Why the Poor Aren’t Supporting Bernie Sanders

Bernie SandersMartin Longman wants us to consider, Where Bernie Underperforms. He presented some numbers from the Pew Research Center. And there are four groups that he performs badly with: non-whites, less educated, less affluent, and more religious. But as Longman noted, these are not independent. In fact, I would say that they are exactly the same thing: Bernie Sanders doesn’t do well with the poor. And poor Democrats are less educated, more religious, and less white. So let’s cut the crap and talk about why Sanders does not seem to be appealing especially well to the poor.

What’s weird about it is why people usually don’t engage with the question. Longman asks some of the standard questions. Is it that he’s Jewish? Doubtful. A northerner? Doubtful. Not religious? Doubtful. LiberalInCamo at Daily Kos had an idea in an article back in early July, Bernie Sanders’ Two Big Problems: Race and Gender. That claim was, “Sanders silence on race and his tunnel vision on one political issue are problems.” But I don’t buy this at all. Sanders has since talked a great deal about race, but it hasn’t changed his standing among non-whites.

For people of moderate incomes, a Republican getting in wouldn’t be catastrophic. For the poor, it would be.

There is something that I commonly hear Republicans say that is actually true: members of minority groups care most about the economy. The idea that Latinos are single issue voters on immigration policy is just nonsense. Of course, these very same Republicans offer economic policy that hurts the vast majority of non-whites and whites. But that doesn’t matter. And that certainly isn’t the case with Sanders. His policies should be particularly appealing to non-white members of the society, because they are far more likely to be poor.

I’ve begun to wonder if there isn’t skepticism toward Sanders amongst poorer people because they have learned that in this society the very best you could hope for is second best — or even just something that isn’t especially horrible. Maybe Sanders’ message sounds like a fairy tale. I know that it does to me — and I’m a Sanders supporter. But for the last several years, I’ve been trying to Demand the Impossible.

But let’s consider the calculus here. Sanders would be unlikely to accomplish much more than Clinton — and might accomplish less. Both of them will be infinitely better than whomever the Republicans run. Under a Republican, things will be much worse for poor people. Given that there really are concerns about Sanders in the general election — being a “socialist” and being old and not having such a polished public persona — it’s safer to go with Clinton.

As for me, despite the fact that I’m a strong Sanders supporters, I haven’t decided for sure if I’m going to vote for him in the primary. If I feel that he has roughly as good a chance to win as Clinton by that time, I will vote for him. If I think he will bring down the party, I won’t. But I tend to think that I will vote for him. In the end, the general election will almost certainly be what it always is: a Democrat versus a Republican. If the economy continues to grow, the Democrat will win; if it doesn’t, the Republican will win.

But for normal people who don’t read political science books, the safe choice is Hillary Clinton. What’s more, for people of moderate incomes, a Republican getting in wouldn’t be catastrophic. For the poor, it would be. And I suspect that why the poor are not jumping on the Sanders bandwagon.


See also: What Risk Is Bernie Sanders Worth?

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

16 thoughts on “Why the Poor Aren’t Supporting Bernie Sanders

  1. It might be because they view it as wasting their time on someone who cannot live up to his promises. Although it could be because they see Clinton as someone a little bit like them-sure she has been surrounded by wealth but she also was humiliated by her husband, she works hard but rarely gets the credit and she is under constant attack by the Republicans much like the poor are.

    Sanders, on the other hand, is just another white guy who is promising the moon and the stars.

    • There is no question that Clinton comes off as a survivor. That doubtless helps. But as I’ve noted before, there isn’t that much difference between them on economic issues — certainly not compared to the best possible Republican. Oh, debate next Tuesday!

      • Are you hosting a debate watching party or will you leave the house to attend one of the nine billion watching parties that will occur with the various Democratic groups? I am trying to decide if I am going to one or just watch the friends doing live tweets at home.

