Posted on March 13, 2020

Bernie Sanders’s Failure to Win Over Black Voters on Tuesday Could Doom His Campaign

Nicole Narea, Vox, March 11, 2020

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders once admitted that his 2016 campaign was “too white.” {snip}

Former Vice President Joe Biden won big with black voters in Michigan, the state with the largest delegate trove on Tuesday, and in Missouri and Mississippi, according to CNN exit polls. Black voters supported Biden at rates of 66 percent in Michigan and 72 percent in Missouri — states where he reaped double-digit victories over Sanders. And in Mississippi, where black voters made up 69 percent of the electorate, they backed Biden over Sanders nearly 9 to 1.

Sanders has relied on young voters and Latinos of all age groups for his strong performances in states like Nevada and California. {snip}

But the South Carolina primary on February 29 served as a wake-up call that Sanders’s outreach to the black community was failing: Biden won 61 percent of black Democratic primary voters there. {snip} And on Super Tuesday, Biden won eight states where black voters made up a large share of the electorate.

The Sanders campaign has since scrambled to make a last-minute push among black voters. He began airing TV ads touting instances in which former President Barack Obama praised the senator and paid for spots on radio stations primarily catering to black communities in states that were set to vote on Tuesday. He also picked up an endorsement from the civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson.


“We need to redouble our outreach effort,” Rep. Ro Khanna, co-chair of the campaign, told Politico. “We need to sit down with as many Congressional Black Caucus members as we can, whether they endorsed us or not. We need to be sitting down with the NAACP, with civil rights organizations.”


Sanders also struggled to connect with black voters in 2016. He lost South Carolina that year, as well, when 86 percent of black voters chose Hillary Clinton over him. He consistently came under fire from black activists, in particular from Black Lives Matter, who criticized his lack of attention to criminal justice and racial issues. Even internally in his campaign, black staffers told Fusion at the time they weren’t prioritized.