The 2020 Opinion Series: Bloomberg vs Bernie on Racism

Bernie Sanders and Micheal Bloomberg at the Nevada debates on Feb. 19th. Photo via CNBC

Within the last decade, racist rhetoric has spiralled out of control, both within and out of the political sphere. As we head into the 2020 Presidential Election, where a candidate with a history of evidenced racism is representing the Republican Party, this article will assess which of the two current front runners of the Democrat Candidates truly has a leg to stand on when attacking President Trump on his racism that has persisted throughout his presidential tenure.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie. Currently the front runner with 31% of support in the primaries. Bernie Sanders is a unique candidate that the Democrats, at least in recent times, have never had. He is a staunch, left-wing socialist, who is pushing his message of equality throughout the US. On the surface, Bernie looks like the perfect fit for the Democrats in the upcoming election. He is an anti-establishment candidate who stands for strong values, which for the majority of voters is an attractive alternative to Donald J. Trump. Even when it comes to racism, Sanders seems to be a strong candidate. Last week at the CNN New Hampshire debate, Sanders stated that  “We are one people,” he said, “and I don’t care if you’re black, you’re white, you’re Latino, Native American, Asian American, you’re gay, you’re straight—that’s not what it’s about. What it’s about is that we are human beings and we share common dreams and aspirations.” On the surface, he is the ideal candidate to take on Trump and the racist rhetoric and hate that comes with him.

Yet, Bernie, like all the other candidates being assessed today, has a key problem. For Sanders, its anti- Semitism. Bernie Sanders is not anti- Semitic. But, and this is a big but, Bernie Sanders has a huge anti- Semitism problem on his hands, specifically with those he shares a stage with. This reminds me very much of the Jeremy Corbyn campaign in the United Kingdom General Election in late 2019. Corbyn was not necessarily an anti- Semite, but the problem that surfaced under his leadership as leader of the Labour Party and his lack of awareness is what many argue was a key cause for his downfall. Sander’s first anti- Semitic problem that has arisen is his lack of action when it comes to shutting down anti-Semitic rhetoric, especially from those on the left that have stood with his campaigns, such as Rashida Tlaib, Linda Sarsour and Ilhan Omar. This has become most apparent in recent times, with multiple Jewish representative groups stating their discern with the Vermont Senator. For instance, the group Democratic Majority for Israel has released multiple statements in the months leading up to the primaries, rebuking Sanders for “surrounding himself with a number of surrogates and endorsers who hate Israel, support BDS and have repeatedly made anti-Semitic statements,” of course, this is an indirect statement to the likes of Sarsour and Tlaib, who have been plagued with anti- Semitic accusations since their rise into mainstream American politics. Sanders has also had multiple points where he has been a key figure in the fight against racism. When analysing his campaign itself, the evidence is clear that he is an anti-racist and aims to “root out institutional racism wherever it exists.” He has promised to create a nation of equal individuals, as well as to address the racist criminal justice system. In all honesty, these are policies that are necessary in America, and that cannot be stressed enough in a presidential campaign. However, until Sanders deals with this issue of anti-Semitic prejudice scattered throughout his campaign group, the base that he has to attack Trump for his racist rhetoric is ultimately redundant.

Mike Bloomberg

Billionaire Bloomberg. Oddly, in terms of political experience as a candidate, Bloomberg lacks what many of his opponents have, which is congressional experience. Despite this, his vision for America has within the last few weeks spiralled into a frenzy of support which has ultimately seen him rise in ratings to be the second leading candidate within the Democratic nomination race. Bloomberg, unlike Bernie, is a further centred politician; Bloomberg was even on the Republican ballot in both 2002 and 2005 when running for New York City Mayor. In this sense, his vision for America is far less of a socialist nature and more of a politically centred social and fiscal vision with a central aim of his campaign being the defeat of current president Donald J. Trump.

When assessing his record regarding racism, it is of paramount importance to see whether he, in the way that Sanders does not, has a leg to stand on when attacking Trump for his racist record. Following research, unlike the Bernie campaign, there really was not too much to find about Bloomberg’s record regarding racial prejudice. He did have a conversation in 2015, supporting the notion of ‘stop and frisk’, an issue of extreme importance regarding the criminal justice system and its institutionally racist nature. However, throughout his campaign as well as prior to that, Bloomberg has made it evidently clear, that those views were a mistake and that he should have curbed the policy sooner and faster. Many argue that this mistake places him in a weak position when standing up for his values of being an anti-racist. The question must be, will the views shared by Bloomberg stain his campaign and ultimate aim in succeeding in the Democrat primaries and thus defeating Trump?

The decision

When assessing the two candidates, one thing I feel ought to be argued here is the fact that Bloomberg, unlike Sanders, has admitted errors and has shown remorse for his mistake. This is unlike Sanders, who still employs and accepts endorsements from those who have expressed anti-Semitic tropes and views in the past. For that reason, it ought to be argued that Bloomberg, between the two, is the only true and viable candidate that will be able to take on Trump when criticising him for his racist rhetoric.

Edited by Eleanor Braithwaite

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