Luxury’s Chess Masters Prepare for a New Game

A series of strategic shifts in the boardrooms and back rooms of the world’s biggest luxury groups — LVMH, Kering and Richemont — has been underway in recent months.

A Gucci store in Paris.CreditCharles Platiau/Reuters

On a sunny day earlier this month, scores of suited men and women found themselves in a low-rise building on the outskirts of Florence, Italy, walking by bright hand-painted murals of birds of paradise, wildflowers and dreamy-eyed women wearing turbans, T-shirts and rhinestone-encrusted sunglasses.

The location? The new Gucci ArtLab. The occasion? An investor day for Kering, Gucci’s parent company, with Marco Bizzarri, the chief executive of Gucci, taking on a starring role in front of the assembled crowd. His topic: A master plan to make Gucci the largest luxury brand in the world.

“It’s not a question of if,” he said, “but when.”

The brand had just posted record annual sales of 6.2 billion euros, or about $7.1 billion, in 2017, a 45 percent increase from the prior year. Now it planned to reach €10 billion in annual sales and a 40 percent operating margin by 2019.

To do so, Kering, which has holdings in fine jewelry and watches as well as fashion, confirmed a wider strategy already underway to narrow its focus to five of its premium houses: Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and Bottega Veneta.

The implications of such a shift are becoming increasingly clear. They reflect not only a strategic housecleaning at Kering, but also the quiet reorganizations that have been taking place at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Richemont, as the world’s three biggest luxury groups prepare for what may be a new stage of acquisitions and consolidation.

“This moment signals the end of an important chapter for Kering,” said Thomas Chauvet, head of European luxury goods equity research for Citibank. “After almost 30 years of asset rotations and churning through their portfolio, they have reinvented themselves as a pure luxury player.”

This change in focus has expressed itself in a flurry of hirings, firings and asset disposals over the first part of this year, as Kering reorients its focus away from small and midlevel brand acquisitions — “they have realized these brands need a lot of help and do not move the profit needle at all,” said Mr. Chauvet — and toward their Big Five.

The designer Stella McCartney at her men’s spring 2019 show in Milan.CreditLuca Bruno/Associated Press

These moves followed the divestiture of Sergio Rossi in 2015, and, analysts said, suggest that Brioni, the Italian men’s wear brand, and Altuzarra, the American women’s wear brand in which Kering has a minority stake, might well be next.

“I see it likely that these moves may be a preamble to more meaningful luxury-focused M&A down the road,” Luca Solca, head of luxury goods research at Exane BNP Paribas, wrote in an email, referring to the Kane, Maier and McCartney news.

The designer Tomas Maier at the Bottega Veneta fall 2016 women’s show in Milan.CreditAlessandro Garofalo/Reuters
Dior Men, spring 2019.CreditValerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

Then, in June, Antoine Arnault, 41, Mr. Arnault’s eldest son and Berluti’s chief executive, was given the added responsibility of LVMH head of communications and image, reflecting an increased level of external scrutiny on the market leader. And earlier this week, the group also confirmed that LVMH was divesting itself of a minority stake in Edun, the eco-friendly fashion label started by the singer Bono and his wife Ali Hewson.

The moves have increased speculation about avenues for growth.

“As an investor, if you buy Kering right now, you are basically buying Gucci and a fundamentally fashion-focused stock which is more prone to cyclical ups and downs: It remains a risk for investors worried about putting all their eggs in one basket,” said Erwan Rambourg, global co-head of consumer and retail research at HSBC. “If you buy LVMH, you get a buy into a much more balanced and diversified portfolio with a greater spread across product categories.”

François-Henri Pinault, Kering’s chief executive, at the group’s general meeting in Paris in April.CreditEric Piermont/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hence the belief in the market that, although the Kering group share price has grown by more than 35 percent this year, its chief executive, François-Henri Pinault, could now be looking for bigger luxury assets with which to capture investor interest, bolstered by recent changes to the French tax code that have improved flexibility around corporate deal making.

Kering declined to comment on its plans, but Mr. Chauvet of Citibank said: “Gucci will account for over 70 percent of group operating profit in 2018, and there will be some desire to rebalance the portfolio away from Gucci” — whether that is by bolstering performance and investment in other brands, or by “deliberately bringing another brand that is more sizable than in the past to the platform.”