        • I hadn’t thought of that! That would make a great blog post. I’ll see if I can find something. But usually, I just watch it locally so I can cook at the same time. Also, I’m afraid the Clintons and Sanderses might start brawling with each other!

          • Nah, they are going to stick with being polite with each other even though a full on deathcage match would bring in the ratings.
            Even the drinking game will not cause the massive amounts of alcohol poisonings that the Republican ones do.

            • Oh, you misunderstand. I am expecting an actual substantive discussion of policies. I think the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans will be stark. Not that the mainstream press will admit that.

              But I was referring to the Sanders and Clinton supporters, many of whom I wish would just shut up, because they are embarrassing the party.

                • If I do anything, I will let you know. I might do some tweeting. I don’t know. I feel more comfortable scribbling notes on paper.

                  • Since that would then require all of your friends to show up on your doorstep…maybe do a skype watching party?

                    I dunno, I am just throwing ideas out there that let me stay home and be lazy while still having the social interaction my family insists I have.

                    • Ha! I know the feeling. Everyone I know seems to be concerned that I never get touched by sunlight.

                      I think there might be an application in what you are talking about. You could have video stream and then have a few people making comments at the bottom of the scream MST3K style. If anything deserves that treatment, it is the presidential debates. Although I expect the Democratic debate to be substantive. But for the Republicans? It would be a hoot.

                    • Senator Franken once did that I think in 1992 or he mentioned doing something like that in a book of his. Three people, a good base of knowledge and some semblance of a sense of humor and a set of microphones. Done. Then someone can edit it and post on YewTewb.

  2. Reply button fail after the long thread, but Elizabeth — I’d pay a few dollars to watch Franken live commenting a debate! People forget now because he’s such a serious guy as senator, but he used to be hilarious on “Politically Incorrect” back when. He was one of my favorite guests on that show, along with Chris Rock doing reports from the GOP conventions.

    It’s kind of a testament to one big difference between Dems and Repubs. Franken was a master at slamming conservatives (his takedown of Newt Gingrich during a correspondent’s dinner, where you can see Newt’s face getting more and more flushed with rage, was terrific.) As a senator, he’s more into making allies and passing decent laws. Compare that to the other side, which has no interest in governing and rewards legislators who say the most outlandish provocative things.

    • He was always going to be a serious Senator (I know a lot of people thought he was doing it as a joke) because he was doing it to honor a friend-Paul Wellstone. And he always was a policy wonk which you get if you read his books, he knew his history/politics/economics.

      He once told me I was not average. Then a few years later he recognized me at a fundraiser. I thought that was neat.

      • That IS neat!

        Franken was a big Wellstone guy. He also hated the living shit out of sitting senator Norm Coleman, who really was/is a giant turd (he now works for a lobbying firm whose clients include the reprehensible Saudi government.) Coleman’s campaign really harped on how Wellstone’s memorial service was politically charged (and why wouldn’t it be? Politics was Wellstone’s passion), saying it was awful, just awful that a memorial became a Democratic rally (again, just what Paul would have wanted.) That harping probably won Coleman his senate seat, and probably was the final straw for Franken to get into politics.

        • I got the impression Franken hated Coleman when he basically compared him to Satan for his behavior towards his friend. Coleman was a sleazeball though so the comparison is apt.

          • I didn’t hear about that comparison but Coleman deserves any slur you can throw at him. I’m not sure that one is fair to the Prince Of Darkness. Satan at least had some principles! Coleman was purely an opportunist. I hope he falls asleep at night with hate in his heart for every voter who threw him out of office, because I hate him right back.

            Minnesota seems to turn out some very good politicians and very terrible ones — not unlike California. I remember being in a post office during the 2012 GOP nomination race and the two postal workers were complaining loudly that Tim Pawlenty/Michelle Bachmann represented us on the national stage. My dad was a postal worker, and you are Definitely Not Supposed to voice political opinions in front of customers. I thought it was pretty great they were!

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