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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/23/16

The Ides of March Primaries

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Message Rob Hager

Sanders clearly has a black women problem that he has yet to address.

African American women first soundly defeated Sanders in South Carolina where this problem hit him in the face, stalling the momentum gained from his enormous New Hampshire landslide. Black women were 37% of South Carolina's Democratic primary voters. Clinton won their votes by a margin of 78 points (i.e., 89%-11%), and black men by 64 points. If Sanders had reversed the black women vote he would have won South Carolina. There is no evidence after South Carolina of any effort by the campaign to address this problem, let alone solve it. So Sanders just keeps getting slapped down in one primary after another by a constituency that should be his strongest supporters on the merits of his record.

Sanders' defining issue is inequality. Black women suffer two sources of entrenched institutional inequality. This is on top of the generalized inequality imposed by plutocrats on everyone, which tends to generate attitudes of tribal privilege that aggravate the first two sources. Black women should be Sanders' peeps.

That Sanders has overwhelmingly lost black women is not a problem caused by black women themselves, nor by insufficient small campaign contributions from people who trust their money is spent wisely, nor is it about insufficient enthusiasm from Millennials and others turning out for massive campaign events and who are depending on Sanders for their future, nor about insufficient support from black intellectuals like the great democrat and Sanders supporter Dr. Cornel West, or Glen Ford and others who are familiar with the Clintons' record on matters important to black women.

The continued problem is due to nothing else than the apparent strategic incapacity of Sanders' own campaign to effectively communicate to black women a good reason they should vote for him rather than for a Jim Crow candidate who used racial slurs in the 1990's when helping to foster the current civil rights crisis by advocating the twin prison-industrial complex growth policies of welfare cuts and tough policing. Perhaps this failure is due to the campaign's amateurish, "perpetually overwhelmed but refusing to delegate" problem. If so, the campaign needs to delegate.

Scalia's death bequeathed to Sanders' campaign the timely gift of a ready solution for this problem. Senator Sanders only needed to exercise his constitutional power to advise President Obama publicly to make an historic nomination of the first black woman justice on the Supreme Court. Since the Supreme Court caused the problem of plutocracy against which he is running, Sanders' opinion on the Court is important. There are many strongly qualified black women who would make excellent progressive Supreme Court justices capable of swinging the Court away from its plutocratic jurisprudence. Appointing the first African American woman justice would be Obama's historic Supreme Court legacy, like Thurgood Marshall was Lyndon Johnson's.

With its enormous bankroll of $140 million the campaign should have been able to spare funds for the purpose of convening a consultative group of prominent progressive black women jurists who would both recommend the best nominee for the purpose and promote her nomination within their community.

Sanders could have embedded their recommendation for a nominee in a major speech on civil rights, presented at Howard Law School almost within sight of the Supreme Court. The speech would celebrate the profound contributions to American democracy of black women and women abolitionists, and call for deploying their considerable skills effectively at the highest level in solving the current civil rights crisis as an integral part of Sanders' democratic revolution against plutocracy. Such a speech could have provided the mission statement for such a nominee for reforming the Court, much as FDR's 1937 fireside chat successfully attacked a very similar plutocratic Supreme Court majority.

This golden opportunity was ignored by the Sanders campaign. Sanders still has neither a cogent Supreme Court policy nor an effective approach to reach black women.

Since the principal means the campaign makes available for communication is the one way transaction of giving it money, perhaps a contribution boycott would wake it up. Or optimists might send messages through Otherwise Sanders may lose the election of 2016 for no better reason than an incompetent campaign which was too inflexible to take advantage of a particular historical moment to communicate effectively its support for its essential constituency of black women voters, who never received the message.

Even now, after Obama's white male plutocratic nominee has been definitively rebuffed by Republicans, instead of having Sanders offer the advice that Obama use the remedy that the Constitution provides for such a deadlock by making an Easter recess appointment of a progressive black woman who Sanders could recommend, the campaign allowed Sanders to inexplicably endorse Merrick Garland, who would undermine Sanders' whole purpose for seeking the presidency. As one of the judges who signed onto the opinion which legalized SuperPACs he violates Sanders' litmus test on the very face of his record. What was the campaign thinking?

In an interview Sanders was asked an unscripted question about his endorsement of Garland which revealed he may have been unaware of Garland's record on the campaign's key issue. Sanders replied that "the President has the right to nominate whoever he wants and I will support that nomination." Sanders overlooked that he as a Senator has a right to advise the President against nominating a plutocrat who signed on to

If Obama and Biden choose not to take the advice, and mislead Democrats that their nominee will not continue to serve "the rich and powerful," why should Sanders contribute to their hoax by supporting the nomination of a justice who clearly fails his own litmus test? The campaign needs to do better than comply with such self-defeating artificial Washington conventions. To be credible it must show that it is using all the tools at hand and the power that the people have entrusted to it to both win this election and achieve the goal of recovering democracy from plutocrats, not blindly handing it over to another plutocrat on the Court.

Had the campaign solved its black women problem, the narrow blue and purple state losses or virtual ties would have been converted to clear Sanders victories, and significant purple state losses into ties. The red state wipe outs would become victories and ties. The campaign would have only built accelerating momentum straight out of New Hampshire.

The Sanders campaign is the people's campaign, funded by the people, energized by the people, and the people are crowding the polls in the only places that should count. The people were unable to also take on the task of communicating with black women voters on behalf of the campaign, as needed. The people could not propose a black woman progressive nominee on behalf of the campaign, or give a speech explaining the historical importance of such an appointment. At some point the campaign has to do more than shuttle Sanders around the country to shout the same speech and recite the same talking points in debates and interviews. Only the campaign could perform this strategic task in response to real-time political opportunity.

It is still not too late to turn this negative factor into a positive for the remainder of the campaign, if Sanders would campaign for Obama to make a recess appointment of a progressive black woman. This could still help, to some extent, in the remaining half of the primaries. More importantly it might win over some of the Clinton red-state delegates on crucial rules and credentialing contests.

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Rob Hager is a public-interest litigator who filed a Supreme Court amicus brief n the 2012 Montana sequel to the Citizens United case, American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, and has worked as an international consultant on legal (more...)
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