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“His Red-State Wins Matter More Than Hillary’s”: Why Is Bernie Sanders Slamming Southern Democrats?

So what do we make of Bernie Sanders’s continuing habit of denigrating the Democratic voters of the South? He did it Wednesday night on Larry Wilmore’s show, when he said that having early Southern primaries “distorts reality.” And he did it again in the debate, when he dismissed the importance of Clinton’s votes from the South because the region is “the most conservative part of the country.”

Okay. I’m (in)famously on record as saying the Democrats should just forget the South. The argument of that column, admittedly florid rhetoric aside, was that for the purposes of general elections, the Democratic Party shouldn’t even try very hard in the South anymore. The party should of course fight to hold the African American House seats, and there might be occasional opportunities to swipe a seat in a college town. But other than that, for the foreseeable future, the South is gone, I argued, and the Democrats shouldn’t throw good money after bad down there. You can agree or disagree with that, but it is an argument about general elections (I wrote it right after Mary Landrieu lost to Bill Cassidy in a Louisiana Senate race).

Primary elections, however, are completely different animals. Primary elections are about voters within a political party—and sometimes without, in open primaries, which are another debate that we may get to in the future—having their shot at choosing which candidate their party should nominate. There are of course some states that matter more than others. But there aren’t any individual votes that matter more than others, at least among primaries (caucuses don’t usually report individual votes). For Sanders to dismiss Clinton’s Southern votes as distortions of reality is hugely insulting to Democrats from the region.

And to one group of Democrats in particular, who are concentrated in the South and who happen to be the most loyal Democratic voters in the country. I don’t think Sanders has a racist bone in his body, but is there not a certain racial tone-deafness in dismissing the votes of millions of black voters as distortions of reality? This is the one moment, their state’s presidential primary, when these African American voters have a chance to flex some actual political power in the national arena.

And then to write off Clinton’s Southern votes as “conservative” is just a lie intended to fool the gullible. Sure, the South is conservative at general-election time. But at Democratic primary time, it’s pretty darn liberal. It’s blacks and Latinos (where they exist in large numbers) and trial lawyers and college professors and school teachers and social workers and the like. They’re not conservative, any more than the people caucusing for Sanders in Idaho and Oklahoma are conservative, and he knows it.

The topic of Sanders’s own red state wins actually raises another point. He’s won seven states that both he and Clinton would/will lose by at least 15 points in November, and in many cases more like 30: Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, and Alaska, along with the aforementioned two. And he won them in caucuses, not primaries, which nearly everyone agrees are less democratic, less representative of the whole of the voting population.

Now let’s look at Clinton’s red-state wins. She’s won 10 red states: Texas, Arizona, Missouri, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina (I’m calling North Carolina purple, and of course Virginia and Florida and Ohio). Neither she nor Sanders would probably win in these states either, although a Clinton win over Donald Trump seems conceivable in a couple of them.

In any case, yes, they’ve both won states that are unwinnable in the fall. Yet do you hear Clinton going around saying that Sanders’s victories in these states are distortions of reality? I don’t. But Sanders goes around bragging, as he did at the debate, about winning eight of the last nine contests, “many of them by landslide” margins, referring to these very states where he or Clinton would get walloped in the fall, while denouncing her red-state wins as aberrational. What is it about his red states that count—or more to the point, perhaps, what is it about hers that makes them not count?

I try to set a limit on the number of times I use the “imagine if” device, because candidates have different histories, and those histories provide the context for our reactions to the things they do. But here goes. Imagine if the situation were reversed and Sanders had won the Southern states, and it was Clinton dismissing Southern Democratic votes as meaningless. The more sanctimonious among Sanders’s supporters would have tarred and feathered her as a racist weeks ago. Her very reputation among Democrats would likely be in tatters.

I’m not sure what the thinking is in Sanders land. Their collective back is against the wall, and they’re in a high-stress situation. But Sanders and his team—wife Jane, campaign manager Jeff Weaver—have been saying these things repeatedly now, for weeks. I guess it’s part of an electability argument. Even that is wrong—as I noted above, a couple of Clinton’s red states are possibly gettable in the fall, while none of Sanders’s states are. But insulting your own party’s—oh, wait. Ah. Maybe that has something to do with this too. Whatever the reasons—not a good look.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 16, 2016

April 17, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Demographics, Red States, The South | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Bizarrely Common Argument”: No, Hillary Doesn’t Have An Obligation To Try To Win Over Southern White Voters

Do presidential candidates have an obligation to campaign everywhere, and to make particular appeals to every demographic group? That’s the case made by this big article that appeared in Sunday’s New York Times and continues to drive discussion today. Here’s an excerpt:

Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to be dispensing with the nationwide electoral strategy that won her husband two terms in the White House and brought white working-class voters and great stretches of what is now red-state America back to Democrats.

