Bernie Sanders Has Some Advice for Democrats About Diversity

November 21st 2016

Kyle Jaeger

If the Democratic party wants to recover from its recent electoral defeats, diversifying its candidates won't be enough, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said during a stop on his book tour Sunday evening.


“It is not good enough for someone to say, ‘I'm a woman! Vote for me!’ No, that’s not good enough," Sanders said during his speech at Berklee College of Music. "What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.”

Sanders remarks come as Democrats are debating what to make of their inability to retain strong support from low-income white voters during the 2016 presidential election. As the New York Times reports, Trump overwhelmingly won won whites without a college degree, while Democrats did worse with low-income voters than they have in previous years.

Sanders himself said the party's outreach efforts to "working class whites" were "an embarassment."

While some pundits have argued that Democrats lost the election because they too strongly embraced social justice issues, Sanders instead argued that the party must continue to fight discrimination while increasing its focus on working class concerns.


"In other words, one of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics... And some people may not agree with me, but that is the fight we’re going to have right now in the Democratic Party. The working class of this country is being decimated. That’s why Donald Trump won. And what we need now are candidates who stand with those working people, who understand that real median family income has gone down, that young people in many parts of this country have a very limited future, that life expectancy for many workings is going down."

Sanders has faced criticism from some on the left, who noted that Sanders focus on the "white working class" seemed to exclude non-white workers, especially after an election when black voter turnout seemed to decline.

Sanders comments appear to be a response to those criticisms. The former presidential candidate made clear in his speech that, for Democrats, the goal is to do better across the board — by understanding and responding to issues that are unique to marginalized groups, boosting minority turnout as President Barack Obama accomplished in 2008 and 2012, while also addressing economic issues that affect working class voters, regardless of their racial background.