I’m not sure what took so long for the “broad political left” to conclude that Trump is a racist. Before he even ran for president, there was his cheerleading for the birther conspiracy, his insistence on the guilt of the Central Park Five despite their exoneration by DNA evidence, derogatory comments about Native Americans (back in the 90s when their casinos were competition for his), and being sued (along with his father) by the Department of Justice in the 1970s for discriminating against blacks in housing. It should also be noted that quite a bit of the so-called mainstream media still uses euphemisms to characterize Trump’s behavior.
From this point forward however, Ms. Gray seems to be playing a game. On the one hand, there’s a subtle criticism of The Daily Beast for not publishing the full context of Sanders’ remark. On the other, a concession that “Sanders’s comment didn’t make much sense”. Finally, she tries to rationalize Sanders’ statement by comparing with those of other politicians.
This game doesn’t work because unlike Gillum, McCain, O’Rourke, or Obama, Sanders gave white voters who didn’t vote for black candidates solely because of their race an excuse. He renamed their rationale as “[feeling] uncomfortable” when even the author of this piece concedes it is racist by definition. Sanders engaged in what many in the supposedly-liberal mainstream media have done for the better part of 2 years since Trump’s election–find some reason (any reason at all) for Trump’s victory that didn’t involve racism. Many column inches were written about economic anxiety, fear of change, change happening too quickly, etc. How could it be that people who voted for Obama would vote for Trump, some pieces asked (not mentioning, or purposely ignoring the outcome of the midterm election after Obama’s re-election).
To be fair, the author of this piece is correct in describing the ways that racism is exploited by politicians from both parties. Even in this election cycle, the candidates of color and women who won the nomination of the Democratic party (and the general election as well in some cases) for various seats across the country (New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Minnesota are just some examples) often had to beat the party establishment’s choice to do so.
It is one thing to argue that you shouldn’t label people as “deplorables” or “racists” even if they are. it is quite another to essentially argue that it was ok for Sanders to equivocate because it will gain him necessary white votes in 2020 if and when he runs for president again. The sad truth is that assertions of what type of candidates “the country is ready for” continue to be driven by those with the most backward beliefs and attitudes because too many in the majority who aren’t racist, misogynist, or xenophobic are either silent, or willing to equivocate like Sanders did. Perhaps the challenges to these old and tired stereotypes need to come from the people instead of politicians.