Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders might not like Donald Trump, but he was acting a whole lot like the president on Tuesday. The presumed 2020 presidential candidate inexplicably decided to kick off the new year with a misguided tweet likely intended to shore up support among Black voters but instead appeared to have backfired in the worst way.
Sanders, who apparently refuses to abandon the same political rhetoric that resulted in a failed bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, used his Twitter fingers to stick to his same old script by continuing to condemn “the greed of Wall Street, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industry, the NRA, the military-industrial-complex and other special interests.”
The talking points in the tweet were both familiar and legitimate, but it was Sanders’ unfortunate use of Frederick Douglass‘ name in those 280 characters that had many people on social media up in arms and screaming that the 77-year-old senator was culturally appropriating someone whose celebrated legacy decidedly has nothing to do with any of those topics.
CNN pundit and former South Carolina state legislator Bakari Sellers was among the first to publicly call out Sanders for the clear flub and pointed out the similarities between the senator’s probable future presidential bid and his previous one.
Sellers, previously accused by Sanders’ spokesperson of creating “racial division,” was far from alone in his opinion.
As History.com reminds folks who need a primer on Douglass, he “was an escaped slave who became a prominent activist, author and public speaker. He became a leader in the abolitionist movement, which sought to end the practice of slavery, before and during the Civil War. After that conflict and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, he continued to push for equality and human rights until his death in 1895.”
In other words, Sanders used Douglass’ name and words completely out of context by failing to mention anything having to do with race in America, a problem that has continued to divide America in the more than a century since the historical figure died.
The fact that Sanders didn’t connect those obvious dots that most grade school students are taught seemingly served as a reminder of the senator’s propensity for blowing racist dog whistles. It was also reminiscent of when Trump said last year during Black History Month that Douglass had “done an amazing job” and was being recognized “more and more.” The Trump administration had previously misspelled Douglass’ last name in a press release, further showing its disdain for a historical figure revered by many Black folks.
It wasn’t too long afterward when Sanders used the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to take some pot shots at former President Barack Obama.
“The business model, if you like, of the Democratic Party for the last 15 years or so has been a failure. People sometimes don’t see that because there was a charismatic individual named Barack Obama,” Sanders said to attendees in Jackson, Mississippi, back in April.
To “dismiss with utter arrogance and lack of self-awareness the first African African president is just the height and epitome of arrogance and lack of self-awareness,” Sanders added.
Sanders’ cavalier words for Black people didn’t stop there.
Referencing the gubernatorial campaigns of Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum in Georgia and Florida, respectively, Sanders also said just two short months ago that “there are a lot of white folks out there who are not necessarily racist who felt uncomfortable for the first time in their lives about whether or not they wanted to vote for an African-American.”
Many people also saw that comment as being apologetic for racist behavior.
None of the above was missed by shrewd Twitter users who sounded off their disapproval for Sanders, his latest fateful words and quite possibly (probably?) his expected presidential bid.