Bernie Sanders Will Never Not Be Jewish
The media continues to lament the lack of diversity in the primary race, ignoring the fact that Sanders is Jewish American
Of all the words that have been spoken and the ink that’s been spilled over Bernie Sanders’ Jewishness, nothing quite encapsulates his identity like a Saturday Night Live skit from 2016. In it, Sanders plays an immigrant aboard a ship to America; Larry David (whose own impersonation of Sanders has drawn plenty of praise) plays another, wealthier passenger.
“Who are you?” asks David’s character.
“I am Bernie Sanderswitzky,” Sanders replies. “But we’re gonna change it when we get to America, so it doesn’t sound quite so Jewish.”
“Yeah, that’ll trick them,” David says coyly.
The joke is clear: No matter how much distance he can try to put between himself and his Jewish heritage, Sanders’ voice and mannerisms immediately reveal his identity. So why do so many on the left continue to either discount or ignore it?
Following Elizabeth Warren’s departure from the presidential primary, BuzzFeed reporter Molly Hensley-Clancy wrote that her exit “leaves the presidential race primarily between two old white men.” At the Washington Post, opinion columnist Kathleen Parker noted that “now all we have to choose between are two septuagenarian white men.” The New Yorker’s Eric Lach wrote that “the Democratic Party has done a giant backflip this past year, ending where it started, as a battle between Sanders and Biden, two old white men with contrary cases to make for what the Democratic Party needs to do to beat Trump — and what the country needs in its next President.” In CNN, Jeff Yang reiterated this, writing, “the most broadly diverse Democratic candidate field in history has boiled down, once again, to two old, heterosexual white men.” Not a single one of these pieces acknowledges that Sanders is Jewish.
Part of the reason for this erasure is by Sanders’ own design: Throughout his political career, he’s avoided talking about his Jewish upbringing. In 2015, Sanders said, “I’m proud to be Jewish. I’m not particularly religious.” A New York Times headline from February 2016 reads: “Bernie Sanders Is Jewish, but He…