Statistics, "Bernie Bros", and narrative


#1

So let’s start with something uncomfortable, naturally. Bernie Sanders, one of the most socialist candidates in US history, has been lying about the 2016 election results.

Okay well maybe he just threw out a statement as fact without checking to see if it had any basis in data, but that seems unlikely. Sanders has always been able to back up his arguments about income inequality with hard statistics. But his claim that the Democrats lost the working class is statistically verifiable as false. All exit polls show that Trump voters are majority middle class whose chief concerns are immigration and terrorism (http://edition.cnn.com/election/results/exit-polls/national/president).

But, as much as I, personally, would like to believe Sanders is merely misinformed, it would be politically advantageous for him to spread this myth. His voter base has always been majority white men (http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/live-democratic-primary-exit-poll-analysis/story?id=38163893). And between those statistics, and his questionable support for women and POC, as seen by his “identity politics” comments weeks after the election, it is hard to fully refute the idea of “Bernie Bros”. While it is overblown by the media, ever hungry for a clean narrative, we have a candidate who thinks reproductive rights are a negotiable issue (http://www.npr.org/2017/04/20/524962482/sanders-defends-campaigning-for-anti-abortion-rights-democrat), and proposes that identity politics is the problem (http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/bernie-sanders-democrats-identity-politics-231710), who only won the white male category in the primary. And the recent emergence of the Chapo Trap House, who is founded by men who mock rape survivors (https://twitter.com/i/moments/889516709685678080) but still gets applause from leftists for talking about class, indicate this trend hasn’t been diminished.

And I don’t fully blame Sanders for this. He has his blind spots, but he isn’t the kind of scumbag who laughs at and lies about survivors of sexual assault. But he seems to share a similar problem to these guys: a preference for narrative over statistics. Because statistically Trump supporters are the middle class, more paranoid about immigration than the economy, but narratively, the idea that Trump supporters are mostly so desperate for a better economy that they would support such an evil man is very comforting. Far more than the idea that they liked him, not in spite of, but because of the racist paranoia and anger he projected. And in the grand scheme of things, Wall Street execs and the inherited wealth 1% make far better villains than average people who are nice most of the time, but think feminists are the real sexists and that Black Lives Matter is scarier than killer cops.

And what can be done to fix this? I dunno. If I did I wouldn’t be here posting this, I’d be at the UN. But the left needs to recognise this. Trump voters were not motivated by the economy, and throwing women and minorities under the bus would be an awful thing to do, even if it did work. And the Sanders supporters who do support women and POC need to recognise and deal with the fact that they have legitimate concerns and reservations about their candidate and movement.


#2

Bernie is kind of right about identity politics, at least as conceptualized by Democrats / liberals / conservatives. When we speak about identity we must never forget to approach it from a class perspective.

It doesn’t matter if Uber were to become the most diverse company, ridesharing is still slavery.

A quick primer: http://inthesetimes.com/article/19902/heres-how-we-can-move-pastthe-identity-politics-debate-splintering-the-left


#3

Statistics are never going to tell you the truth. Bernie Sanders depicted a narrative he found by having his feet on the ground meeting with people and organizing rallies. I fail to see where he was wrong, the working class is suffering, the middle class is fragmented. Capitalizing on opening consciousness on the issue of wealth distribution is a fundamental step. White ppl has been his main base yes, but his message was an inclusive one and disregarding the diversity he’s been championing is peak liberal gaslighting that has poisoned every kind of meaningful of discussion on any kind of platform. I personally don’t think he did enough to push outreach for minorities as several outreach departments were severely underfunded, but that doesn’t mean its platform was only catered to be a white platform.

Is he making wall street execs good villains ? Yes, because they are but also because it is something that is still fresh in the mind of every young people that is now a young adult out there, it remains a good step towards understanding power dynamics and how it plays into the life of every american of every race.

All I’m saying is that if we hold every political figure accountable the same way some are doing for Bernie Sanders, this would be a better place already. As it stands, every action he takes is going to be lambasted because he’s playing the politics he needs to play in order to make the Democrats a sizeable opposition in the future. We’re just going 4D Chess here.

but chapo trap house can kiss my ass, that we can agree


#4

“I fail to see where he was wrong”

He said Dems lost the white working class. They didn’t. Not according to the exit polls.

“Statistics are never going to tell you the truth”

Huh? Statistics are the closest thing to objective reality that we have. A lot closer than what a politician says. Bernie might have met a lot of people but the exit polls talked to ten of thousands, equally distributed across the country. I trust the data a lot more than one guy’s opinion, because Sanders will have unconscious biases, and no matter how many people he met, those biases will filter out who he remembers and how. While his platform was openly inclusive, his identity politics comments and WWC lies make it seem like he is willing to ignore women and POC if he thinks it is convenient.

