It seems to me that one reason so many Democrats resent Sanders is because he reminds them of what the party was, and abandoned in the 1990s, to gain votes in conservative states, especially in the South.
From the early 1990s to 2016, the Democratic Party was dominated by its conservative wing. They supported and passed a series of tight-fisted laws: the Clinton tax increase, which cost the party the House; welfare and Medicaid reform; the Clinton health plan, followed by the PPACA. At the same time, we heard racist rhetoric from the party leaders: “Sister Soljah,” “superpredators,” and so on. These reassured white racists that African-Americans would be kept from rising against their oppressors.
I wonder how much of the tight-fisted conservative policies were also covert appeals to racists. How much of the conservative faction of the Democratic Party is racist? Some, surely. Most?
Scratch economic conservatism, find racism (and sexism, but I’m writing about racism.) Policies which keep property relations as they stand, dominated by a wealthy white minority, those policies are racist, even if they do not incorporate explicit bigotry. The bigotry may be there, but it only becomes visible when attacked or when some demagogue like Donald Trump makes a direct appeal to it.
I don’t believe we can address racism without addressing disparities of wealth. Do we grant people of color full civil rights and still keep them dirt poor?
Which brings us back to Sanders. Sanders critique of class divisions is profoundly anti-racist – addressing class will, necessarily, raise up African-Americans. The objection from some African-Americans is that that is not enough, that one must first have basic rights. But Sanders stands for those as well: the young man who marched against housing discrimination in Mayor Daley’s Chicago (a very brave thing indeed), the only light-skinned man who stood with the Congressional Black Caucus when the Democratic leadership turned conservative in the 1990s, the first 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate to say “black lives matter” supports civil rights for African-Americans.
I think Sanders is so hated because, just by being who he is, he shames them. Sure, there’s other reasons. There’s people who say he cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency. I don’t agree, but I can understand that. But in the end, Sanders has stood against poverty and racism for his entire career and stands in reproach to people who have not. That is why there are so many attempts to make him out to be a racist, because if he is one, there is no need to listen to him, and his conservative opponents need not be ashamed. I regard such attacks as as valid as the attacks on Hillary Clinton as a cruel entitled masculine woman: these attacks relieve the attackers of the need to consider Clinton as a strong, competent leader, and reassure them that they need not be ashamed for their own weakness.
So let us treat Sanders with respect and listen to him. I doubt he could be elected to the Presidency and he is an old man who may lack the stamina to cope with the stresses of the office, but we should at least treat him decently. He’s been fighting the good fight for most of his life and he deserves respect for that.