White People Don't Understand What It's like To be Poor? Did Bernie Step In It In Michigan?

First… the video…


And here’s how it’s been taken out of context by... let’s just say one of those on the extreme right.

The following is a FB post from right-wing radio host grifter, Freedom Works darling and Tea Bagger ex-Congressman Joe Walsh (see Wiki) out of Illinois. There's 4,900 likes and the 498 comments are some real doozies.


And here’s the White House petition:


And here's what you get when you Google...

White People Don’t Understand What It’s like To be Poor



The intent was noble (if we set aside that part of the intent was to be more appealing to black voters). The underlying message was good, but he has a tendency to frame his message in a divisive way, so that it's black people vs. police, and white people (don't get it) vs. black people. The language does not inspire cooperation or compassion. He tells a story that should evoke sympathy, but he puts white people in a box and on the defensive by singling them out as not understanding. He instantly creates resistance from cops by making a blanket statement about going after them for bullying people. There are a lot of ways to address this, but it can't be addressed if the guy on the bully pulpit is getting all the parties defensive or angry at each other. Not. Gonna. Work.

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As per usual . . .

That is an excellent synopsis. Thanks.

As to the FB post. I have a very long-time musical friend who was born, raised and still lives in Louisiana. He's toured the world over the past 50 years but his home is in Cajun country. I asked him about that post and his reply was pretty much the same as yours from the perspective of the good intention of the underlying message. And like you he really thought that Bernie's point was lost in the divisiveness of whites vs, blacks


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That's not the real reason his statement was offensive. I have no doubt as a lifelong socialist, representing Vermont that he knows about poverty in white communities. The issue is that he is equating the black experience to poverty, reinforcing that stereotype. And continuing his general theme that racism is just a class issue.


I think we see one of the huge weaknesses of Sanders as a national candidate--he's never had to deal with a diverse electorate in white Vermont.

If he'd been a Democratic police juror in cajun country or a city councilperson in Florida, he'd have learned to frame his statements in ways that don't emphasize divisiveness. And he wouldn't stereotype black people as poor.


Valid addition, which fits a larger context about how it appears to me that Sanders thinks about the world. He relies a lot on grouping people into their categories, which by necessity requires stereotyping, and then choosing sides. I emphasized the choosing sides part, but you rightly pointed to the stereotyping part. And, let me be clear it's not all racial stereotyping. It's true on almost every issue he speaks about. He finds an enemy, and a victim, and depends on broad-brush characterizations about both sides to add emotional heft to his advocacy. I find that kind of approach problematic on number of levels.


In this context, though, he's not really trying to categorize people -- he's trying to argue that there is no category, and is doing so in something of a ham-handed manner. His long-term stance is that most (perhaps all) of the problems in our society that are ascribed to racism are in fact based in economics. There's some validity to that position, albeit with much greater applicability in homogeneous cultures as opposed to racially diverse cultures. He's not channeling Charles Murray, arguing that economic distress in African American communities is rooted in biology, while economic distress in white communities is rooted in behavior -- he's offering a non-racial, across-the-board argument that it all boils down to economics. I suspect that his beliefs are colored by the form of socialism he adopted in his younger years, which in turn was likely informed by Marxian class theory.

The glaring flaw in that approach is that it oversimplifies and even trivializes the role of racism in our society. Let's take the fact that if you submit two identical résumés to employers, one of which has a 'black-sounding' name, the applicant with the black-sounding name is much less likely to get an interview than the one with a name that doesn't suggest a race. You could construct a convoluted economic argument about how the interviewer may be responding to client, customer or workplace issues that are economic and not racial in origin, or argue that the problem would go away if African Americans had equal access to capital and the means of production, but the former argument smacks of Emerson's 'foolish consistency', and the latter begs the question of how you actually address the problem.

I think Sanders' broader comments reflect a fundamental disinterest in racial issues or how they manifest themselves in our society, as well as a tin ear for issues that don't particularly interest him.


Oh, totally agree. I know what he's trying to do. But there is a particular way he approaches issues which is conflict based. In addition, he has a tendency in his own mind to categorize groups in very generalized ways. Remember "your people" (or was it "you people"?) when speaking to an hispanic audience? He didn't mean it in a racist way at all. But he has repeatedly displayed this tendency. So, when you combine those two things - the conflict-based approach and group generalization - it shows up in his speaking in a way that is not facilitative to expressing the noble intention he is striving for.

