Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are both wrong for 2020

Then-Vice President Joe Biden swears in U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in 2013. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The next Democratic presidential primary is still years away, yet two high-profile candidates are already gearing up for another run. According to sources close to them, both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are planning to run for president in 2020.

There are a lot of reasons for Democrats to support both Sanders and Biden. They’re some of the most popular politicians in the country, they have experience in the federal government and on the campaign trail, they have appeal to the mythologized “white working class,” and they can win over about 15% of Donald Trump supporters. Given the conclusions national Democrats have made following the 2016 election, Sanders and Biden seem like some of the most viable options for the Democratic nomination.

But they’re precisely what the Democratic Party doesn’t need in the wake of the Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Electoral College loss. As the Democratic Party Autopsy found, Hillary Clinton’s failure lay not with her unpopularity with the “white working class,” but her weak efforts to mobilize and inspire people of color and young people, the Democratic Party’s true base. Democrats lost the white vote half a century ago, and it’s not coming back anytime soon, especially now that Republicans have embraced the culture war as a winning electoral strategy.

But rather than take the lessons of the Democratic Party Autopsy to heart, national Democrats have obsessed over winning over Trump voters, a losing strategy that has only alienated the party’s base. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are some of the most important figures embracing this wrongheaded narrative, claiming that #NotAllTrumpSupporters are racist and that Democrats need to try to understand them and win back their vote. Both of these old white men seem to care more about coddling racists than protecting marginalized bodies.

Bernie Sanders: Bigotry isn’t “bread and butter”

Ever since Trump’s Electoral College victory, Bernie Sanders, who will be 78 in 2020, has been throwing marginalized folks under the bus, arguing that “identity politics” alienated white voters and that Democrats need to focus on the issues that matter to “everyday Americans,” as if only straight, cisgender, able-bodied white men count as “everyday Americans.” Here is one quote that encapsulates why Bernie is wrong for 2020:

We have got to take on Trump’s attacks against the environment, against women, against Latinos and blacks and people in the gay community, we’ve got to fight back every day on those issues. But equally important, or more important: We have got to focus on bread-and-butter issues that mean so much to ordinary Americans.

Quite simply: Bernie Sanders doesn’t care about marginalized Americans. For him, whiteness and maleness is the norm, what all politics should be based on, and anything else is at best secondary and at worst an unhelpful distraction.

Joe Biden: U.S. Senate was better with segregationists

While Joe Biden, who will be 77 in 2020, cares far more about civil rights than Bernie Sanders, he’s still an old white man who is out of touch with the concerns of marginalized Americans. At a rally for Alabama Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones, Biden made a particularly disturbing comment about serving in the U.S. Senate with segregationist James Eastland:

I’ve been around so long, I worked with James Eastland. Even in the days when I got there, the Democratic Party still had seven or eight old-fashioned Democratic segregationists. You’d get up and you’d argue like the devil with them. Then you’d go down and have lunch or dinner together. The political system worked. We were divided on issues, but the political system worked.

Yep. Joe Biden longs for the days when literal segregationists served in the Senate. This is a perfect example of the white liberal “discourse fetish,” in which whites see hatred, bigotry, and discrimination as “differing views” that can be “politely discussed,” because, for them, there are no concrete consequences of these views. In reality, bigoted “opinions” have a real impact on marginalized bodies, and accepting them as “just opinions” emboldens bigots to spew violent rhetoric and even physically attack marginalized folks. Biden doesn’t understand that for people of color, there is no nostalgia for segregationists. People literally died because of senators like Strom Thurmond and James Eastland. Those men virulently opposed civil rights and communicated to white Americans that people of color are inferior, thus enabling violence.

#PoCfor2020

I don’t know who I’m going to vote for in 2020. I don’t even know who I want to vote for. But as a queer woman of color, I know that old white men like Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden will never truly be able to represent me or my communities. The United States of America is no longer the white cisheteropatriarchy that Sanders and Biden are so comfortable with, and that means that we need new blood to represent the New American Majority. It’s time for old white men to step aside and create room for people like Danica Roem, Andrea Jenkins, Phillipe Cunningham, and Braxton Winston to become the true leaders of the next generation of American politics.

Jordan Valerie is a cinephile, filmmaker, journalist, political activist, and proud queer woman of color dedicated to civil rights, civic engagement, diversity, and watching at least a movie a week.

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