In March, Exane BNP Paribas published a report looking at the possibility of a merger between Richemont and Kering, asking, “Why separate Puma just now? Why push Gucci so hard? Why secure control of YNAP (Yoox Net-a-Porter)?” and noting “Richemont and Kering are complementary: Kering is strong in soft luxury, Richemont is a champion in hard luxury. The combination would create significant scale advantage.”

The suggestion has been firmly rebuffed by both groups.

Still, after a rocky few years, the global luxury market has regained its luster. Buoyant results, bolstered by strong demand in China, have not only boosted bottom lines but contributed to a cash buildup waiting to be deployed. Kering appears to be readying itself to lead that charge.

If You Want to Be Speaker, Mr. Crowley, Don’t Take Voters for Granted

When asking New Yorkers for their vote, most candidates would begin by showing up.

Not Representative Joseph Crowley. No, Mr. Crowley, a 10-term Democratic congressman who reportedly has ambitions of serving as House speaker, chose to skip a debate Monday night with his primary challenger, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He sent a surrogate instead, former City Councilwoman Annabel Palma.

This is the second primary debate in which Mr. Crowley was a no-show. A spokeswoman for Mr. Crowley said he had scheduling conflicts that wouldn’t allow him to attend the two debates, inevitably leaving voters to wonder — what are we, chopped liver?

Joseph Crowley sent a surrogate, former City Councilwoman Annabel Palma, left, to debate his primary challenger, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.CreditSheikh Musa Drammeh/Parkchester Times

Indeed, the snubs should be galling not only to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Mr. Crowley’s constituents in New York’s 14th Congressional District, in Queens and the Bronx, but also to anyone who cares about the democratic process.

Teenager Threatened to Murder Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, U.S. Says

A 19-year-old Maryland man has been indicted on charges that he threatened to murder two high-profile liberal senators — Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Kamala Harris of California — and to injure marchers at a gun control rally in Washington earlier this year.

The man, Nicholas Bukoski of Anne Arundel County, faces five felony counts: two for the alleged threats against Mr. Sanders, an independent, and Ms. Harris, a Democrat; and three that charge him with transmitting threats via interstate commerce.

In the indictment — which a federal grand jury returned on April 11 but was released only Wednesday — specifics were sparse. But a memorandum filed by a federal prosecutor on Wednesday, which requested that the court order the pretrial detention of Mr. Bukoski, detailed the alleged threats.

Mr. Bukoski, who faces robbery charges in an earlier unrelated episode, is suspected of sending Instagram messages to the offices of Senators Sanders and Harris on March 24, the day of the March for Our Lives rally, immediately before texting the Metropolitan Police Department tip line in Washington.

Nicholas Bukoski, 19, faces five felony counts.CreditAnne Arundel County Police Department

“Senator, I would watch your back as you’re out today,” read an Instagram message to Mr. Sanders’s office. “You wouldn’t want to be caught off guard when I use my second amendment protected firearm to rid the world of you, you stupid, crazy old fool.”

Two minutes later, according to the memorandum, an Instagram message was sent to Ms. Harris’s office. It used a profane and sexist slur, then added, “I am going to make sure you and your radical lefty friends never get back in power you will never run for president, because you won’t make it to see that day.”

The third communication was a text message to the Police Department’s text tip line: “I am intending to send the message that gun control, bomb control, or any other kind of weapons control will not stop attacks, it is an issue of the heart.”

“My heart is messed up and evil, and part of me wants to see people suffer, goddammit,” it read. “Anyway, good luck and Godspeed finding my presents. This will be my only message.”

Senator Kamala Harris in February.CreditJenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times

That text prompted the police to immediately determine who sent it, which led them that day to Mr. Bukoski’s home, about 30 miles from Washington.

His father allowed police to enter, and the defendant, who appeared nervous, according to the memo, told the officers that he had studied “police tactics” and asked if the “bomb squad was coming.”

At that time, Mr. Bukoski was handcuffed and taken to the Anne Arundel Medical Center for emergency evaluation. The memo said that while there, he admitted to sending the threats, among others, and stated that “he was frustrated with liberals and very supportive of the current president.”

The defendant said he did not have access to a firearm because his “parents won’t purchase a firearm based on his history and the strict gun laws in Maryland,” and said that he “probably won’t be able to get one,” the memo said.

