The lingering question of how much support Bernie Sanders has from Black women voters was exacerbated last week during his appearance at the She the People Presidential Forum in Houston last week. That debate continued in a major way Sunday when one of Sanders’ top campaign staffers, a Black woman, defended the Vermont senator’s appeal to the coveted demographic.
But that appeal was uncertain after Sanders, one of eight Democratic White House hopefuls at the event billed as “the first-ever Presidential candidate forum focused on women of color,” was asked about his plan to stem the rise of white nationalism. The Vermont senator’s familiar refrain that he once marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. elicited groans, jeers and boos, suggesting the audience wanted to hear new talking points instead of those from the 2016 election.
Former Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, who is Sander’s campaign co-chair, appeared on the AM Joy show on MSNBC Sunday morning and cited statistics to show the senator was support from the vital voting bloc of Black women.
But Joy Reid, host of the show, and Dr. Jason Johnson, another panelist, begged to differ and said Sanders squandered the perfect opportunity for him to bolster his support from Black women voters. They both said Sanders failed to answer the question and instead relied on tired talking points that don’t move the dial on the conversation about white nationalism in America.
Watch the full exchange below.
Turner previously blasted the Black women in the audience who booed, saying at a rally the day after the event that the jeers were disrespectful.
“In what world when you are sitting on the stage telling folks about your history, and you mention the fact that you were on the March on Washington with Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Fort Worth, in what world do people boo that?” she asked the crowd. “That happened to Senator Sanders yesterday, and I’m calling it out. In what world? You don’t boo folks for that. And I don’t care if it was somebody who I didn’t care about their policies, if they stood up with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other heroes and sheroes, we need to shout that out.”
That commentary prompted a response from LaTosha Brown, the co-founder of the elections advocacy group Black Votes Matter. She said that the last thing anyone should be doing was blaming Black women voters.
That wasn’t the first time that Sanders has ducked questions about his plans for Black America should he be elected president.
Back in February, Sanders was in the middle of a CNN town hall event when a Black woman in the audience asked him about his stance on reparations. But the 77-year-old, who has been a bit iffy (some might say he’s flip-flopped) on the topic, further blurred the lines when he ended his very noncommittal answer by stating, “It depends on what the word means,” he said.
His multitude of past racial blunders — remember when he said that white people who didn’t vote for Stacey Abrams “are not necessarily racist” because they felt “uncomfortable” voting for a Black candidate? — have also been far from a good look for Sanders.
Nevertheless, Sanders was still in second place in the most recent Democratic presidential nomination poll published by Real Clear Politics.