Bernie Sanders attacks Democrat focus on ‘gay, black, Latino’ candidates

US Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a news conference on prescription drugs January 10, 2019 at the Capitol in Washington, DC.

US Senator Bernie Sanders has criticised a drive for diversity within the Democratic Party.

The left-wing independent is reportedly planning to seek the Democratic nomination for president again in 2020, but media attention on the race has so far largely focused on younger Democrats such as Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke.

This week, Sanders—who lost out to Hillary Clinton in 2016—gave an interview to GQ in which he criticised identity politics and a move towards championing diversity in the party.

Bernie Sanders: Focus on ‘progressive agenda’

In the interview, he said: “There are people who are very big into diversity but whose views end up being not particularly sympathetic to working people, whether they’re white or black or Latino.

“My main belief is that we need to bring together a coalition of people—of black and white and Latino and Asian-American and Native-American—around a progressive agenda which is prepared to take on an extraordinarily powerful ruling class in this country.

“That is my view. Many of my opponents do not hold that view, and they think that all that we need is people who are candidates who are black or white, who are black or Latino or woman or gay, regardless of what they stand for, that the end result is diversity.”

Senator Bernie Sanders claps with a song during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Dome event on January 21, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina.

Senator Bernie Sanders claps with a song during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Dome event on January 21, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Sean Rayford/Getty)

Sanders added that while “diversity is enormously important,” the bigger goal is “to change society and create an economy and a government that work for all people.”

November’s midterm elections saw a record number of LGBT+ Democrats, women and people of colour elected to Congress.

Bernie Sanders was criticised in 2016 for lack of minority voter outreach

The comments are unlikely to do favours for Sanders, who won little support from African-American Democrats in 2016 and faced criticism for failing to reach out to minority voters.

Sanders also criticised “establishment” LGBT+ rights groups who endorsed Clinton’s plan on LGBT+ issues in January 2016.

The Sanders campaign accused groups including Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood of being “establishment organisations voting for the establishment candidate.”

Critics pointed out that Clinton’s detailed plan included 24 specific pledges across LGBT+ policy areas, while the Sanders campaign listed just seven LGBT+ policy points, omitting many of Clinton’s proposals.

Clinton responded: “Really Senator Sanders? How can you say that groups like @PPact and @HRC are part of the ‘establishment’ you’re taking on?”

Sanders was also criticised by leading HIV/AIDS campaigners during the primaries, after the senator met with activists and immediately put a press release incorrectly inferring they supported his policy plan.