Sanders in Michigan
One summer, I was one of four white college boys working as summer interns for the Corps of Engineers in Maryland. Most of our coworkers were white folk, but one engineer was Asian and one secretary was African-American. We had a very dignified lady for a boss, who treated us well. A lot of good ol’ boys from other departments would wander in with jokes or stories or just to shoot the breeze. We were taken aback when some hound dog joked about making our boss mother of the year if she’d only let him. She was an attractive woman, but they were both married, and not to each other. She would just smile, and though I was embarrassed for her, she simply knew better than to make a fuss. And I guess I did, too.
The four of us were young and eager, and glad to have jobs during stagflation, but one engineer did almost no work at all. In the morning, he would read the Post and some congressional minutes publication, and clip out the articles he liked and put them into a scrapbook. At lunchtime sometimes he and I would play Go. After lunch he dozed off. He would get very put out when the boss lady would ask what he had accomplished. He got so annoyed that he showed her by transferring out, and used to sing, “there’ll be some changes made,” during his last two weeks. The guy next to him read the Sports page in the morning, but seemed to work the rest of the day.
One secretary, or Clerk/Typist, was pretty, younger than us, and already married. She was a good worker, but one day she went with us to the Ale House for lunch. She got tipsy, started laughing, then started crying in the car – a Pacer, sheesh – that she’d be fired for being drunk at work. We formed a scrum around her to get her back to her desk, and it all worked out. The other secretary was a middle-aged black woman. She was always very calm, and once was when I was worrying about getting something done, she told me don’t work too hard today, or you might not have something to do tomorrow. She was dead serious. I couldn’t grok that then.
One day we young guys were all talking about the election. Despite being shot in 1972, George Wallace was once again in the Democratic race. He had been born again, and had disavowed his segregationist past, but was still against busing. We didn’t think he had a chance, but the black secretary piped up to say she was voting for Wallace. Four jaws almost hit the vinyl asbestos tile. We couldn’t believe that any black person would vote for Wallace, but she said she knew all about him, and said what she knew she could expect from him was better than what she could expect from people she didn’t know.
Governor George Wallace ran for President as a Democrat in 1964, and made some noise in the primary.
He was a third party candidate in 1968. He was a very strong factor among North and South white working class voters for a while, but eventually mostly hurt Humphrey in the South. He didn’t get many non-white votes because they voted Democrat.
He renounced segregation before entering the 1972 Democratic race, and was doing very well, and may have been a power broker but was shot and paralyzed by a man seeking fame.
In the summer of 1975, we all knew Wallace was going to run for President as a Democrat again. My secretary friend may well have heard of Wallace’s born-again status at her church. She may have been aware that Jerry Brown was the young governor of California, but I doubt she thought of him as a Democratic heavyweight. She may well not have heard of Governor Jimmy Carter, who went unrecognized on What’s My Line? in 1974, and entered the primary race in 1976.
So as a loyal Democrat, (and to our astonishment) she was prepared to ignore Wallace’s past, and vote the party line. In return, she expected that he and the party would take care of her interests. But Wallace was not much of a factor in 1976, so I assume she voted for Carter, as did I. I wouldn’t have voted for Wallace, but she would have.
Doug Johnson Hatlem had an article, Bernie’s Narrow Path to Victory: a Statistical Analysis, on Counterpunch a few days ago. I posted it to Facebook, but after the almost dead heat this weekend, I think the key paragraph is here:
Michigan (March 8th), Illinois and Ohio (March 15), and Pennsylvania (April 26) may well be the deciding factor in whether Sanders can survive the lead built by Clinton with the Southern Firewall. Each of the states has a black population roughly equivalent to the U.S.’s overall black population of 12-13% and Michigan and Illinois also have Latino populations which qualify it for The Latino Gauntlet (11 of the top 20 Latino states by population that vote within a single month during the primary and caucus cycle in 2016). I am projecting that Sanders needs to win these states by an average of 15% to have a chance at the nomination.
… The Sanders campaign has bet big on Illinois and Michigan showing a different face of the African American community. We simply have no idea if a 15% average win in these states is possible as no voting has taken place in similar states yet and polling is virtually non-existent in three of the four states. …
Despite her neoliberal record, black voters know Hillary and seem to be satisfied with what they can expect from her. FiveThirtyEight has Clinton winning 60% in Michigan, but that is all based on polls. Sanders has to hope that his campaigning has given Michigan’s black voters a reason to trust him, too.