Bernie Sanders Reached Out to Black Voters. Why Didn’t It Work?Breaking News
tags: Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders, 2020 Election, African American voters
Two years ago, Bernie Sanders journeyed south to trace the history of a past revolution, and to imagine a new one.
On April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., thousands of people gathered on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, for a rally and a march. Sanders was one of the speakers. He took the stage and gripped the podium with one hand, the microphone with the other. “Dr. King was not just a great civil-rights leader,” Sanders, who had not officially announced that he would run for president again, said. “He was a nonviolent revolutionary!” The crowd broke into applause as he paused for a moment. “He was a man who wanted to transform our country morally, economically, and racially.” It wasn’t enough to simply remember King, Sanders explained: People needed to follow in his footsteps.
Later that day he traveled farther south, to Jackson, Mississippi, where, in June 1963, the famous civil-right activist Medgar Evers—who led economic boycotts and voter-registration drives in the state—was murdered in his driveway by a white supremacist after an NAACP meeting. The city’s mayor is now Chokwe Antar Lumumba, a 36-year-old who wants to make Jackson the most “radical city on the planet.” Onstage at the Thalia Mara Concert Hall, the pair had an hour-long conversation about economic exploitation—one of the three evils King railed against—and economic justice.
Each stop on Sanders’s journey through the South doubled as early outreach to a demographic he would desperately need if and when he sought the presidency again.
Sanders’s agenda—dismantling broken systems and replacing them with ones that benefit working-class people, regardless of race—is intimately bound up with the nation’s civil-rights legacy. But, some argue, Sanders has struggled to clearly articulate that connection in a way that earns black voters’ support.
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