Bernie Sanders, whose appeal seemingly rests on his appealing to his audience’s sense of victimhood, made statements when he was launching his burgeoning political career that stretched the bounds of credulity, including recently unearthed comments in which he compared workers in his home state of Vermont to black slaves.
As The Daily Beast reports, in 1976 Sanders “told a local newspaper that the sale of a privately held mining company by its founders harkened back to ‘the days of slavery, when black people were sold to different owners without their consent,’ and compared the service economy to chattel slavery.” That comment was made in response to the announced sale of the Vermont Marble Company to a Swiss conglomerate. Sanders ranted:
We believe ultimately that companies like Vermont Marble should be owned by the workers themselves and that workers—not a handful of owners—should be determining policy. If a worker at Vermont Marble has no say about who owns the company he works for and that major changes can take place without his knowledge and consent, how far have we really advanced from the days of slavery, when black people were sold to different owners without their consent?
The Daily Beast wryly notes, “The population of Vermont was, at the time, more than 99 percent white and roughly 0.2 percent black.”
In a 1977 interview, conducted on Labor Day, Sanders reiterated, “Basically, today, Vermont workers remain slaves in many, many ways. The problem comes when we end up with an entire state of people trained to wait on other people.” He added, “How can a worker be happy with his or her job when he or she has no control over that job? The problem comes when we end up with an entire state of people trained to wait on other people … In the long run, what we are talking about is a peaceful revolution.”
Those comments were made when Sanders was the chairman of the Liberty Union Party, but still had not gained political office, having assayed unsuccessful four candidacies, including running for the U.S. Senate in 1972 and Vermont governor in 1976.
Sanders needs votes from the black constituency of the Democratic Party if he is to win the presidential nomination; The Daily Beast points out regarding Sanders’ 2016 candidacy, “In South Carolina, where black voters account for two-thirds of the Democratic primary electorate, Clinton defeated Sanders by nearly 50 percent, winning African-American voters by a 72-point margin,” adding, “Current polling indicates that Sanders’ support among black voters is healthier than it once was, particularly among those under 50, but he still trails former Vice President Joe Biden by more than 20 points.
In early January, Jason Riley noted in The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Sanders’s biggest weakness remains his lack of support among older blacks, who are most likely to cast a ballot in the primaries. Yet these voters continue to tell pollsters that their chief concern is electability, and a few early wins by Mr. Sanders might go a long way toward convincing them that he can prevail in November.”