincing, not to mention unfair. He writes that,

“Sanders to his credit has condemned Emanuel. I’m just not sure what to make of a northeastern senator that thinks he deserves ally cookies for being involved in the Civil Rights Movement a half century ago. The Sanders campaign has not actively reached out to non-white voters, instead expecting them to fall in line behind him because of his past. That’s not good enough. I’m also not sure what to make of a senator that was too politically cowardly to endorse marriage equality in Vermont in 2006.”

I feel a need to respond. What he wrote is dismissive and uninformed. Sanders has never asked for ally cookies. That is tearing down a straw man.

I prefer third party candidates myself. And I voted for Nader in the past. There are endless reasons to despise the two party system. I very well might vote Green this coming election as well.

Yet for the moment I’m supporting Sanders’ campaign because it forces many issues into public debate that would otherwise be ignored. If not for Sanders long and extensive personal history and voting record on civil rights issues, the mainstream media (and Hillary Clinton) wouldn’t even be talking about it.

I may not vote for Sanders in the end. But, either way, I want him treated fairly. To dismiss him is to play right into the hands of those who also dismiss third party candidates.

Plus, don’t ignore economic issues, as if they are separate from civil rights issues. MLK understood how inseparable they were. MLK wasn’t selling out or giving up on civil rights when he decided to focus on poverty that harmed all Americans, including many whites.

Before deciding, look at all the info and analysis. Sanders civil rights involvement has been continuous over the decades. It wasn’t a one time involvement a half century ago. I don’t deny that Sanders could do more, but that goes for all of us. Besides, he has done more for civil rights than most people complaining about him.

In US history, there has never been a major presidential candidate that was stronger than Sanders on civil rights. This is a historical moment, simply for his ability to get such massive support. This will permanently change the debate. Civil rights is Sanders strong point.

If you genuinely want to criticize Sanders for plausible reasons, you’d be better off focusing on his foreign policy record. The reason many of his critics don’t focus on foreign policy is because on that issue Hillary Clinton looks truly horrific.

Sanders is a moderate in this area. He isn’t a pacifist by a long shot. And he isn’t going to speak in the language of anti-authoritarianism, anti-statism, and anti-imperialism. But he did speak out against the Vietnam War. And he voted against wars of aggression such as the Iraq War. Considering wars of aggression are both unconstitutional and illegal, that isn’t a minor issue. Sanders, unlike Clinton, doesn’t take lightly the act of the US military killing people. He is much more supportive of diplomacy and multilateralism. This is an extension of his civil libertarian approach to politics.

Anyway, it is on foreign policies that third party candidates really shine, far beyond even an independent like Sanders. To me, that is an extremely important issue. It very well might lead me to vote Green. My point is that, if just going by civil rights, I’d find arguments against Sanders less compelling. All you have to do is look at his record. I’m not sure why so many people don’t bother to look closely at any of this. It’s not hard to find.

I get the sense that some people are looking for a reason to dismiss Sanders. It’s not limited to people who are attacking him because of another candidate they prefer. It seems that it is hard for quite a few to imagine that something good can come from an old white guy who is a professional politician, especially when he is running in one of the major parties. They can’t get past this in order to consider his record on its own terms.

* * *

Where does Bernie Sanders stand on civil rights?

Bernie Sanders on Civil Rights

12 Examples Of Bernie Sanders Powerful 50+ Year Record On Civil Rights And Racial Justice

20 ways Bernie Sanders has stood up for civil and minority rights

Here’s What Bernie Sanders Actually Did in the Civil Rights Movement

The radical left has Bernie Sanders all wrong

Sanders wins nod from noted communist leader

Bernie Sanders Was Slapped for Supporting Jesse Jackson in ’88

Jesse Jackson Comes to Sanders’ Defense on Civil Rights: ‘The Movement Was So Broad Based’

MLK associate and Civil Rights Icon Rev. Harold Middlebrook endorses Bernie Sanders


Watch Bernie Sanders Shut Down a Homophobic House Member in This Video From 1995

Bernie Sanders Was for Full Gay Equality 40 Years Ago

32 Years Before Marriage Equality, Bernie Sanders Fought For Gay Rights

NBC’s Chuck Todd: Bernie Sanders was ‘there’ on same-sex marriage 20 years ago

Rachel Maddow: ‘There Is a Difference’ Between Sanders, Clinton on LGBT Rights

25 thoughts on “Bernie Sanders and Civil Rights

  1. The way things are going, Green is the most rational choice.

    I am hoping for a Sanders victory, but it looks like the it is going to be an improbable event. What needs to happen is an alternative. That is especially true if the Republicans implode, which might happen in the coming years.

