‘In the African–American culture, nonverbal communication and body language is huge….’
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) In a Washington Post article, Sen. Bernie Sanders‘s campaign officials said that the democratic socialist—who, in late February, looked poised to glide to the Democratic Party presidential nomination—fell so far behind former Vice President Joe Biden because he ignored black Americans.
Coming off two primary victories in New Hampshire and Nevada, as well as a virtual tie in Iowa, Sanders was confident, but staff members in South Carolina were wary about the campaign’s future.
“I knew that our campaign had not done the work it needed to do,” Donald Gilliard, South Carolina’s deputy state political director, said.
He worried that Sanders’s campaign was excessively “geared toward white progressives,” and that he was not appealing to black Americans.
Mal Hyman, a Sanders surrogate in South Carolina, feared the same problem.
“We knew we were vulnerable,” he said.
Before the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29, the Democratic Party establishment, which had been hesitant to throw their support before the ailing vice president, suddenly flooded Biden’s campaign with endorsements.
The full-scale campaign to defeat Sanders succeeded, and he lost South Carolina by 28 points.
While Sanders’s campaign focuses on class conflict—millionaires and billionaires versus the people—Biden focused more on America’s racial divide.
A South Carolina representative who worked for Sanders’s campaign said the senator’s mannerisms may have turned away black voters.
“I think the distinguishing attitude for Sanders, that you didn’t see associated with Biden, was an angry white man,” Ivory Thigpen said. “In the African–American culture, nonverbal communication and body language is huge.”
Nina Turner, a national co-chair for the Sanders campaign, said Biden’s popularity allowed him to direct more of his campaign’s attention to South Carolina, while Sanders had to build support throughout the country.
Thigpen suggested that Sanders’s campaign simply failed to grasp the how overwhelming the support among African American voters would be for Biden.
“It kind of seems like an underestimation,” he said. “Not only of how important the African–American vote was, but how much it was going to be a bellwether and an indicator to other African–American populations in other states.”