There was once a time on Twitter when bringing up Obama’s warmongering and widespread NSA surveillance got you labeled a “white dudebro.” Today these same people are doing everything they can to give Hillary Clinton the Democratic nomination through the use of weaponized Sociology 101 terms and she gave them a brief shout-out at her speech in Harlem.
The current Narrative is this: Bernie Sanders is a racially aloof white man who cares too much about economic issues and will somehow screw over the black community specifically. There is plenty to be frustrated with Bernie Sanders about, he is after all a right-social democrat, not a socialist as he often claims. It’s also hard to deny that he can come across as awkward and not “with it” (as if Hillary is?). But many of his loudest detractors are not even hiding their affinity for Team Hillary anymore. It can be a frustrating spectacle to watch as Bernie is put through the ringer by neo-liberal and pro-war shills who cynically exploit misread buzzwords like “intersectionality” to make themselves look like radicals rather than the reactionaries they are. Beyond all this bluster there is a noticeable lack of discussion of one thing: the actual policy proposals of both candidates. You would think this would be the most obvious thing to discuss, but we live in an age when style’s triumph over substance is outright celebrated in pseudo-intellectual think pieces rather than bemoaned.
The fact of the matter is that when it comes to racial issues, Bernie is indeed far superior to Hillary. Let me list a few of the differences in the racial justice pages on both their campaign sites:
Bernie Sanders is much more serious about combating police brutality
Hillary’s plan on police reform reads like a vague “let’s work together” statement that would put little to no pressure on police departments and their officers to stop abusing people. Admittedly, Bernie has many of the same tame ideas as Hillary such as body cameras and investments in “community policing” (*cringe*). But his page also asserts that:
We must ensure police departments are not abusing avenues of due process to shield bad actors from accountability. Local governments and police management must show zero tolerance for abuses of police power at all levels. All employees of any kind deserve due process protections, but it must be clear that departments will vigorously investigate and, if necessary, prosecute every allegation of wrongdoing to the fullest extent.
Police departments must investigate all allegations of wrongdoing, especially those involving the use of force, and prosecute aggressively, if necessary. If departments are unwilling or unable to conduct such investigations, the Department of Justice must step in and handle it for them.
States and localities that make progress in this area should get more federal justice grant money. Those that do not should get their funding slashed.
By contrast, Hillary’s statement on police reform reads like someone unwilling to rock the boat:
Strengthen bonds of trust between communities and police. African American men are far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than white men found guilty of the same offenses. From Ferguson to Staten Island to Baltimore, the patterns have become unmistakable and undeniable. Black lives matter. Everyone in this country should stand firmly behind that. Hillary believes that effective policing and constitutional policing go hand-in-hand—we can and must do both. As president, Hillary will invest in law enforcement training programs on issues such as implicit bias, use of force, and de-escalation. She will also create national guidelines for use of force, provide federal matching funds to make body cameras available to every police department in America, and support legislation to ban racial profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.
So the biggest stick Hillary brags about wanting to promote is legislation that bans racial profiling, a welcome proposal to be sure. But the overarching language is of someone who lacks a desire for confrontation with various law enforcement agencies. Bernie twice mentions the necessity of prosecuting bad cops and suggests cutting federal funding to police departments that are particularly abusive. Nothing revolutionary, to be sure, but Hillary makes zero mention of prosecuting cops on her page and puts much less emphasis on federal actions that might be seen as infringing on “states rights.”
Bernie supports much more comprehensive sentencing and prison reform
A perfect example: Bernie wants to abolish mandatory minimums altogether while Hillary wants to cut them in half. Consider it a kind of microcosm of what this primary is about: meaningful reform vs. reform that is intentionally incremental for the sake of being incremental. Bernie also proposes to “ban” privatized prisons while Hillary simply wants to “move away” from them. This language difference may seem trivial to some but to me it suggests that Hillary wants more flexibility in approaching what to other progressives is a no-brainer: that prisons run for profit is one of the most wretched of wretched ideas that create a perverse incentive to imprison more people and should be banned at all levels and in all forms.
Bernie has a much more ambitious plan to combat poverty
Hillary herself said that economic and racial issues “intersect” so it should follow naturally that the candidate that is better on economic issues is probably better on racial issues. I mean, let’s not mince words here: black people in America have been screwed over massively by the US’ economic system. They brought here as slaves and created much of its early wealth under the brute savagery of the whip. Today they still face massive discrimination in jobs and housing. As a result of this legacy of malign neglect in the best of times and genocidal terror in the worst of times, the black community still faces massive impoverishment. Bernie’s plans for single-payer health care, a $15/hour minimum wage and a more expansive welfare state may not specifically target black poverty, but considering the disproportionate levels of poverty in the black community they sure as hell would help. According to his racial justice page, his proposed minimum wage policy alone would “increase the wages of about half of African-Americans and nearly 60 percent of Latinos” if enacted.
Bernie also endorses a $1 trillion dollar plan to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure and create jobs while Hillary’s plan only calls for $125 billion. For the record, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives a number of $3.6 trillion needed to fix America’s infrastructure by 2020. Needless to say, Bernie’s plan comes much closer to this number and has a much greater chance of preventing future tragedies similar to the Flint water crisis.
On a side note: Hating Wall Street isn’t just a “white” thing…
One of the most bizarre and enraging talking points being bandied about by Hillary supporters is that Bernie’s focus on malfeasance by large financial institutions is an obsession among upper-class white progressive and generally not a sentiment shared by the poorer and darker-skinned. In the real world, the recent foreclosure crisis that accompanied the financial crisis hit America’s marginalized minorities the absolute hardest and severely reduced their net wealth. So, a candidate that accepts more money from big banks and has a history of being more open to liberalizing financial regulations may, in fact, be worse for black Americans. I mean, duh!
So, uh, yeah. All of this should be incredibly obvious to anyone who doesn’t prioritize fancy photo-ops and endless posturing about “authenticity” over the gritty details of public policy. I mean, Bernie is far more progressive than Hillary on most issues, except for guns, maybe.
What the fuck? How are we even having this debate?
“Hillary Clinton’s cynical race appeals: The revenge of neoliberal identity politics” by Daniel Denvir