Instead, she is poised to retrace Barack Obama’s far narrower path to the presidency: a campaign focused more on mobilizing supporters in the Great Lakes states and in parts of the West and South than on persuading undecided voters.

Mrs. Clinton’s aides say it is the only way to win in an era of heightened polarization, when a declining pool of voters is truly up for grabs. Her liberal policy positions, they say, will fire up Democrats, a less difficult task than trying to win over independents in more hostile territory — even though a broader strategy could help lift the party with her.

This early in the campaign, however, forgoing a determined outreach effort to all 50 states, or even most of them, could mean missing out on the kind of spirited conversation that can be a unifying feature of a presidential election. And it could leave Mrs. Clinton, if she wins, with the same difficulties Mr. Obama has faced in governing with a Republican-controlled Congress.

In terms of geography, this is a bizarre — yet bizarrely common — argument. I addressed this at some length in this piece at the American Prospect, but the simple fact is that as long as we have an Electoral College and 48 of the 50 states assign their electors on a winner-take-all basis, there is absolutely no reason for candidates to campaign in states where they have no chance of winning. So they don’t. They also don’t campaign in states where they have no chance of losing.

Neither the Democratic nor the Republican nominee will spend large amounts of time stumping for votes in California, nor in Oklahoma, because everyone already knows what the outcome in those states will be. Democratic senator Joe Manchin is quoted in the article saying Clinton should campaign in his home state of West Virginia, since if Al Gore had won the state in 2000, he would have been president. But in the last presidential election, Barack Obama lost West Virginia by 27 points. If Manchin actually thinks Clinton or any Democratic presidential contender has a shot there, he may not be quite the political genius he fancies himself.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributing Writer, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, June 8, 2015

June 12, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Red States | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Destructive In The Long Run”: The Red State Economic Miracle That Wasn’t

For years progressives in blue states have had to put up with listening to conservatives in red states bray about their supposed economic “miracles” of low-tax, low-investment paradises of low employment in places like Texas and North Dakota.

The fact that these economies were creating mostly minimum-wage jobs with terrible safety nets and awful infrastructure fell on deaf ears. So did the response that those jobs were temporary and fossil-fuel based, and would not last. Undiversified economies based on a single natural resource tend to fare poorly over time.

And indeed it looks like progressives are getting the last laugh due to low oil prices:

States dependent on oil and gas revenue are bracing for layoffs, slashing agency budgets and growing increasingly anxious about the ripple effect that falling oil prices may have on their local economies. The concerns are cutting across traditional oil states like Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Alaska as well as those like North Dakota that are benefiting from the nation’s latest energy boom.

“The crunch is coming,” said Gunnar Knapp, a professor of economics and the director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Michael Hiltzik at the L.A. Times had more on the topic earlier this week:

A greater danger to the state’s boom-era reputation is that the receding tide may expose a lot of economic wreckage to public view. One consequence of the state’s low-tax, low-service credo is that infrastructure spending has been starved, just at the moment when it’s most needed. As the Texas Tribune reported last year, local roads have become so damaged by heavy oil-patch traffic that in some districts the only option has been to convert paved roads to gravel — there’s no money for repaving, despite the state’s burgeoning wealth.

That shows how little pressure has been placed on the oil industry to carry its fair share of the public cost of the boom or contribute adequately to public investment. When the boom becomes a bust, there will be even less money, and you can bet that the oil industry will be pleading poverty.

When it isn’t simply padding the bottom lines of the wealthiest Americans, most conservative economic policy tends to be about taking the easiest, most aggressive and short-sighted approach to any problem. Eliminating taxes so you can entice corporate grifters may net some immediate transitory gains, but it’s destructive in the long run. Similarly, putting your eggs into the fossil fuel basket doesn’t just destroy your local environment and add to the climate change already ravaging your state, it also puts you at severe risk of economic seizures if fossil fuel prices decline.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 27, 2014

December 28, 2014 Posted by | Big Oil, Fossil Fuels, Red States | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“So Far, So Feeble”: GOP Governors Have A Problem; The Ways They Govern

Even as Republicans boast of their chances to take over the United States Senate come November, their party’s governors across the country are facing dimmer prospects. From Georgia to Alaska, right-wing ideological rule imposed by GOP chief executives have left voters disappointed, disillusioned, and angry.

