By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
NNPA News Wire Columnist
To the Campaign:
I am writing as a concerned Sanders supporter. I am thrilled that the campaign has caught on as it has. Senator Sanders has raised many of the issues that need to be raised, which are generally ignored by the political establishment. He is correct to be challenging the political and economic elites that are dominating this country and, for that matter, much of the world. I am certainly hoping that Senator Sanders receives the nomination and handily wins the November 2016 Presidential election.
That said, I am deeply concerned that the campaign is missing tremendous opportunities, particularly when it comes to communities of color. Here’s an example. The noted writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates has recently published a stinging critique of Senator Sanders on the question of reparations to African Americans. Leaving aside differences on the issue, what particularly struck me was the final paragraph of the article. Coates indicated that he had reached out to the campaign and was ignored. How does anyone ignore a writer of such significance as Coates? This is someone who has raised many an eyebrow with his incisive writing on the Black experience and has accumulated quite a following.
If the Coates example was the only one it would be bad enough, but that is not the case. Whether one is talking about media appearances or those who have sought to assist the campaign, it is completely unclear why the Sanders campaign is not seizing opportunities.
The deeper question, which is relevant to strategy and vision, is that the Campaign, while at times speaking about matters of race, has not gone out of its way to embed itself within communities of color. As I have previously raised, there is an interesting contrast between this approach and that taken by Rev. Jesse Jackson in his 1988 presidential campaign. Jackson went out of his way to embed himself and his campaign in social movements and communities that were not his natural constituency, e.g., White farmers in the Midwest. Jackson became their champion and not their savior. What we do not see, at least up until now, is a similar approach by the Sanders campaign.
For raising these issues some have suggested that I am overthinking the issue or being a ‘downer,’ but I reject such arguments. I want to see Sanders win, but I want to see him win as the champion of those who have lived the underside of the “American Dream,” and not just experienced it since the 2008 Great Recession. We need Sanders to speak before the other candidates about matters like the travesty with Flint, Michigan’s water supply. We need Sanders speaking out about the destruction of Puerto Rico that we are witnessing, the result of both colonialism and the policies of Wall Street. We need him doing more than agreeing with other candidates when they, first, raise the issue. We need Sanders to be the pacesetter.
I sincerely hope that these concerns will be factored in as the campaign’s strategy evolves.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.