March 29, 2016 (San Diego) The weekend returns from Washington, Alaska and Hawaii had an unexpected side effect. I am not quite sure what will the the ultimate effect of this media gaffe, but the anger was palpable on social media. The first major gaffe, though we understand it having covered elections, major media turned away from the Hawaii returns. The only source of information for over 6 hours was a volunteer maintained Google spreadsheet.
Major media outlets went back to theirs programming. This led to a lot of conspiracy theories and overall nervousness. There were demands that media cover this. It got to the point that users of Twitter actually concluded that the major news services were not needed. Citizen journalists were doing this just fine. The media could have saved the embarrassment of getting “scooped” by citizen journalists by explaining what was going on?
So who was to blame? To be brutally honest, that was the Hawaii Democratic Party. They were doing the count, and they kept delaying the release to the point that I went to bed concluding from the citizen reporting that Bernie Sanders carried the state by very large margins. I even sort of called it, knowing full well the data was far from official. It turned out to be extremely accurate. Major media could have saved itself the embarrassment by explaining this to people. We have had similar incidents in San Diego, and working media is usually just as frustrated as our readers. There is a major different though. Since Hawaii was a caucus state, people could post results on the Twitter. We quite do not have that happen in California. But if we go silent and take a while to report, I will make sure to post who we are waiting for, the Registrar. Media cannot report truly on a google database (as reliable as if has been this year) but media should have broken away from Prison shows and The Life of Jesus to explain this to viewers. Major media added to the many conspiracy theories out there.
That said, some of us working journalists did turn on to Twitter, read the returns, took notes, and were (almost) ready to call it before going to bed. We are thankful to the citizen journalists who report on this and give us a pretty good idea of where things were going.
Senator Sanders won by very large margins. This went against a media (and we suspect campaign made up meme) people of color do not vote for Sanders. The only ones who like him are young, white and very privileged college students. It is time to unpack this, because this felt like a lead balloon on social media. #Berniemademewhite is but one of the many hashtags that emerged on Twitter to fight this. First off, if the media and the campaign only meant African Americans, they got a point. But to call Hawaii a white state was the breaking point.
Hawaii is one of the most varied states in the Union. They have never had a white majority. They are a minority majority state. The fall back after this fell like a lead balloon was, “Hawaii is not like the rest of the United States,” meaning they are the other.
Alaska has a very large First People voting block. Again this is not a white state, there are whiter states that have already voted. While Washington is close to that characterization, the Sanders campaign had an extensive reach out of the tribes. The message that is increasingly being sent is quite clear, and alienating. If you are not part of one minority you do not count. As many of the posters who also happen to be African American, and Sanders supporters as well, they also feel ignored and alienated.
This is a very dangerous game. Ignoring people of color because they do not vote the right way is well, racist. This is in some ways a continuation of the campaign tactics deployed in 2008 against then Senator Barack Obama. This is a variation of the Southern Strategy, one that is also ignoring, or worst insulting, women who do not vote the “right way.”
What we saw over the weekend was anger, real anger, on social media. People are no longer taking this lying down and their words are magnified by social media. What is worst, a campaign staffer doubled down on Hawaii being a white state. This is the height of tone deafness that is almost inexcusable.
Who started this twitter storm? Well that was Katie Halper, a comedian (of color) who was born in Brooklyn and now lives in Japan. He got tired of being ignored by the campaign and the feed is still going strong. This is according to reporting by Raw Story.
And this is a photo of himself posted on Twitter.
Why does any of this matters? In an age when a statement can be amplified in social media, ignoring whole swaths of people by both the mainstream media and the Clinton campaign will sooner or later, backfire. We cannot say what will be the effect of this in the voting booth. What we can say is that there is anger out there. The anger is real, and people are still writing about this. It will be superseded next week when the state of Wisconsin goes to the polls. But as my more cynical side put it. If California should break for Bernie Sanders, assuming the primary even mattes, am afraid California will become a very white and rural state.
Look on the bright side, we have some beautiful wilderness.
Edited to add this from Ian Sams position in the Clinton campaign
Ian Sams @IanSams Mar 28
@ZaidJilani i did not tweet that. just pointed out it was 2.5% Black.
deleted it because i was wrong; HI is US’s most diverse. can admit it.