    What matters though is not this year but the future.

    • I share your attitude. My concern was about the future from the start. Even Sanders’ campaign only matters to me to the degree that it helps create long-term changes in public debate, political narrative, and moral imagination.

      I have no faith in the system, no matter who is elected, even Sanders. The only hope is in changing the way people see and understand the world.

      Democracy isn’t ultimately about elections. It’s about people acting freely, not about a government giving you freedom. An election is the result, not the cause, of a democratic society.

    • To my mind, Hillary Clinton is already one of the greater evil choices. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand is the only genuine lesser evil. If I was going to get dogmatically principled, I’d vote for Jill Stein as the greater good.

  2. It is looking like the Establishment might win this round against Sanders, but what they will deepen is the public anger.

    Clinton if she wins will face the same problem that Obama did in 2012. Only she won’t have a Progressive movement that had a ton of enthusiasm that Obama did in 2008.

  3. The thing is, in 2020, there might be a Republican that is able to mobilize their base.

    The anger that spawned Trump will not go away. Not if Clinton gets into power – she will continue the status quo.

    • That’s possible. The problem for Republicans is that their base has been shrinking with each election. As that base gets smaller, they do get angrier and louder, but they also get weaker. That isn’t to say that Republicans might eventually figure out that they’re going to have to expand their base. Trump’s populism is pointing in that direction. It’s hard to predict what that might mean, specifically in terms of minorities.

  4. Trump has hurt the Republicans greatly in this regard. They will likely struggle to appeal to the Hispanic community and other minorities.

    The sad thing is that this may not be a good outcome. It enables the Democratic Party to take Progressives for granted.

    Unless we get a Bernie Sanders like candidate or if the Green Party gains some serious steam, I am pessimistic.

    • Conservatives will have to bring Hispanics into the white fold, if they want to maintain their hold on power.

      It’s what conservatives have done in the past. Many ethnic Europeans weren’t considered white by earlier Anglo-Americans. But eventually the number of ethnic Europeans became so large that Anglo-Americans were becoming the minority. So, they expanded whiteness. The trick is that certain minorities, especially blacks, must always be excluded.

      This process has slowly forced conservatives to become more liberal over time. Their natural tendency of exclusion has been forced to be loosened over time. The US has always been too diverse, even during colonial times, for traditional ethno-nationalism to fully dominate.

      To get conservatives to shift to the left, this requires a strong political left to threaten power. That is what has been lost in recent history. What has been gained, though, are new forms of and tolerance toward diversity that plant the seeds for a potentially stronger political left in the future. But in the short term, it doesn’t look good if Sanders loses.

      We need both a conservative party to contrast against a liberal party and then we need a strong political left to contrast with the liberals. Liberals, by nature, aren’t extremists. They’re moderates. So they do best when holding the center. What liberals suck at is trying to represent the entire political left, when the political left has become weak. Liberals need left-wingers to keep them honest.

  5. It seems like the US needs a serious left wing movement.

    The thing is, the left is marginalised by the plutocrats. The US is basically a plutocracy pretending to be a democratic society.

    The purpose of the Democratic and Republicans seems to be to serve the illusion of choice. Sure they disagree on social matters. But on the wars, the economy, there does seem to be a consensus. Sure, the attacks on the middle class may be devastating more so with the Republicans, but the Democrats are also insidious in that they give people the appearance of being on the side of the general public when they serve the same special interests.

    • They don’t even strongly disagree on social matters.

      It’s taken generations of persistent push from the left, weakened as it is, before the Democratic party has been willing to take some basic social liberal issues seriously: same sex marriage, pot legalization, etc. Social liberals, not even radical left-wingers, are in a constant battle to get the Democratic Party to act even mildly social liberal on a consistent basis.

      Democratic politicians have to constantly be forced against their will to do the right thing. They pretend to care while mostly letting conservatives, right-wingers, and corporatists to get whatever they want. But every inch of social progress has to be fought for with every ounce of strength, so that there is no strength left over for anything else.

      All of that is on purpose. The entire political left is kept in a permanent state of desperation and near hopelessness, knowing that even Democratic politicians don’t represent them. The precise purpose is to frustrate and tire out those fighting for justice until they finally give up or are made more easily appeased by tiny victories thrown their way as distraction.

