There is something belittling about the language of the “Bernie Sanders is unelectable” fallacy—something that is subliminally dismissive.
How is it possible that we live in a time when progressives say #blacklivesmatter, but call the ideas of Bernie Sanders too “radical” to implement, and conclude his “radical” ideas make him unelectable?
When people say Bernie Sanders’ ideas are not politically viable, what they are really saying is:
Satisfying the needs of the people his policies would support is not politically viable, therefore, we should not vote for him.
Not only does this language illegitimize the needs of those people, but the language implies there is something unviable about those people—at least politically.
Sanders’ proposals of providing health care to all Americans, making public colleges tuition free, and decriminalizing marijuana are all initiatives that would positively impact black Americans, and help close the equality gap in America.
In Iowa, an African American was8.34 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana position than white Americans, according to a 2013 study by the ACLU .
According to the 2014 National Healthcare Quality & Disparities Report, African Americans and Hispanic Americans still have higher uninsured rates than white Americans.
If addressing the needs of black Americans and minorities in this country is too radical, whose needs are politically viable?
When we were inflamed with President Obama’s “Hope” and “Change” campaign, we rejected many of the notions that said President Obama was unelectable, and when we were asked if America was ready for a black president we responded with a resounding, “yes”.
But now we face a new question: is America ready to vote for a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, who explicitly and openly critiques the structural inequalities within capitalism, and advocates for policies that are directed towards the poor, middle class and Black Americans?
The polls say yes.
Perhaps we should change the narrative: A politician who does not believe healthcare is a human right is unelectable, a politician who votes for preemptive war is unelectable, a politician who supports policies that lead to mass incarceration is unelectable.
Why is it that Donald Trump’s proposal of a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S., and anti-immigration stance does not put him within the parameters of unelectibility? Is it because the needs of the people who support Donald Trump or support the rest of the Republican Party are politically viable?
A candidate’s electability seems to only come into question when the candidate’s ideas support people from communities that have been marginalized by the current system. It’s only then we say congress is too dysfunctional to implement change.
Have we forgotten that the power of democracy rest in our hands? If there are members of the House of Representatives or the Senate who do not support progressive ideas, then we will vote for politicians who will.
Of course we will be called “idealistic” championing the platform of the Sanders’ campaign, but we have to stop interpreting progressive attributes as negative qualities. Yes, progressives are idealistic: new ideas and change lead to progress. Qualities that are inherent to the progressive platform are not inherently bad, and we have to turn those qualities into a litmus test for a candidate’s electability.
Progressive policies that address a shrinking middle class, income inequality and struggling Americans are demonized as radical because those policies challenge the way “it” is, or—even worse, the way “it” is “supposed” to be.
Here is what “it” is:
We live in an America where people have to be explicitly reminded that #blacklivesmatter, we live in America where it is unordinary for a presidential candidate to advocate for health care as a human right, and we live in an America where it’s unusual for a presidential candidate to critique capitalism for all of its inherent inequities. We live in an America where advocating for expanding access to higher education is “radical”.
A candidate advocating for change and equality shouldn’t be castigated as radical; the candidate should be propagated as the standard.