Politics & Policy

Bronze Medalists in the Poverty Olympics

Sanders campaigns in Edwardsville, Ill., March 4, 2016. (Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty)
Senator Sanders ignores white poverty.

Asked in Sunday night’s debate to talk about “racial blind spots,” Senator Bernie Sanders, the Brooklyn red who represents Vermont in the Senate, found a big one: “When you’re white,” he proclaimed, “you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”

Set aside, for the moment, that a man of Jewish ancestry apparently does not know the history of the word “ghetto.” Set aside that his claim is plainly, empirically untrue: There are more poor whites in the United States than poor people of any other background, mainly by dint of the fact that there are more whites, period. Never mind that white poverty, like black poverty and brown poverty, tends to be geographically concentrated, often in ethnically homogeneous and isolated areas, i.e., in ghettos. (Seriously, Senator Sanders should get a National Review subscription so that he can read about the “Big White Ghetto.”) Never mind that the pathologies of poverty in white communities generally is similar — with the important exception of rates of violent crime in the poorest white communities — to the pathologies of poverty in nonwhite communities.

VIDEO: Sanders: Whites ‘Don’t Know What It’s Like to Be Living in a Ghetto’

Which is to say, in sum: Never mind reality — this is Bernie Sanders we’re talking about here, the hippie-dippy socialist fruitcake who is too far to the left for the party of Chaka Fattah and other Democratic Chavistas and Castroites, a man who has argued that women suffer from cancers of the reproductive organs because of orgasmic insufficiency. Rather, consider the politics of the thing from Senator Sanders’s point of view.

Why in Hell would he say such an obviously untrue and daft thing, even given his ordinary propensity for saying untrue and daft things? (As opposed to Herself. We know why she says untrue and daft things: to stay out of prison.) Why does the socialist class warrior deny the poverty of the single largest group of poor people in these United States?

The answer is: cowardice.

Senator Sanders likes to pose as a man of great conviction, but he is basically a grifter who has used public office as a way to evade honest employment for most of his long life. (Yes, Herself is a grifter, too, having used public office to avoid prison for most of her long life. Nice choice Democrats have.) Herself is whooping his narrow white Yankee ass among black voters, who feel, for whatever reason, a particular affinity with the Clinton mob. Senator Sanders is the white man’s red, and that’s killing him in the nomination fight.

RELATED: The Democrats’ Archie Bunker

So we are treated to the spectacle of a senator representing the second-whitest constituency in the Senate (Hello, Maine!) talking absolute nonsense in a sad, lame attempt to prove to black primary voters that he feels their pain, as some lowlife once put it.

This pandering is not new for Senator Sanders. In the first Democratic primary debate, the candidates were asked: “Black Lives Matter, or all lives matter?” Sanders, who has the white leftist’s instinctive cowardice on all issues touching African Americans, didn’t have to be mau-maued into his answer: He mau-maued himself, an act of auto-maumauery. (You’re welcome, Webster’s.) “Black Lives Matter,” he affirmed, silently adding, Please, please, please vote for the doddering elderly white senescent desiccated socialist man over the doddering elderly white senescent desiccated socialist lady!

#share#That’s where identity politics has landed the Democrats: Sure, there may be some poor white folks out there, or millions and millions of them, but we have to prioritize here: Suffering picturesquely in the service of Democratic political careers is a black thing, first and foremost, and has been ever since Lyndon Johnson did that amazing 180-degree turn from opposing anti-lynching laws to posturing as the champion of a national civil-rights agenda that he’d stymied in the Senate for years. African Americans are the gold-medal champions when it comes to poverty pimps like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Rodham Clinton. The wise Latinas come in second, and the poor whites, if Democrats have to admit they exist at all, are third place at best, bronze medalists in the poverty Olympics.

Poverty is poverty is poverty. The empty stomach is not much aware of the skin’s melanin content.

Ironic, in its way: The Left loves nothing better than to talk about race and poverty, but the leftists have never really learned how to talk about race and poverty. What is so hard about admitting, as all honest people must, that the black experience in the United States is unique — there isn’t very much that is like chattel slavery or organized political repression on racial grounds — but it is not exclusive? There isn’t a good time or a good place to be poor, or a good ethnic background to have and be poor. Poverty is poverty is poverty. The empty stomach is not much aware of the skin’s melanin content.

If you wanted to add fuel to the Trumpkin fire — which is really just this season’s version of Pat Buchanan’s smoldering resentment — that would be a great way to do it: Tell poor and struggling white Americans, or those who have been poor and struggling, that they “don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”

They do.

#related#Poverty isn’t a mystery to poor whites. What might be a mystery to many of them — certainly to West Texas tornado bait such as myself — is the working of the African-American political mind. For whatever reason — and it may be something as simple as a cynically transactional view of politics — black Americans never seem to get tired of being condescended to or being used as props by dopey and sanctimonious white political careerists such as Senator Sanders and, more important, Mrs. Clinton. Really, that’s the basic Democrat M.O.: “We need to show the voters that the United States is horrible, miserable, and deprived — find me some charismatically tragic black faces, quick!”

Democrats should be embarrassed that that’s the best they can do when it comes to race and poverty. Republicans should be embarrassed that their best still can’t beat that weak stuff.

 — Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.

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