“… in order to make the Democrats a sizeable opposition in the future”

If they are building a strategy based on false election statistics, they will be undermined. But they might be more willing to promote Sanders, who probably genuinely believes he can win and that he is the best candidate. But if they want to beat Trump in 2020, they need to have a clear picture of who voted for him. And it wasn’t the WWC.


#5

Okay disclaimer statistics by themselves can be misleading, but we’re not talking about quoting black crime stats without also mentioning black poverty stats. We’re talking about who voted for Trump, and who the Dems lost. Sanders says one thing. The actual figures say another.


#6

A while back I told two friends, who aren’t nearly as Online as me, about the “Bernie Bro” narrative and they both, first, laughed a ton and then did not believe that it was even a thing. They’re both women. They both went to rallies and volunteered for him. I think it’s super easy to get caught up in the narratives people get going online, especially if the only organizing you do is online. Sanders is not above anyone’s criticism and never has been. He gets criticized by the right, center, and left constantly. You’re repeating the talking points of every prominent centrist pundit out there though and this kind of disingenuous wielding of people’s identities as a weapon to use in online arguments is, frankly, garbage.

You use two articles above to portray Sanders as both anti-women and anti-PoC. The first is legitimately awful, but it’s not a mandate from Sanders alone. Democrats are softening on things they shouldn’t, like repro rights, and we need to hold them accountable for it. All of them. The second, come on. You’re being willfully disingenuous by try to take those quotes as a complete refutation of identity politics. I’m also not saying that Sanders deserves no criticism for his words here though because these sorts of vague attacks on idpol don’t help. He, and hopefully better candidates than him, needs to be better about explaining WHY class and identity politics intersect, why that’s important, and why specific economic policies that address both are what is best for the country.

As for Chapo aka The New And Only Face Of The Left, I’m not a huge fan but the constant framing of them as a singular voice for people left of the Democrats is wildly stupid. It’s also, ironically, used to push the already mostly bogus “bro” narrative which silences leftist women and PoC who advocate for socialist policy. This is what people are talking about when they say identity politics as a performance piece has zero meaning.


#7

Well it’s an indisputable fact that Sanders has a weaker following among women and POC. Is it garbage to suggest that hearing him spread a BS myth about the need to get back to the WWC is a reason for that? And I wouldn’t call him anti-women or POC, I never said that. He merely seems willing to ignore their concerns when he feels they are a distraction to the main concern of fighting Wall Street, which is a bad quality for a president who needs to deal with multiple issues simaltaneously.

I’m not trying to give him no credit, or “repeat the talking points of every prominent centrist pundit”, or be “willfully disingenuous”, merely trying to explain a flaw with his platform as demonstrated by demographics


#8

Sanders favorability ratings have, for most of 2017, landed him as the most popular politician in the country. His favorables from an april 2017 poll are in the mid 50s to low 70s among a cross section of demographics.

From http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/329404-poll-bernie-sanders-countrys-most-popular-active-politician

Obviously a small sample size of less than a dozen polls, but should provide at least a little pushback against the narrative that the only people who like bernie are white dudes.


#9

the poll I really want to see a number on is how many leftists actually even have an interest in working as part of the Democrat party rather than shunning the party as an outdated Clinton-propping relic

I say this because sometimes I feel like I am the only one with an earnest interest in moving the party leftward, and I honestly can’t tell what’s hyperbole on the matter sometimes because the discourse around the party gets that toxic


#10

Yeah, there are so many questions like that which become frustrating because there are no polls that specific, like how many Sanders supporters didn’t vote for Clinton or how many Clinton supporters woudn’t have voted for Sanders, and tons of others that feel like the conversations around them would be immensely improved by some hard data to refer to


#11

I may be entirely wrong (and please call me on it if I am), but I thought the idea of “white working class” voters swinging the 2016 election was not a comment on white working class voters as a countrywide group—as most critiques of that idea seem to assume—but on three specific states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) which swung for Trump by tiny margins powered by a specific subgroup of those white working class voters who had previously been reliable Democrats. (This may not be how Sanders phrased it, but I thought this was the kernel of truth that drove the misconception that Dems “lost the white working class”). If that was actually the case and I’m not entirely misinformed, I don’t think that’s something we should ignore. It’s a tired trope that the Rust Belt is falling apart, but I live in the Rust Belt, and it is. I grew up in Pennsylvania and go to school in upstate NY. The opioid epidemic is real. Disenfranchisement among jobless in these places is real. I see it in my family, my friends’ families, and everywhere I go. And those issues definitively apply across all categories of identity, which, yeah, some Sanders supporters and arguably Sanders himself deflect or forget… but they ARE also working class issues. They hit the working class orders of magnitude harder than they hit those higher in income.