Senator Bernie Sanders in May.CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

“I don’t want to kill people unless I absolutely need to,” the defendant reportedly said.

Mr. Bukoski appeared in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday and will remain in federal custody pending further proceedings, said Bill Miller, a spokesman for the United States attorney’s office in Washington. Another court date had not been set, Mr. Miller said on Wednesday.

A call and email to Mr. Bukoski’s lawyer was not immediately returned on Wednesday. Attempts to reach his parents were unsuccessful.

Representatives for Mr. Sanders and Ms. Harris declined to comment on Wednesday.

On March 24, Mr. Bukoski’s father gave consent to the police to search the family’s home as well as the laptop and cellphone used by his son. He also gave the officers two journals written by his son.

Preliminary examination of the cellphone indicated that that day, the defendant had looked up how to contact Mr. Sanders and the Police Department tip line, as well as a Wikipedia page entitled “Threatening government officials of the United States.”

He had also visited websites about murders, serial killers and murders of police officers, the memo said.

On April 9, Mr. Bukoski was arrested on armed robbery charges in Anne Arundel County in connection with a Jan. 11 knifepoint robbery at a 7-Eleven convenience store. He is scheduled for a jury trial in that case on Sept. 6.

Alain Delaqueriere contributed research.

Bernard Lewis, Influential Scholar of Islam, Is Dead at 101

“One had to get to the heart of the matter in the Middle East,” he said.

‘Clash of Civilizations’

Mr. Lewis had long propounded his diagnosis of a sick Arab society. In a landmark article in The Atlantic in 1990, “ The Roots of Muslim Rage,” he used the phrase “clash of civilizations” to describe what he saw as inevitable friction between the Islamic world and the modern West. (The political scientist Samuel P. Huntington borrowed the phrase in an influential article of his own in 1993, crediting Mr. Lewis.)

The book cover of “What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response,” by Bernard Lewis.

In his article, Mr. Lewis wrote: “Islam has brought comfort and peace of mind to countless millions of men and women. It has given dignity and meaning to drab and impoverished lives. It has taught people of different races to live in brotherhood and people of different creeds to live side by side in reasonable tolerance. It inspired a great civilization in which others besides Muslims lived creative and useful lives and which, by its achievement, enriched the whole world.

“But Islam,” he continued, “like other religions, has also known periods when it inspired in some of its followers a mood of hatred and violence. It is our misfortune that part, though by no means all or even most, of the Muslim world is now going through such a period, and that much, though again not all, of that hatred is directed against us.”

He asserted that Islamic fundamentalism was at war against both secularism and modernism, as represented by the West. Fundamentalists, he wrote, had “given an aim and a form to the otherwise aimless and formless resentment and anger of the Muslim masses at the forces that have devalued their traditional values and loyalties and, in the final analysis, robbed them of their beliefs, their aspirations, their dignity, and to an increasing extent even their livelihood.”

In a speech in 2006, Mr. Cheney noted that in the 1970s, before the Iranian revolution, Mr. Lewis had “studied the writings of an obscure cleric named Khomeini and saw the seeds of a movement that would deliver theocratic despotism.” Supporters of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in 1979.

Critics of Mr. Lewis said he treated Western imperialism, American interventions and Israeli displacement of Palestinians as consequences of the region’s political failures and social backwardness rather than as contributors to them. The political scientist Alan Wolfe called Mr. Lewis’s positions on Islam “belligerent.” The Islamic historian Richard Bulliet suggested that Mr. Lewis looked down on modern Arabs.

“He doesn’t respect them,” Mr. Bulliet said in an interview with Washington Monthly. “He considers them to be good and worthy only to the degree they follow a Western path.”

Left vs. Left: Richard Cordray and Dennis Kucinich Battle for Governor of Ohio

“Hey, Superman,” Mr. Kucinich said.


Dennis Kucinich pushed ideas like tuition-free college and single-payer health care long before they came into wider fashion.

Andrew Spear for The New York Times

Since the election of President Trump, certain conflicts have been inevitable for a Democratic Party asking itself how to win again: liberal or moderate candidates? Populist or pragmatist? Establishment or insurgent? But in the race between Mr. Cordray and Mr. Kucinich — one of the year’s most closely watched Democratic primaries — a more basic tension has consumed the collective left: Who has the truest claim to progressivism in 2018, when both candidates can credibly grab at the label? Is it better to be liberal on guns (Mr. Kucinich) or the bane of the banks (Mr. Cordray)? To be a fire-breather or a bit of a square?

