Analysis: Bernie Sanders' Support Among Black Democrats May Have Actually Weakened Since 2016



The Intercept can't quite be called state media the way Fox News and Breitbart are, but only because Bernie Sanders isn't president. Ryan Grim pointed to a poll released by Morning Consult that shows Bernie Sanders has 28% support among African American Democratic primary voters, second only to Joe Biden's 32%. Grim lit Kamala Harris and claimed the poll also shows Harris receiving only 14% among black primary voters.

Immediately, I observed a few things. First, the 28% support from black Democratic primary voters for Sanders is suspiciously similar to the roughly one-quarter of African American primary votes he got in 2016. That he is stuck there speaks to the fact that support for him among black Democrats hasn't grown, which should concern Sanders, especially given Bernie's supposed strength among younger voters. It stands to reason that many young people who couldn't vote for him 2016 would be of age to do so in 2020, and yet his support is stuck.

Second, the same poll found that in the Republican primary, only 58% of Republicans strongly support Trump's renomination (and 77% support his renomination at all), which, given Trump's cult-leader status and 90%+ approval rating within the GOP, is suspect. If this discrepancy is any indication, the Morning Consult results are skewed to the Left by at least 10 points, and that would spell major trouble for Sanders.

Third, although the crosstabs for the poll does not show the breakdown on portion of the sample that was African American, Grim, in his piece, draws attention that the African American numbers are based on a sample of 2,587 black voters. The MC crosstabs do tell us the entire Democratic primary sample for this poll was 12,560 people. Carrying over the one and so forth, that would make the sample 20% African American. In 2016, about 27% of Democratic primary voters were black, and the number is more likely to rise than shrink in 2020.

Combine this under-representation with the likely 10-point Left skew of the entire poll, and things really start to look bleak for St. Bernard.

Fourth, the poll's crosstabs don't actually show the race breakdown for anyone other than Biden and Sanders, so I asked how Grim, err, intercepted this data about Harris' support. Grim replied that Morning Consult gave him numbers that Morning Consult didn't publish, which of course raises more questions: first, where are the numbers for everyone else, what other unpublished information has he got, and why isn't he publishing all of it? And second, what does the fact that Morning Consult won't themselves publish the numbers mean? Is it possible it means those numbers aren't as reliable as the figures they did publish? That's likely the case.

Lastly, what happened to all the other people of color? Another detailed Morning Consult poll actually shows that Bernie Sanders' base - the part of the Left that wants to fight rather than compromise on solutions - is down to just 15% of Democratic voters.

The problem with Bernie-state media is that they are desperate, grasping for straws, to back their preconceived notion that Bernie Sanders' overwhelmingly white following is a result not of his record, his history and his attitude, but of black people's ignorance of what a Savior Bernie Sanders is. Seriously, like, he got a $25 desk ticket for protesting housing discrimination over 50 years ago, and he chained himself to two black women! Two! BLACK! Women! What more do these people want?

The problem that Bernie Sanders has with people of color, is of course, not his outreach. It is his decades long erasure of people of color in this country, from him being part of white flight to the Caucasian paradise of Vermont in the 1960s to his unremarkable 30-year unremarkable career in the US Congress with no legislative accomplishments on race that even Sanders can remember.

In fact, when asked about it, Sanders headed straight back for his standard shtick of conflating economic issues with race, baring his belief that race essentially does not exist apart from the economic condition in America.


At that same Breakfast Club interview, Bernie Sanders continued to be confused by the question of reparations, while hyping the people of color newly on his campaign payroll. I guess he has some black friends. Well, at least he has some non-white employees. Which means he totally doesn't have a problem with race the way that Donald Trump is not a misogynist since he employs Kellyanne Conway.

The black-friend defense - and the non-white friend defense more broadly - is embarrassingly common with Bernie Sanders. In order to cover up the fact that he has done nothing specifically on the issues of race, he continues to point to his 1988 endorsement of Jesse Jackson for president, and he continues to put forward Nina Turner - a supporter of Putin-megafan Jill Stein, and Congressman Ro Khanna, who is busy trying to hide the fact that he wants to be Vice President.

But it makes sense why Bernie would do it. First, he actually hasn't done anything on race issues in at least 50 years. Second, he actually believes that economic issues are not simply the most important cause but the only truly important cause.

And finally, he truly and absolutely believes that racism is a personal problem that can be solved by hiring people of color for one campaign rather than a deep, systemic, institutional scar that requires targeted and long term policy solutions.