Totally agree on that too.

Ya' know... I hear ya'...

I wonder if Bernie has ever taken the time to read Lakoff

George P. Lakoff | Linguistics at Berkeley

I have a two copies of his works.

His first... Metaphors We Live By pdf - 1980.

And his latest.

The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic @ Amazon

Voters cast their ballots for what they believe is right, for the things that make moral sense. Yet Democrats have too often failed to use language linking their moral values with their policies. The Little Blue Book demonstrates how to make that connection clearly and forcefully, with hands-on advice for discussing the most pressing issues of our time: the economy, health care, women’s issues, energy and environmental policy, education, food policy, and more. Dissecting the ways that extreme conservative positions have permeated political discourse, Lakoff and Wehling show how to fight back on moral grounds and in concrete terms. Revelatory, passionate, and deeply practical, The Little Blue Book will forever alter the way Democrats and progressives think and talk about politics.


Is that approach due to his default mindset being shaped always by what he sees as a need for the "revolution"? His use of that word so often always sets my nerves on edge. He does try to take the sharp edge off his use of it, but it's not very effective.


"True Believer". There is one and only one issue. He understands it, He believes it, and his life's work is to bring everyone else into the fold. It is his "Great Commission". The more I hear, the more I see that Bernie is a "hammer" guy, and he's going to frame every issue and problem in such a way that it can be described as a "nail."

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Apparently not. He is doing better than he polled in Michigan.

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Just to be clear...

My question had/has nothing to do with the outcome of any primary contest.

Although, since you mentioned it...


Sanders 589,417 49.9% Delegates 68
Clinton 569,867 48.2% Delegates 58


Clinton 182,282 82.6% Delegates 29
Sanders 036,284 16.5% Delegates 04

Clinton Delegates 1238
Pledged: 766 Super: 472

Sanders Delegates 572
Pledged: 549 Super: 23


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I agree with this. I think there are quite a number of our African American brethren that see it too, hence the 90% tilt toward Hillary. There is no question that this is more than mere economics.

I think you are right and though we complain about the "politically correct" and cautious language of, say, a Hillary Clinton - years of communicating have taught her to be sensitive. And the biblical "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks" - it seems that Bernie doesn't identify with minorities. And perhaps he is projecting his own feelings of non-connectedness outward to others. He really does seem to want the facts to fit his narrative.

I love the hammer and nail analogy. I use it all the time, and it is so appropriate so many times. It's right up there with 80/20.


Well, it does not look like he stepped in it in Michigan does it?

I've always liked Senator Sanders and have taken his newsletter since maybe 2007. But I just don't get his popularity. i do get that Clinton is yesterday's news but Bernie winning my home state of Oklahoma? There's an interesting thesis paper somewhere in there.

I'm pretty certain that no politician at the national level and only a few at the state level understand what it's really like to be impoverished. Undoubtedly there are some at the a level but as they work their way up the political bean stalk they've had to sell themselves off piece by piece. Their newly acquired associations and social positions demand the majority of their time and attention so their connections to their roots atrophy in varying degrees.

The memories certainly remain but I believe the fire and passion slows fades they become out of touch with the present day realities of their former neighborhoods.

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The question of whether he "stepped in it" in Michigan is not state-specific. If you look at Mississippi, he would appear to have "stepped in it".

I think Sanders made a good move in Michigan by getting involved in the Flint water crisis. I think that bought him a lot of credibility with voters who are sick of the status quo, including the continued decline of Michigan even when there's a Democrat in the White House or governor's mansion. I am not sure to what degree that will carry over to other states... or, for that matter, whether that's in fact what improved his minority vote.

Did he get involved other than to call for Governor Snyder to resign? Hillary actually had people on the ground in Flint assisting with efforts to remove barriers to state and federal financial aid.

If all Bernie did was call for Snyder to resign that should not have overshadowed Hillary's efforts should it?


Howdy partner...

I''ll repeat what I said up thread...

And it's not just Bernie... As you can see from the video below Hillary has recently shown a tendency to have a tin ear. And in light that and of @Halcyan mentioning biblical quotes, there's also this one,

"The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit."


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