“There’s no stigma in being competent,” said Kevin Davis, 63, of Akron, a Cordray supporter and fund-raiser who has gravitated toward the candidate’s work-within-the-system defense of responsive government. “Dennis just promises everything.”

“It’s hard not to be pulled into the vortex of Dennis Kucinich,” said Nina Turner, a former state senator and the president of Our Revolution, a group that was formed out of Mr. Sanders’s presidential campaign and that has endorsed Mr. Kucinich. “He’s infectious.”

As Democrats look to reclaim a purple state shading red, recent history suggests a slog. Mr. Trump won Ohio by eight points. It has a Republican-controlled legislature and has had a Republican governor for all but four years since 1991. But the prospect of a Democrat-friendly election year and a whiff of scandal in Columbus — where the House speaker resigned this month as federal investigators questioned his conduct — has convinced strategists that even a proudly liberal candidate could win in November.

The Democratic primary has also doubled as an early proxy test for supporters of Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders, two possible presidential candidates in 2020, and a peek at precisely what kind of figure can speak to today’s party base in a Midwestern bellwether.

Mr. Cordray, 58, a former state attorney general before his time in Washington, has campaigned with Ms. Warren, who devised the bank-regulating agency he oversaw under President Barack Obama. He is leaning heavily on support from labor groups like the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the Ohio A.F.L.-C.I.O., specking public appearances with protect-the-little-guy anecdotes from his watchdog role in the hope that voters will not mistake boring for moderate.

There is talk of task forces and pension protections, of government “being a force for good” again. He can appear most animated condemning an “ongoing war on local communities” from budget-slashing state officials. And, like Mr. Kucinich, he has proposed making community college free for all Ohioans.

“He’s unassuming,” Ms. Warren said in an interview, recalling Mr. Cordray’s habit of wandering his office without shoes when pressed for a humanizing detail. “But he’s a fighter.”


Richard Cordray is leaning heavily on support from unions, specking public appearances with protect-the-little-guy anecdotes from his time as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Andrew Spear for The New York Times

Mr. Kucinich is, as ever, a less traditional case — Cleveland’s ubiquitous thrower of bombs, shaker of hands and enemy of animal products, now entering his second half-century in politics.

“Strange Political Amalgam in Ambitious Young Man,” read a 1972 headline about him in The Akron Beacon Journal.

“He defends Trump, sees UFOs,” read another from The Cincinnati Enquirer in March, alluding to Mr. Kucinich’s recent career as a Fox News pundit and his claim to have seen an unidentified flying object at the home of a friend, the actress Shirley MacLaine. “Can Kucinich win?”

He can, however improbably. Mr. Kucinich has emerged as the most persistent threat to Mr. Cordray, the presumed favorite, spooking party officials who fear Mr. Kucinich would stand little chance in the fall. Primary polling has been inconsistent: One recent survey showed the race effectively tied; another gave Mr. Cordray a double-digit edge, though more than half of respondents were undecided.

Mr. Kucinich is betting on a coalition of still-loyal former constituents: A brief stroll through Cleveland’s West Side Market recently included interactions with a woman whose father Mr. Kucinich once caddied for, a produce vendor who attended school with his sister and a police officer who worked security at his third wedding. He has also built a nascent following awakened to his politics since Mr. Sanders’s run.

Mr. Sanders himself has not endorsed Mr. Kucinich. “Dennis is his own man,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview with journalists from The New York Times, calling him an old friend. “Dennis is a very — what’s the word? — unusual politician.”

But Our Revolution, the Sanders-aligned group, has held up Mr. Kucinich as a kind of progressive seer, who pushed ideas like tuition-free college long before they came into wider fashion, rallying behind the storm-the-castle populism familiar to admirers of both men.

In an interview, Mr. Kucinich rejected any suggestion that this is a race between two generally analogous progressives on policy. He described himself, unsubtly, as a leader “for a couple of decades” on issues like single-payer health care. And since the Parkland, Fla., massacre in February, he has made gun safety central to his campaign, repeatedly reminding voters of Mr. Cordray’s past “A” rating from the National Rifle Association and his refusal to embrace an assault weapons ban.

