It’s no secret that Bernie Sanders needs to persuade people of color to vote for him. As a senator from the nearly all-white state of Vermont, he starts at a disadvantage. But Sanders’ voting record and life experience show that he truly cares about minorities and understands the struggles of those who are marginalized in American society.
Sanders actually participated in the historic march on Washington led by Martin Luther King Jr. As a student activist at the University of Chicago, he became passionately engaged in improving conditions for the poor. Sanders himself comes from a lower-middle-class, partly immigrant family. His parents struggled to make ends meet.
Recently, Sanders has boldly stepped up to defend Central American immigrants. He made a poignant appeal to President Obama to not arrest and deport innocent women and children back to Central America, where death awaits many of them. Central America is one of the most dangerous and violent regions of the world.
Hillary Clinton made a major political mistake by saying that the undocumented Central American children should be deported. She may have been trying to appeal to more conservative Democratic voters by taking a harder line on immigration than Sanders. Clinton is now backpedaling on that issue, but still needs to do a lot of work in the Latino community to mend fences, since many found her response to be cold.
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It is truly inspiring to see how Sanders has fired up a whole generation of student activists. They believe his message about creating positive, revolutionary change. The thousands of students who eagerly show up to listen to his fiery speeches love hearing him speak truth to power. Can that enthusiasm take hold among people of color, who still tell pollsters they prefer Clinton by a wide margin?
On a recent conference call, Sanders’ top campaign strategists said that the campaign is investing millions upon millions of dollars in outreach to the Latino community. But we need to see more Latinos hired to work on his campaign.
A recent field poll found that 35 percent of California Latino voters support Bernie Sanders. That’s an important statistic, because Latinos are a growing voting demographic, adding 1.5 million voters between 2008 and 2012.
The Democratic Party, which has been unable to deliver broad, comprehensive immigration reform to help bring 12 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, cannot take the Latino vote for granted.