As the candidate with the most experience in both running for the presidency against competitive opponents and participating in presidential debates, you would think Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders would perform a little better while on live television. However, it seems the cards were simply not in his favor on Thursday when attending the fourth Democratic primary debate.
While other contestants of the goat rodeo postulated well and added to their positive perception, Sanders seemed to make one mistake after another.
His first blunder came when he was asked a question involving race by moderator Amna Nawaz from PBS.
Naturally, race was to be featured in the debate as only one of the seven White House hopefuls were of any racial ethnicity or color besides white. In fact, one question posed to Senator Sanders asked about this very circumstance.
Nawaz asked Sanders why he thought that entrepreneur Andrew Yang was the only person of color to be featured on the stage that evening.
But instead of answering, Sanders deflected and instead chose to speak about climate change.
Sanders said, “I wanted to get back to the issue of climate change for a moment because I do believe this is the existential issue.”
However, before he could speak a word more, Nawaz cut him off, saying, “Senator, with all respect, this question is about race.” And then continued with, “Can you answer the question as it was asked?”
At this, the crowd applauded and cheered, giving the appearance that they like Nawaz better than they did Sanders.
And according to posts immediately made on Twitter, I’d have to say that most of those on social media agreed. Many made comments about this not being a smart move on Bernie’s part at all. After all, has he pointed out later, he is a white male, and as such, he has not always responded to the topic of race very well.
In fact, many already criticize him for his seeming lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and group, regardless of his support from prominent African American congress members such as New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Sanders barely salvaged the moment by adding race to his climate change discussion. He made the point that the two are connected, an idea known as intersectionality that several on the left, as well as other Democratic candidates, have mentioned. The basic idea is that all types of oppression are linked together somehow. Therefore, you cannot talk solely about just one issue, such as race, without blending in the others.
As Robby Soave from Reason defines it, “The idea is that various kinds of oppression – racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, economic inequality, and others – are simultaneously distinct from each other and inherently linked.”
Soave continues by saying, “They are distinct in the sense that they stack: A black woman suffers from two kinds of oppression (racism and sexism), whereas a white woman suffers from just one (sexism.) But they are also interrelated, in that they are all forms of oppression that should be oppressed with equal fervor.”
Bernie just added climate change into the mix as a type of oppression. He, and those who agree with him, claim that climate change affects minorities, and minorities in low-income areas, differently than those who are educated and typically white. And as such, it is said that those living in low-income neighborhoods and/or those of a minority who can no longer stay in their homes due to environmental issues such as wildfires or rising sea levels should be given government funding to move elsewhere.
The only problem here is that intersectionality seemingly connects every single idea to another. And as one issue is seemingly resolved or becomes not as important, another of equal value will always take its place. But if this reasoning is correct, then the idea that all oppression is equal fails, as does the concept of intersectionality altogether.
Furthermore, it seems that if Sanders really believed in all that, he would not have made his next mistake.
Moderator Tim Albert commented about former President Obama’s statement claiming the world’s problems were often due to “old men” who wouldn’t “get out of the way.” Albert then noted that Sanders was the oldest candidate at 78, to which Sanders yelled out, “And I’m white as well.”
But his “joke” didn’t go over well and was followed an awkward silence. For a man who refused to talk about race when it was called for, he certainly seems eager to throw it out now.