“If there was indeed truth-in-labeling in elections, Richard Cordray would be running as a Republican,” Mr. Kucinich said.

At a recent candidate forum, he affixed an “F” pin to his lapel to signal his own N.R.A. grade. Mr. Kucinich’s wife, Elizabeth, three decades younger than her husband and six inches taller, mouthed instructions from the front row while filming him. (Two other Democrats — Joe Schiavoni, a state senator, and Bill O’Neill, a former Ohio Supreme Court justice — are also competing to replace Gov. John R. Kasich, a term-limited Republican. The leading Republican candidates are Mike DeWine, the state attorney general, and Mary Taylor, the lieutenant governor.)

Yet Mr. Kucinich, more than most Democrats, has run afoul of perceived liberal doctrine himself through the years.

He once opposed abortion rights. He has echoed Mr. Trump’s concerns about a “deep state” plot. And he has reported receiving $20,000 for a speech from a group sympathetic to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whom Mr. Kucinich has traveled to see. (Mr. Kucinich, who has since promised to return the money, said in the interview that he always met with leaders “in the cause of peace” and did not answer directly when asked if Mr. Assad was a bad actor.)

In conversations with voters, many framed their preferences as a matter of temperament as much as vision. “He’s not a hell-raiser,” Matt Rado, 34, said of Mr. Cordray, for whom he plans to vote anyway. “It would be nice to see some more passion.”


Many Ohio Democrats are weighing their choice for governor around temperament as much as vision and policy. At a union hall in Dover, voters recently applauded for Mr. Cordray.

Andrew Spear for The New York Times

Even playful flourishes from Mr. Cordray seem intended to evoke a certain hyper-diligence. His campaign literature cites his five “Jeopardy” championships in the 1980s. In a past race, he rewarded dedicated volunteers with DVD copies of his triumph.

He is said to enjoy a good parade — “I’ve always been a parade-ophile,” he allowed — and recently demonstrated his levity to a reporter by pledging to squeeze himself down a children’s slide at a Canton playground after a speech to ironworkers. He kept his word against the advice of a press aide.

“The buttoned-down world of the federal financial regulators is very different,” Mr. Cordray said in an interview. “There’s more emotion in this. And it’s been something I’ve had to learn and improve.”

His opponent appears committed to his own instincts and eccentricities, in politics and lesser affairs.

Discussing his campaign over a vegan veggie burger and coconut water — “I like it right out of the coconut. Have you ever had it?” he asked the waitress, who had not — Mr. Kucinich set off on a consumption strategy that confounded even his wife, seated beside him: He cut around the bun with a knife and fork to eat only the patty, waited several minutes, then returned to the bun on its own, again with a knife and fork.

“There’s no method,” he confirmed.

“Just madness,” Mrs. Kucinich said.

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‘Yes, I’m Running as a Socialist.’ Why Candidates Are Embracing the Label in 2018

Outrage over rising inequality has simmered for years, erupting into the Occupy Wall Street movement and the groundswell of support for Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist. But it was the election of Mr. Trump that convinced tens of thousands that both parties were broken and that the country was in need of a radical fix.

Since November 2016, D.S.A.’s membership has increased from about 5,000 to 35,000 nationwide. The number of local groups has grown from 40 to 181, including 10 in Texas. Houston’s once-dormant chapter now has nearly 300 members.

“We want to see money stop controlling everything. That includes politics,” said Amy Zachmeyer, 34, a union organizer who helped revive the moribund Houston chapter. “That just resonates with millennials who are making less money than their parents did, are less able to buy a home and drowning in student debt.”

Ms. Zachmeyer, who pays about $1,000 a month in student loans, says that financial burden helped convince her to become a socialist.

Studies suggest that young people with few memories of the Cold War embrace socialism far more than older people do. A 2016 survey of 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that 16 percent identified as socialists, while 33 percent supported socialism. Only 42 percent supported capitalism, while a majority — 51 percent — said they did not.

Those results surprised John Della Volpe, the institute’s director of polling, so much that he thought they might be a mistake. He conducted a new study, this time of the general population, and got the same result.


Supporters of Mr. Bynum signed up for a campaign newsletter. “What I’m trying to do is be a Democrat who actually stands for something, and tells people, ‘Here’s how we are going to materially improve conditions in your life,’” Mr. Bynum said.