  6. I suspect that Sanders may be one of the last opportunities for salvation for the US.

    Either Trump or Clinton getting elected represent disaster.

    Trump has built a cult of personality around his wealth and his business sense. That will quickly evaporate, and he will be forced to resort to authoritarianism. Notice at his campaign, how he never wants to answer “tough” questions.

    That should tell you what you need to know. He will have to answer a lot of tough questions as president and make a lot of decisions. It will quickly become apparent that he does not have any miracles for the US economy.

    Yet Clinton might be even worse. Trump at least seems to mean his anti free trade and anti war talk. He has also consistently attacked corruption. If he keeps his words, and that is a big if, then at least some good may come of it.

    Clinton on the other hand is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. She will talk the progressive talk and then quickly abandon her supporters. The tragedy is that most of her base would prefer the Sanders platform and what he stands for.

  7. Well, it depends.

    If Clinton wins, we can likely expect a Republican victory in 2020 and that will lead to an even deeper fall.
    A Trump victory that runs the US into the ground is possible.
    An even stranger possibility is if Trump wins and manages to turn the US around. What if he actually means his anti-war and anti-free trade talk? He might reverse the disaster partially.
    A Sanders victory, which although he will have to fight the GOP Congress would be a big step in the right direction, but only a step.

    1 and 2 are likely to lead to revolution or a collapse into a third world status.

    • I’ve also thought about what would happen if Trump did what he claims he will do.

      That could just as easily lead to disaster as anything else. To suddenly switch the US govt to isolationist policies would throw the entire global political order on its head and the ensuing struggle of powerful countries might lead to WWIII. It would definitely force change, one way or another, even if that meant collapse.

      Sanders is the only one offering a guarantee of reform without chaos. He is the only moderate candidate who will neither push the country further right nor push it over the edge.

        • There is only one way to make halfway rational sense out of your comment. You must mean the following. Anyone and everyone is an isolationist if they aren’t a war hawk neocon and a transnational corporatist neoliberal. Otherwise, your comment makes no sense.

          Trump ultmately doesn’t care about isolationism any more than he cares about anything else, besides being a plutocratic media whore. No one knows what Trump might do, maybe not even Trump. As for Sanders, he is just an old school moderate, of the type people have forgotten about because the country has shifted so far right into lunacy.

  8. The only good that might come out of 2 and 3 is that it could lead to a Progressive surge in 2020, especially if Trump runs the US into the ground (which is looking like a big possibility).

    A Clinton victory seems to be the worst of all outcomes then, as she is pro-war, tries to give the illusion of progressive politics, and is funded by big business.

    In that regard, “Bernie or Bust” seems like the most rational course of action. Equally important, if large numbers of people vote Green and push them over 5%, they’d be eligible for public funding.

    • It is strange that the mainstream Democratic candidate, Clinton, is the most war hawk neocon of any of the major candidates, excluding maybe Cruz. Trump might unintentionally cause WWIII. But Clinton might be worse in that her militarism would be fully intentional.

      I’ve been thinking about the book, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark. It seems highly probable that we are in a similar situation, not realizing how close to the edge we are. For years, I’ve sensed the world is ripe for a new world war. If anything, we are way overdue like a fault line that has been shifting for a long time before finally leading to a series of devastating earthquakes.

      Reagan got away with being militarily aggressive. But he was essentially playing chicken where the stakes were nuclear war. It could have gone horribly wrong. He played a dangerous game and got lucky. Clinton might be the type of person who would like to play games like that. I just don’t think we can afford to take too many more chances. The consequences are too large.

    • Almost nothing surprises me at this point. This kind of thing probably has always happened, even though in some ways it is worse now. What is different right now is social media and alternative media. Because of this, the American public knows it is going on and it is starting to piss people off. We are slowly but surely becoming an informed public. The entire Sanders campaign would have been shut down long ago, if the DNC and the MSM had figured out how to do so.

  9. I suspect so.

    The Democratic Establishment has been trying to undermine the Sanders campaign wherever possible.

    They never planned for a fair fight. It was am illusion of choice.

    They wanted the Goldman Sachs candidate.

  10. The other problem I see is that there is still a huge number of Clinton backers who won’t see her flaws as a candidate. She has accepted money from questionable sources. They want to pretend that it is sexism that prevents Bernie or Bust supporters when it is political corruption and her pro-war stance.

    Until they can bring the Democratic Party together, there is no chance.

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