Darrick Hamilton: Economic Rights Wins Out Over Catchy Slogans and Smiles

In his concession speech for his third-place finish in the Nevada Democratic caucus, the former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, said that the frontrunner, Senator Bernie Sanders “…believes in an inflexible, ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to mention most Americans.”

What Mayor Pete referred to as “ideological revolution” can be more specifically defined as a political revolution to foster economic rights; like the right to a clean environment, the right to housing, health care, and a quality public education from grade school through college without the financial albatross of student debt.

The former mayor characterizing the senator’s sentiment as “leaving out most Democrats…” is both ironic and inaccurate. It does the opposite, an economic rights agenda ensures that all Americans have an adequate quality and quantity of these essential goods that we all need to thrive.

Buttigieg made these comments in concession to a blowout victory, which precisely exhibited a broad coalition of voters in a diverse state. According to the CNN caucus entrance polls Sanders won in almost every demographic, social and political voting category – ranging from gender, race, age, education, union membership, to a question asking should Democrats nominate someone who agrees with you on the issues, or can beat trump. Former Vice President Joe Biden led with Black voters and voters over 65. However, in comparison to Buttigieg, who did not emerge victorious in any category, Sanders earned a full 31 percentage points more Hispanic votes and 25 percentage points more Black votes – with Buttigieg garnering only 2 percent of Nevada Black caucus voters.

This prompted the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio to troll Buttigieg with the following tweet:

And hey @PeteButtigieg, try to not be so smug when you just got your ass kicked. You know how we form a winning coalition to beat Trump? With a true multi-racial coalition of working Americans: something @BernieSanders has proven he can do + you haven’t. Dude, show some humility

— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) February 23, 2020

Buttigieg has a pattern of using catchy slogans rather than focusing on the clarity and substance of the issues, like his rebuttal to “Medicare for All” with “Medicare for All Who Want It.” What does that mean? Does it mean Obamacare with a public option? If so, then the mayor should simply say so? Medicare for All is a single payer health insurance plan that utilizes universal risk pooling to reduce net costs and improve net quality, and it is a sleight of hand for anything without universal risk pooling to be referred to as Medicare for All.

Like the voters in Nevada, I hope that the remaining primary voters will focus on the substance of the candidates’ integrity, values and policies, and not be seduced by catchy slogans and smiles.

About the Author

Darrick Hamilton is a pioneer and internationally recognized scholar in the field of stratification economics, which fuses social science methods to examine the causes, consequences and remedies of racial, gender, ethnic, tribal, nativity, etc. inequality in education, economic and health outcomes. This work involves crafting and implementing innovative routes and policies that break down social hierarchy, empower people, and move society towards greater equity, inclusion, and civic participation.