Now, that doesn’t excuse the fact that the white working class in those areas (and again, totally call me if my research/knowledge was wrong) peeled for Trump because he prodded their base fears and xenophobic instincts, but that also doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address class issues because of that. In particular, since American public schools are mainly funded by local property taxes, class is inseparably tied to the quality of one’s education in this country. Personally, I would have gone for a more equitable funding system for primary/secondary education before reaching for Sanders’ free public college plan, but at least he actually brought education into the 2016 election as an important issue. Clinton ran with that torch but I doubt she or any other Dem would have lit it by herself/themself. And he did it in a way that wasn’t ignorant to how education actually works, like how a LOT of proposals from both the left and the right seem to do.

Of course, I went through primary/secondary school in a “low-performing” district at the height of NCLB, so I’m biased by the fact that that act nearly singlehandedly destroyed my school’s arts and music programs through performance-based funding cuts (and we only managed to survive through heavy community organizing that secured the help of, ironically, a right-leaning local legislator). But there were left and right-wing ideas in that bill, and ALL of them were detrimental. The idea of federalizing standards is great if you can measure performance effectively, but if you have a school district like mine that serves a large immigrant population and was forced to, for example, drop a test booklet in front of a fourth grader who’s spent a total of two weeks in the US and has only just started learning the language, how is that going to be accurate?

That may not seem like a class issue (and it’s not, which is my eventual point, so bear with me), but wealthier school districts were able to fudge stuff like that and thus avoid the funding cuts that hit my low-income, 70% non-white, and “low performing” district. Wealthier schools also don’t have to compete as readily with charter schools (which public school money funds, and are probably the most detrimental thing the right-wing has contributed to the education debate, which is saying a LOT) and private/parochial schools. And they also get more money regardless because they can charge higher property taxes because their home values are higher because, dun dun dun, the schools are better. So wealthier schools can afford to keep stuff like arts, music, library education—all the stuff that my schools either lost or almost lost, and that contributed to a serious loss for a working class, racially/sexually/etc. diverse community. (In other words, welcome to the cycle of poverty.)

So what’s my point? All of this matters. We can’t ignore identity politics because, you know, identity exists and affects people’s lives in massive ways. The fact that no one in power understood the fallacy of giving newly immigrated children a test in a language they wouldn’t understand is an identity politics issue, not a class issue. But it was compounded by a class issue—i.e. the inequitable way in which American education is funded—the kind of which Bernie Sanders talked about and which other factions of the Democratic Party seem hellbent on ignoring.

That’s not to say I want Sanders to run in 2020. I think he’s very one-note, and his his general blind spot for identity issues is—as someone who voted for him in the primary—disqualifying for me. But I think asking that we don’t ignore class in favor of identity (or vice versa) is a perfectly reasonable request to make, especially considering that class issues compound the types of marginalization that identity politics is based on addressing.

And if that involves focusing on the working class—and by consequence of that, white members of the working class—I don’t think that’s something we should throw out because of “a preference for narrative over statistics.”


#12

To claim “the Democrats did not lose the working class” is to completely misunderstand that statement. Of course most Trump voters are middle class, most Republican voters are middle class, and most of Trump’s voters are the same people who vote for every Republican candidate.

However Trump won by a few hundred thousand strategically important votes. Thus it is largely irrelevant who ‘the majority’ of his supporters are. You don’t need to win over the majority of his supporters (which is good because you are never going to win over middle class Mitt Romney voters, Clinton tried that and failed), indeed you don’t even need to win a minority.

Which brings us to the important point. What actually changed between the 2012 and 2016 elections? The answer is that working class voters, of all ethnic backgrounds, did not turn out for Clinton to the extent they did for Obama. Some (not actually that many, but in important states) switched to Trump, but more importantly others simply stayed home.

This is what people mean when they say “they lost the working class”. Not that they lost the whole working class, or that Trump gained it, or even that more working class people voted Republican, but simply that enough working class people either defected or didn’t turn up to sway the election. This is how politics actually works. No-one is saying that the entire working class mass defected from the Democrats and voted Republican, because that would be an utterly preposterous, politically nigh impossible event. Most left wing political types will point this out very clearly, and yet this misunderstanding persists

Oh and FYI, Sanders actually has a higher approval rating with women than men and with non white people than white people. So the declaration that ‘his base is white men’ is demonstrably false. Also the Democrats have been running anti-choice candidates for years and continue to do so, to to blame Sanders exclusively for that is extremely disingenuous.

