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Sanders Chides Democrats for Emphasizing Race, Gender Over Economy

Bernie Sanders has a message to the Democratic Party — if it wants to win elections in the future, stop fixating on the gender and race of candidates and instead focus on their economic platform.

“It goes without saying that as we fight to end all forms of discrimination, as we fight to bring more and more women into the political process, Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans — all of that is enormously important, and count me in as someone who wants to see that happen,” he said to a crowd at a Boston bookstore Sunday night, where he was promoting his new manifesto “Our Revolution. “But it is not good enough for someone to stand up and say, ‘Hey, I’m a Latina, vote for me.’ That is not good enough. I have to know whether that Latina is going to stand up with the working class of this country, and is going to take on big money interests.”

Some interpreted the Vermont senator’s comments as a post-election riposte to Hillary Clinton’s invocation of race and gender issues in the primary — a critical part of her strategy to win that contest against Sanders. This included repeated insinuations from the candidate and her camp that Sanders was sexist and that women who voted for him were traitors to their gender.

“I haven’t been shouting, but sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think it’s shouting,” Clinton said at an October dinner in Iowa, a veiled barb on Sanders for saying that leaders needed to cease “shouting” about gun control and instead work together to develop solutions based on consensus.

Meanwhile, Clinton backers like feminist Gloria Steinem and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright offered sharp words to the millennial women who flocked to Sanders in droves. Steinem told Bill Maher in January that women who voted for Sanders were doing so because “the boys are with Bernie.” Albright said at a Clinton rally that same month that there was “a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Both later apologized for those remarks.

Sanders has won higher stature among some in the Democratic Party since Trump’s victory, which seemed to vindicate many of the Vermont senator’s criticisms against Clinton and spurred chatter that he might have been a better general election candidate.

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer last week appointed Sanders to a leadership post among the chamber’s Democrats. There have also been whispers that he could mount a second presidential bid four years from now, by which time he will almost be an octogenarian.

Sanders has consistently sounded the same message of economic populism on his book tour. “The Democratic Party cannot continue to be run by what I call a liberal elite, he told Stephen Colbert on the Tonight Show last week on Monday. “The party has to transform itself to be a party that, first of all, opens the door, that is a party that feels the pain of working class people, middle class people, young, old people.”

Contact Daniel J. Solomon at solomon@forward.com or on Twitter @DanielJSolomon

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