Even avowed Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is not immune from claims that he represents “white privilege” and perpetuates “white supremacy,” despite his progressive bona fides.
A writer for the San Francisco Chronicle noted, over the weekend, that Sanders’ decision to show up to President Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony in a standard parka coat, dress slacks, and a pair of oversized sweater-print mittens — an ensemble that launched a million memes — is emblematic of the Vermont Senator’s inability to connect with minorities.
“We’ve been studying diversity and discrimination in the United States; my students were ready. What did they see? They saw a white man in a puffy jacket and huge mittens, distant not only in his social distancing, but in his demeanor and attire,” University of California-Berkeley professor Ingrid Seyer-Ochi wrote.
“A wealthy, incredibly well-educated and -privileged white man, showing up for perhaps the most important ritual of the decade, in a puffy jacket and huge mittens,” she added.
In Sanders’ defense, he shows up to nearly every event — even ones associated with his own presidential campaign — clad in the same $200 Burton Edgecomb down parka. He makes no exceptions, even for his former rival, Joe Biden.
He’s also reportedly responsible for starting a high fashion trend with the iconic appearance — “grumpy chic” — and, by selling his own meme merchandise, raised nearly $2 million for the underprivileged in Vermont.
Seyer-Ochi, though, saw Sanders’ appearance as an insult, and while she draws a distinction between Sanders and the rioters who attacked the United States Capitol on January 6th, it’s a distinction, she says, without a difference.
“Sen. Sanders is no white supremacist insurrectionist,” she wrote. “But he manifests privilege, white privilege, male privilege and class privilege, in ways that my students could see and feel.”
“I don’t know many poor, or working class, or female, or struggling-to-be-taken-seriously folk who would show up at the inauguration of our 46th president dressed like Bernie,” she concludes.
Sanders, of course, is a socialist — a label he gives himself — and it’s likely that he would eschew dressing in an expensive suit, largely because the idea is frivolous. It’s possible his most dedicated followers would find fault with the very idea; certainly his fellow socialists, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have made headlines when donning expensive suits while claiming to represent the interests of the working poor.
In a year when poverty spiked more than it has in decades, Democrats were out in force in designer attire for Biden’s swearing in.
Michelle Obama’s silk mask by designer Christy Rilling cost a cool $45. Elements of her couture Sergio Hudson ensemble retail for between $400 and $1000. Her coat retails for more than Americans received in their December COVID-19 stimulus check.
Obama’s outfit should be considered a dollop of perfection, per Seyer-Ochi.
“We talked about gender and the possible meanings of the attire chosen by Vice President Kamala Harris, Dr. Jill Biden, the Biden grandchildren, Michelle Obama, Amanda Gorman and others,” she said of her class. “We referenced the female warriors inspiring these women, the colors of their educational degrees and their monochromatic ensembles of pure power.”
Bernie, however, needs to try harder. “When you see privilege, you know it,” she wrote.