Todd Spoth for The New York Times

“The only group that expressed net positive support for capitalism were people over 50 years old,” he said. “The largest generation of Americans in history — millennials — have lost confidence. They are interested in finding a better way.”

Many socialist candidates sound less like revolutionaries and more like traditional Democrats who seek a return to policies in the mold of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. They want single-payer health care, a higher minimum wage, and greater protections for unions. But others advocate more extreme changes, such as abolishing the prison system. In the case of Mr. Bynum, he wants an end to a cash bail system that requires people accused of crimes, even minor offenses, to pay money to be released from jail before trial.

Some local Democratic Party leaders worry that talking openly about being a socialist is only going to make it harder to defeat Republican opponents. And it is unclear how many older voters, who are more likely to vote in midterm cycles, could be turned off by the idea of voting for a socialist.

D.S.A., despite its criticism of the Democratic Party, does not identify itself as a third party. Instead, many members work within the party’s progressive wing to support their goals.

“Diversity helps the party,” said Christine Pelosi, a California member of the Democratic National Committee who has focused on making the party more connected to grass-roots activists. “I welcome their constructive criticism.”

Many Democrats have begun to ask socialists for their support and adopt some of the D.S.A.’s platform on health care and pay.

In Pittsburgh, eight Democrats in this year’s midterm cycle sought the endorsement of the local D.S.A. chapter.

“People are more willing to come out and say ‘I’m a Democratic socialist running,’” said Jorge Roman-Romero, 24, who helps lead a new D.S.A. chapter in Tulsa, Okla., where six Democratic candidates — four of whom were willing to run as Democratic socialists — sought the group’s endorsement. “It’s not a liability to say that anymore.”

But others, especially among the influx of new members, want to keep their distance from the Democratic Party, which they see as hopelessly compromised by corporate donations.

“The new, younger people are much more willing to say ‘We’re not going to tie ourselves to the Democratic Party,’” said Frances Reade, 37, an education researcher who joined the East Bay D.S.A. chapter in California on Mr. Trump’s Inauguration Day. “At the same time, we’re nowhere near being able to launch a third party.”

Ms. Reade, who made campaign calls for Hillary Clinton in 2016, said she joined D.S.A. after experiencing a “profound disillusionment with the Democratic Party” in the wake of Mr. Trump’s victory. The organization gave her an outlet to pour her energy into: door-knocking in a “Medicare for All” campaign, and discussing political texts in free evening classes put on by members of the group. The classes, known as socialist school, included readings by Karl Marx and articles in Jacobin, a popular new socialist magazine. Ms. Reade has become a class instructor and vice chairwoman at the East Bay chapter, which has about 1,000 members.

“If, after the election, I had tried to join the Democratic Party, what would I have done?” she asked. “There’s no night school to learn more about ideas. The Democratic Party is essentially a fund-raising apparatus.”


Mr. Bynum has embraced the label “socialist.” His Republican opponent is already fund-raising under the slogan “Reject socialism.”

Todd Spoth for The New York Times

Acceptance of socialism today still falls far short of its heyday in the 1910s and 1920s, when the Socialist Party of America had over 113,000 members and more than 1,000 elected officials, including two members of Congress, according to Jack Ross, author of “The Socialist Party of America: A Complete History.”

By the 1950s, socialism was widely seen as antithetical to the American way of life. In 1982, Michael Harrington, author of “The Other America,” a seminal book about poverty, helped found the Democratic Socialists of America, which aimed to realign the Democratic Party toward increased protections for unions and the poor. But the group never gained much traction, until now.

Across the country, socialists are focusing on hyperlocal issues. In Cincinnati, activists helped save the wing of a public library from privatization. In Austin, they pushed to pass what has been called the first mandatory paid sick leave requirement in the South.

“There’s a lot of power in getting people to come together and do things together,” said Bryan LaVergne, 22, a biomedical researcher in Houston who became a socialist after a drug therapy he had been working on was purchased by a private company that increased the price.

“Houston is incredibly atomizing,” Mr. LaVergne said. “We sit in our cars, drive to our suburbs, don’t know our neighbors. We’re countering that.”

