Blackouts, Blacks and Bernie

David Levitt
6 min readFeb 29, 2020

Black voters are surmounting media Blackouts and discovering Bernie. Are they poised to burn through Southern and senior firewalls?

In January I asked if anyone had a theory of why polls said black voters in the South prefer a candidate named Joe who fought busing, led mass incarceration, cursed welfare mothers’ “luxury cars” and championed endless wars. Was it mainly the Obama connection? Every answer seemed insulting, depressing and implausible.

Now that the Bernie Blackout in media is better understood, it’s clear a major factor was: that blackout has been even more successful in the South and lasted longer — in fact, it has continued this month in ways that will effect South Carolina voters in today’s primary.

There are so many wild factors now, the race is harder to predict. The recent expected order has been:

Biden: Establishment pick, Obama, Clyburn endorsement, dementia
Sanders: Young, Black, Workers
Steyer: Economic Development ($20M in SC, strategic $ in Oakland…)
Bloomberg: not on SC ballot, amid $0.5B ads and party payoffs to stop Bernie
Warren: $10M secretly funded SuperPAC ads she swore she’d never take
Buttgieg and Klobuchar openly cancel each other

Voters of color have a natural affinity for a lifelong champion of civil rights, workers and people in poverty. Much of Sanders’ recent surge owes to voters of color who’ve finally discovered him.

Simply put, apparently the now well-documented six month Bernie Blackout was even more successful in the South than in the rest of the country.

Black viewers watching the Shondaland network ABC (Black-ish, How to Get Away with Murder, etc.) would be lucky to see any mention of Bernie. ABC News covered Sanders for just 7 minutes all year through September 2019.

This absurdly biased coverage by Disney-owned ABC couldn’t possibly have anything to do with Bernie’s attacks on corporate greed, or his successful 2018 campaign to lift Disneyland workers out of poverty and homelessness — by shaming their employer into paying them $15 an hour.

So, Obama voters and southern viewers knew Biden’s name well, but had barely heard about Bernie until his heart attack in October — something even blackout enforcers were eager to report.

The regional aspect remains a bit puzzling. Outside the south, black voters have understood Bernie has their back from the beginning.

To a degree, information blackouts, censorship and propaganda effect marginalized communities more — much as flood, pollution, disease and weather crises often do. While MSNBC, CNN, ABC, NYT, WAPO and Fox were all selling the same story for six months — that Bernie isn’t quite running — how many in South Carolina learned who he is from Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, Ryan Grim in The Intercept, or Black Agenda Report? On local media? Perhaps a relatively educated, affluent skew. Some discovered Krystal Ball’s sudden bestseller The Populist’s Guide to 2020, and her Rising radar on HillTV and that, almost uniquely, offers sound analysis, well reasoned predictions, and fair treatment of all the candidates including Bernie.

And even as Bernie emerged as frontrunner and the Blackout appeared over in most of the country, we see below that in South Carolina it was still operating in Kafkaesque proportions.

Corporate Networks Still Hide Bernie, Push Biden in SC Race
Astonishingly, ABC News was continuing the Bernie Blackout in South Carolina less than two weeks ago! As he gains on Biden in second place, he isn’t mentioned once! — as if ABC can get last year’s 7 minutes of coverage down to 0 seconds in 2020 even as he’s the frontrunner.

Biden crashing, every other candidate is mentioned but the rising runner up. Raddatz even falsely suggests Steyer is in second place. Steyer’s flak even lists all the candidates disqualified against black voters by their records, saying there are none left. The lifelong civil rights candidate actually right behind Biden must never be named. Frontrunner be damned, the #BernieBlackout remains crucial to the southern strategy.

Meanwhile MSNBC and the NYT say Biden had a great week and good prospects, especially with the very significant Congressman Clyburn endorsement.

So I’m going to go out on a limb and remember that MNSBC is almost always wrong about the establishment’s imminent wins.

I’m not kidding about Biden’s dementia. He picks fights with voters, insults them and tells them to vote for someone else, claims he’s running for Senator. Stunningly, his fabrications and gaffes are so commonplace they’re not even news anymore — in ways that briefly mitigate the latest damage to a laughable brand. Here’s his handler, spinning Joe’s fabrications as folksy on Nevada election day while spinning Joe’s only second place finish as a win.

The idea that black voters in South Carolina can’t see this — or will overlook it because of tradition or a connection with Obama — seems insulting and racist.

Between all that and then his four ‘moderate’ rivals — half of them billionaires and another newly minted PAC millionaire — one would think Joe’s lead must be more shrunk than ever.

Warren’s Corrupting Hail Mary
In short, the only thing keeping Bernie from a first place in SC with Youth, Labor and People of Color may be Elizabeth Warren’s persistence as the Establishment Progressive. She self-destructed in January, reduced her support permanently by half, and won’t come close to beating Bernie in her home state of Massachusetts. Still, her recent debate and other performances — and her new willingness to accept SuperPAC money — let her continue to siphon 1/3 of his progressive supporters in hope Superdelegates will anoint her later if she stays in the race.

But the PAC money, the evasions about her superdelegate strategy, the revolting gender pandering that smells of Hillary — these all damage Liz’s brand far more than Joe’s familiar dementia hurts his. By now she only appeals to “anyone but Bernie progressives”, a shrinking group.

Bottom line: in just the past week, South Carolina has seen that people of color in Nevada voted overwhelmingly: for universal health care with no insurance premiums, aggressive action on climate change, and education without debt — by supporting a progressive jewish socialist that The Party — The Bipartisan Establishment — The Man — doesn’t want us to be able to choose. And thanks to them, he’s winning nationwide and in the swing states in every poll.

He’ll also need to make new headway with older voters, and has found an ideal way to do it for boomer-and-beyonds:

Blacks in the South have been at the brunt of US racism for hundreds of years. They’re betrayed almost every election, one way or another. Their votes are aggressively suppressed in every state with a Republican governor or legislature. They know firsthand that a win by a now openly white supremacist party must be avoided at all costs. But they’re being told that a familiar face with a popular black friend who likes to meet white supremacists halfway is their only hope.

Pundits impressed with Rep Clyburn’s endorsement think Joe will win by 15 points — falling only halfway from his original 31 point lead will be considered a tremendous success. I have less respect for MSNBC and the NYT’s predictions, and more for the independent minds of black voters.

My black friends from South Carolina are voting Bernie.

Though southern black voters’ reputation is notoriously complacent and compliant, as of last week this brand new message, the Arizona example, a new permission not entirely unlike Harriet Tubman’s revolution will be berning a hole through Biden’s seemingly insurmountable southern and senior firewalls.



David Levitt

computer, media and political scientist, writer, physicist, pianist, satirist, MIT ScD, Yale BS, augmented reality innovator and CEO of Pantomime Corporation