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This week I learned that the apocryphal Gandhi quote about Christ and Christians often applies in politics as well. I’m volunteering with Hillary for America, but I also admire Bernie Sanders’ longstanding passion for hardworking families. That said, I think his class-focused rhetoric reflects a category error. In the U.S., data show that ‘class’ divisions are structured by race and gender. Yes, some white men are poor, but women and minorities are far more likely to live in poverty. Indeed a recent Stanford study found that white families with a incomes of $13,000 live, on average, in wealthier neighborhoods than do black families with incomes of $50,000. To focus on “income inequality” – rather than racial and gender bias – is to gloss over how that inequality is structured in our nation.
And as I learned this week, to raise that category error with Sanders supporters is to open oneself up to a stern lecture on “reaching white working class voters” and “the failure of identity politics” … as if pitching to “white working class voters” is somehow not “identity politics.”
I think this weekend’s protest at Netroots Nation will prompt Sanders to retune his message. I hope his followers will as well.