Mr. Bynum, the candidate for judge in Houston, approaches politics in that same spirit. He collected nearly all of the signatures required for his campaign outside the county jail, from family members of defendants who could not afford to post bail. He has forsworn donations from lawyers practicing before the court that he is running for, and intends to staff a table outside the jail during the campaign, with the help of D.S.A. volunteers.

He wants his campaign to highlight injustices in Harris County, where historically roughly 40 percent of defendants in misdemeanor court were kept in jail because they could not pay bail.

Mr. Bynum, an immigration expert in the county’s public defender’s office, is not the first to raise issues of how unfair Harris County’s bail system is to the poor. Other Democrats have fought for the same cause. The system of cash bail is now in dispute in a federal court.

But the Harris County Democratic Party is struggling to figure out what to make of Mr. Bynum, who they say stands a good chance of being elected, along with other Democrats on the local ballot in November. Mr. Bynum’s Republican opponent, Dan Simons, a former prosecutor backed by religious conservatives, is already fund-raising under the slogan “Reject socialism.”

“We cannot afford to have Democrats, let alone Democratic Socialists, take over our county and state,” he wrote on Facebook.

Gerald Birnberg, a former chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party, has discouraged Mr. Bynum from talking about socialism or bail reform on the campaign trail. Socialism is too taboo in Texas, he said. And although bail reform is important, he said, “it’s not an issue that inspires voters in Harris County.”

The way to win in November, Mr. Birnberg advised, was simply to turn out Democrats. To do that, the county Democratic Party needed money to pay for mailings and voters lists. In a meeting, Mr. Birnberg, a 71-year-old lawyer, asked Mr. Bynum to contribute $20,000 to the effort.

Mr. Bynum made no promises.

“If I have the money, I will give them money because I can’t organize a get-out-the-vote campaign by myself,” Mr. Bynum said. “But I am focused more on building a movement than I am on helping Democrats get elected. My priority is reaching people who aren’t being spoken to at all.”

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Bernie Sanders Courts Black Voters Anew. But an Obama Reference Stings.

So the senator from Vermont — a state where the largest city has but one black barbershop — has begun trying to make inroads across the South and beyond and the country with black voters, who are perhaps the most crucial pillar in a multicandidate Democratic primary.

Earlier this year, Mr. Sanders invited Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Washington, telling Mr. Richmond, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, that he wanted to work more closely with the group. He recently convened a meeting in his office with two black economists who have researched issues of racial and class inequality. And later this month he is expected to join the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, a North Carolina-based black pastor who has risen to prominence as a social justice activist, for a joint event at Duke University.

Yet even as he moves to forge new relationships among African-American leaders and Democrats, Mr. Sanders is demonstrating why it may prove difficult for him to command broad support with a bloc of voters who usually do not rally to the more liberal candidates in Democratic primaries.

Appearing with Mr. Lumumba, the Jackson mayor, at the forum on economic justice, Mr. Sanders was asked how he would engage millennial voters and remake the Democratic Party.

He immediately won applause by declaring that the party’s business model had “failed” and then recalled, as he and many Democrats often do, that the party had lost about 1,000 state legislative seats in the last decade.

But Mr. Sanders also said that these setbacks happened on the watch of “a charismatic individual named Barack Obama,” whom Mr. Sanders also called “an extraordinary candidate, brilliant guy.”


The crowd that turned out to see Mr. Sanders on Wednesday night in Mississippi was more racially diverse than that at many of his 2016 campaign rallies.

Bryan Tarnowski for The New York Times

Few in the audience responded adversely, many of them having witnessed firsthand the decline of the state and local party. But the fact that his only mention of Mr. Obama was in reference to Democratic defeats, particularly during an event honoring Dr. King in a heavily black Deep South capital with a painful racial history, struck some critics as tone-deaf and even insensitive.

On Thursday, Mr. Sanders and his top aides responded angrily to the suggestion he had diminished Mr. Obama. The senator tweeted that “some have so degraded our discourse that my recognition of the historical significance of the Obama presidency is attacked.”

The episode was also a reminder of another hurdle in his way: the feud between many Sanders supporters and Democratic leaders and Hillary Clinton loyalists, which has been raging ever since he challenged Mrs. Clinton for the nomination. Mr. Sanders remains very much an insurgent in a party he still has not formally claimed as his own, a fact he made clear in a less remarked-upon part of the same answer: “The establishment,” he said, “doesn’t go quietly into the twilight.”

