Meet Bernie Sanders, Minority Candidate



GORDONVILLE – While it should seem like another needless diversion from the real issues that eat away at the heart of a nation teetering on the brink of a modern-day Civil War,

I’m willing to give the premature speculation about the 2020 election a pass right now.

The stakes are simply too high to ignore the conjecture.

One thing is clear, no matter how these news network talking heads try to spin it, they can’t do the dirty work and win over fickle hearts and minds.

California Sen. Kamala Harris and other female candidates – namely Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota – receive plenty of free airtime, but are failing to gain much traction in the polls.

These same polls show former vice president Delaware Sen. Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders hovering up around 26-28 percent as co-leaders.

Even the appearance on the scene of Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke has not done much to alter this early horse race, one which also had the so-called experts quickly to decrying the lack of diversity.

They wonder, openly, about the problem of something other than “another old white man” trying to knock your president (not mine) off his good ‘ol boy perch.

What the experts are really trying to articulate is that the Democrats, if they want to rally the support that will result the necessary turnout in key swing states to stem the tide of madness, there must be a total flipping of the script with a candidate coming from out of the historical box.

In the case of Biden, I get it. He is an old-school Democrat who served, dutifully, as Obama’s second in command. But he has a long track record, and a lot of it is not only centrist but more than a bit Old White Mannish.

That leaves Sanders.

First, a disclaimer.

If you know me, you already know he is my chosen candidate going back to his unexpected serious challenge to Hillary Clinton.

Two points about Sanders that I want to point out, as I don’t hear them enough – if at all – when the field is evaluated.

He may be an “old white guy” in appearance, but he shouldn’t be easily passed off as such.

As exemplified by support among young voters, ranging from white college kids in the heartland to female Latinas in California, his ideas are perhaps the youngest of any candidate in the field.

And, while it may not PC – or convenient — to go there, he is also a minority, too.

If we felt the earth move and Sanders claimed both the nomination and the White House, he would be the first Jewish president.

And that would be quite an accomplishment, perhaps more than other groups (in the U.S., there are more women than men, for example, and more women of color than total Jews).

Because of decades of intermarriage, it is impossible to pin down exactly how many Jews there are in the United States, but the number is believed to be in the range of 5.5 and 8 million.

That sounds like a lot until you break it down to its percentage – somewhere between 1.7 and 2.6 percent of the total population.

His serious run for the White House was made even remarkable considering he did well where the Jewish population is not heavily concentrated.

Sanders won in states where he may have been the first Jew most residents had seen outside of maybe a Seinfeld rerun.


I’m talking about Oklahoma and North Dakota and West Virginia, where Jews make up 0.1 percent of the population (he barely lost South Dakota, where there are less than Jews, around 250, than there are at the King of Prussia mall right now).

Flukes? How about Utah and Wyoming, where Jews make up a whopping 0.2 percent of the population. He won those – and several others — with percentages around 1 percent.

This was one of the biggest untold stories of the last primary season, and it shouldn’t be hushed up again.

Jews have suffered their own unique forms of persecution and degradation in their American experience, and it is far from a thing of the past.

Anti-Semitic incidents are way up during the era of your president (not mine), as we have the chants of Charlottesville ringing in our ears and the shooting up of Pittsburgh synagogue last October weighing on our hearts.

All the talk about women candidates, including women candidates of color, is important. O’Rourke comes in the side door as at least a young white guy trying to draw JFK comparisons.

Sanders, unlike Biden, is unique in many ways.

He is an Independent, as a Democratic Socialist from a small New England state (where Jews make up 1 percent of the population). He is older, yes, but attracts the aforementioned young voters who don’t seem to care about his ethnicity.

But the media should care – if only because a possible election would make history as much as that of a woman or someone else of another ethnic group trying to prove that anyone but an old white man can grow up to be president.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on March 31, 2019.


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