Is there sexism and racism on the left? Absolutely, there is everywhere. But if you want to talk about spreading destructive lies, this narrative that the left seeks to ‘throw women and minorities under the bus’, spread by people who have built careers doing the very same, is one of the most destructive political myths of our time.


#13

While I appreciate the more recent approval polls, I hardly feel they are automatically representative of how people would actually vote. Sanders is the most prominent Democrat who didn’t recently lose an election to Trump, of course he will see a short term boost in popularity across the board. I’m not saying this boost won’t turn out to be long term, I’m saying it is far less reliable than the polls taken when he was actually running against other credible candidates.

And the WWC comments (Here’s one of the tweets https://twitter.com/BernieSanders/status/798192678785716224) seem to be too reductive and comforting to people who don’t want to confront anything other than income inequality. Three strategic states are hardly indicative of the country, and it is perhaps more likely that the prejudices in those states did more to sway voters than class. Because, again, people concerned about the economy voted for Clinton by a clear margin


#14

aaaand here we go. I’m sorry, but any discussion of Sanders that insists on bringing up Chapo is one that I’m going to have a hard time taking seriously. In my experience, this is a primary symptom of “too online.” Remember that Chapo is a comedy podcast started by Twitter guys, most serious leftist political organizers don’t give a shit about it.
There’s been tons of support for Sanders from non-white, non-cis, non-men (like me for example!). As someone who voted for Sanders in the primary, I find the argument that he’s a candidate for white bros to be plainly hogwash. I’m not dumb, if that was the case I wouldn’t have supported him. If you want to see support from non-cis-white-men, stop looking at polls and try talking to us.


#15

I dunno, discounting a bunch of data while pointing to a single tweet seems…a bit like you’re pushing a narrative?

I’m just tired of having slugfests over that primary still. I’m not pinning my hopes and dreams to him any more, but I think he’s right that the Democrats need to pursue a “rising tide raises all boats” kind of messaging. I just disagree with the party establishment (and the CTH branch of the left) that doing this necessitates jettisoning identity politics entirely. I guess, to be fair the establishment does want to hold on to them, albeit in the most business friendly and insubstantial way possible.

I’d also point out that a lot of people who are “middle class” consider themselves working class for one reason or another. It’s also not a term with a super specific definition, it’s not a term defined in the Census, or with enough authority that you can easily say how many people comprise the working class in the US.


#16

I’m not discounting the data, just pointing out that the primary stats feel more reliable. And I only wanted to use the tweet as an example, obviously it isn’t his entire platform.

But yeah, hopefully him and Clinton stay away from the 2020 election, they both have so much baggage that a fresher candidate could learn from.


#17

I have been talking to people, that’s why I started this thread. I’m not discounting your personal experience but a lot of women and POC I’ve talked to like him, but don’t trust him to fight for them. And as much as I don’t wanna put too much importance on a podcast, they have hundreds of thousands of fans, if their soundcloud and twitter is any indication. It’s not just that they seem to confirm every fear so many ppl have of leftists not caring about minorities, but that this version of progressivism is so popular.

He isn’t a candidate exclusively for white bros, if anyone would be that it’d be Trump, but the stereotype has a basis in legitimate concerns about both him and the movement he represents.


#18

You raise a lot of really good points here. Class, race and gender are linked in really complex ways, and Sanders didn’t have an insignificant level of support among minorities, probably from the old “rising tide lifts all boats” argument. I think the best we can hope for in 2020 is for Clinton and Sanders to have an ideological child that takes the best from both of their platforms, and is generally more inspiring and charismatic than them. And as much as I don’t like the idea that Trump voters shouldn’t be made to feel bad just because they elected an evil man, I wouldn’t condemn them to death for it. And mass unemployment, underfunded education and an explosion in opiod addiction is a death sentence for a community.


#19

I don’t think the primary stats can be considered ‘reliable’ at all, on the basis that it ended a year ago, and significant political upheaval has occurred since then. Most notably, the ‘vote for the moderate candidate because they will win’ argument has been heavily damaged.


#20

Primary stats are inherently unreliable when extrapolating to a general election. Only a small niche of voters participate in primaries, many of which only allow registered party members to vote in. On top of that, you have a push and pull of “who I would want to vote for” vs “who I think can actually win” that did turn some who favored Sanders to vote Clinton because they thought she was more generally electable. And as others have stated, the popularity metrics show Sanders have a much more diverse base than primary vote polling showed.