Mr. Richmond, the Congressional Black Caucus leader, said he did not think Mr. Sanders had slighted Mr. Obama. The mistake Mr. Sanders made, according to Mr. Richmond, was that he did not go the next step and explain why Democrats incurred so many down-ticket defeats during the Obama years.

“The real question is why it happened and it’s no secret: Everybody underestimated the backlash that would come to the first African-American president,” he said.

As Mr. Sanders seeks to gain support from black voters, the Jackson forum was also notable for what the senator did not say to the audience, which skewed young and was almost evenly divided between blacks and whites.

While briefly noting that Dr. King had been a “major political inspiration” for him, Mr. Sanders said nothing about his history as a civil rights activist and his arrest demonstrating against segregation as a college student.

“That’s the No. 1 selling point,” said Teneia Sanders Eichelberger, who plays in a husband-wife band here and supported Mr. Sanders in 2016. “For me and for my grandmother, who’s 82, she loved that about him.”

But unless they already knew about Mr. Sanders’s connection to the movement, hundreds of would-be Democratic primary voters left the gathering none the wiser. (Mrs. Clinton won the 2016 Mississippi Democratic primary with nearly 83 percent of the vote; Mr. Sanders took 16.5 percent.)

Part of Mr. Sanders’s appeal is that he is not a typical, lip-biting politician, ever on the lookout to find a personal connection with any audience. But his relentless focus on the policy dimensions of social justice, which has been the animating cause of his life, can also deprive him of creating bonds that can be essential, especially in building a multiracial coalition.

“Yes, I’m a fairly private person and I don’t like to talk about every aspect of my life,” Mr. Sanders acknowledged in a dressing-room interview after the forum. “I think a lot of politicians do that in a way that is not appropriate.”


Bernie Sanders memorabilia was on sale outside the forum in Jackson, Miss., where the senator spoke on Wednesday night.

Bryan Tarnowski for The New York Times

Upon hearing the suggestion that recounting his own youthful activism would be compelling to an audience full of younger voters becoming activists in their own right, he all but rolled his eyes.

“Somebody might be interested in what I did 50 years ago, that’s fine,” Mr. Sanders said with an evident lack of enthusiasm. “Or what I did yesterday. But what people have got to start focusing on is not me. It’s how we transform America.”

Mr. Sanders’s reticence can frustrate even his closest supporters.

“If you’re talking to a black audience, you’ve got to say, ‘I was fighting for fair housing in the ’60s,’” said Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a top Sanders surrogate in 2016, noting that he has “an interesting story to tell.”

Several of those at the forum Wednesday night said they liked what they heard. And as is typical for Mr. Sanders, who in 2016 did best among millennials, the younger black attendees were the most enthusiastic.

“To hear his voice and see what he stands for, it’s powerful,” said Cassandra Hogue, 26, who backed Mrs. Clinton two years ago as part of what she called “a legacy thing” for the Clintons but said she would be open to supporting Mr. Sanders in 2020.

Deterrian Jones, 19, made the two-hour-plus drive from the University of Mississippi to Jackson and clutched a handful of buttons he bought from vendors outside, one of which featured Mr. Sanders’s unmistakable visage and logo but with a new slogan: “Hindsight 2020.”

“He talks to millennials, unlike other politicians,” Mr. Jones said.

Yet Mr. Sanders could encounter trouble among black voters if he faces a black Democrat in the primary. “Black voters take special pride in being able to vote for viable African-American candidates,” said former congressman Mike Espy, who plans to run for the Senate.

And while few in attendance at the forum said it so directly, many alluded to Mr. Sanders’s age — he is 76 — and voiced a desire for new blood.

“It’s really time for change,” said Rachael Ighoavodha, 24, a recent Jackson State University graduate sporting a “Black Girl Magic” pin. “It’s time for something new.”

In the interview, Mr. Sanders repeatedly assailed what he called the media’s excessive focus on personality over substance. But when confronted with questions about his age, he replied with good-natured humor on a process question.

”What did you say?” he said, feigning hearing loss and gripping a reporter by the shoulder. “Get me my cane.” Yes, age is a fair question, he said. “But health is a factor,” Mr. Sanders quickly added, before turning to an aide and asking how many times the senator had missed work because he was ill.

The staffer could not recall a single instance.

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