There has been considerable publicity about a rally in Seattle over the weekend when just as Bernie Sanders was about to speak, three people associated with the local Black Lives Matters movement took the microphone and prevented him from doing so.
This was the second time that people speaking as members of the BLM movement have prevented Sanders from speaking at events, the previous one being the NetRoots Nation meeting. Questions have been raised as to why they have not tried to do so at the events of other candidates like Hillary Clinton or any of the Republicans, and the merits of this strategy has divided the BLM movement. I don’t know what lies behind it and the reason may be as simple as the fact that the progressive groups that organize events at which Sanders is invited are more likely to give the microphone to BLM voices than (say) a Republican party event, who are more likely to call the police and have them arrested. They may also feel that it is more productive to address their protest message to an ally like Sanders than to waste it on people who will not listen to them. And it may have worked. The Sanders campaign announced on Saturday that it had hired Symone Sanders, described as “a young, black criminal justice advocate” and an activist to serve as its national press secretary.
I have said before that Sanders’s seeming unwillingness to directly address the immediate concerns of minority groups and instead focus on economic inequality that has a devastating but more indirect impact on them may be one reason that he has failed to draw more minorities to his cause and Symone Sanders seems to have made him aware that he needs to broaden his message.
The new press secretary told BuzzFeed that Sanders had already incorporated some of her suggestions on addressing racial issues into his campaign.
“One of my suggestions, he took it and ran with it on ‘Meet the Press,’ is that racial inequality and economic inequality are parallel issues,” she said. “I [told him,] you know, economic equality is an issue. It’s something we need to address. But for some people it doesn’t matter how much money you make, it doesn’t matter where you went to school, it doesn’t matter what your parents do. It doesn’t matter that Sandra Bland had a job and was on her way to teach for her alma mater. It doesn’t matter. None of that matters.”
Sanders went on to have huge rallies later, with 15,000 attending one in Seattle and another 28,000 in Portland, Oregon. Sanders is drawing by far the largest crowds of any candidate and is closing the gap on Hillary Clinton.
So while the media is focused on the Trump circus, Sanders keeps moving steadily ahead.
(You can go to Sanders’s website to join the campaign and contribute and here to see where he stands on the issues. Despite the media trying to paint him as some kind of extremist candidate, a majority of Americans actually support him on most of the issues he stands for.)