The problem isn’t that these governors failed to implement their promised panaceas of tax-cutting, union-busting, and budget-slashing, all in the name of economic recovery; some did all three. The problem is that those policies have failed to deliver the improving jobs and incomes that were supposed to flow from “conservative” governance. In fact, too often the result wasn’t at all truly conservative, at least in the traditional sense — as excessive and imbalanced tax cuts, skewed to benefit the wealthy, led to ruined budgets and damaged credit ratings.

Consider Gov. Scott Walker, famous for surviving the recall effort that Wisconsin’s outraged citizens mounted in response to his attacks on labor. While seeking to end collective bargaining in 2010, Walker also passed a series of regressive tax cuts that he vowed would bring at least 250,000 jobs. By sharply reducing state aid to schools and local governments, he temporarily closed a structural deficit – but this year, with state tax revenues declining precipitously in the wake of his tax cuts, Walker is facing a $1.8 billion budget deficit. And as for the jobs, most of them never materialized. Wisconsin is near the bottom of Midwestern states in creating new jobs.

In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback was equally faithful to right-wing orthodoxy. With the advice of Arthur Laffer, the genius responsible for Ronald Reagan’s exploding deficits in the 1980s, Brownback imposed an historically huge tax cut on the state. Declining revenues meant huge reductions in state services, especially education. And, as furious Kansans have discovered, the Brownback experiment has achieved poor employment growth combined with…yes, a massive budget deficit of nearly $350 million this year.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett’s first budget in 2011 included major tax cuts for corporations that cost about $600 million annually. By this point, it should be obvious who was required to pay for those favors: the children served by the state’s education system, who saw a billion dollars in cuts to their schools and programs, from kindergarten through college.

This year, the state is facing a budget shortfall of over $1 billion, but Corbett doesn’t seem to have learned much. He has demanded further income tax cuts that will benefit the wealthy – and will cost Pennsylvania another $770 million in annual revenue. And what about his promise that the state would become number one nationally in job creation? As of last summer, it ranked either 47th or 49th, depending on the data measured.

So far, so feeble – and it is scarcely more impressive in the other red states whose governors face reelection this year.

The politician tasked with rescuing his party’s beleaguered governors is none other than their colleague from New Jersey, Chris Christie, who serves as chair of the Republican Governors Association. From that perch, of course, the blustering Christie hopes to run for president – an aspiration that may recede still further from his grasp with each lost governor’s mansion this fall. Emotional as he tends to be, Christie surely empathizes with his fellow governors – because his very similar policies have landed New Jersey in equally precarious condition.

So it is puzzling to hear voters in places far from the Garden State – such as Iowa and New Hampshire – tell reporters that they admire Christie because he “saved New Jersey.” Evidently they don’t know that the state’s finances have been sufficiently terrible to provoke not one but two downgrades in its credit rating this year alone.

But bad bond ratings aren’t the only woe confronting the Big Boy, as President Bush called him. Christie is perfectly suited to his leadership role among the GOP governors – if only because his economic record may well be the very worst of any American governor in either party. The question that voters must answer, this November and two years from now, is when these failed fiscal and economic “experiments” – and the suffering they have caused – will at last end.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, October 1, 2014

October 2, 2014 Posted by | Governors, Red States, Tax Revenue | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If GOP Is So Right, Why Are Red States So Far Behind?”: Red States Are The Poorest States In The Country

I have a question for my Republican friends.

Yes, that sounds like the setup for a smackdown, but though the question is pointed, it is also in earnest. I’d seriously like to know:

If Republican fiscal policies really are the key to prosperity, if the GOP formula of low taxes and little regulation really does unleash economic growth, then why has the country fared better under Democratic presidents than Republican ones and why are red states the poorest states in the country?

You may recall that Bill Clinton touched on this at the 2012 Democratic Convention. He claimed that, of all the private sector jobs created since 1961, 24 million had come under Republican presidents and a whopping 42 million under Democrats. After Clinton said that, I waited for PolitiFact, the nonpartisan fact-checking organization, to knock down what I assumed was an obvious exaggeration.

But PolitiFact rated the statement true. Moreover, it rated as “mostly true” a recent claim by Occupy Democrats, a left-wing advocacy group, that 9 of the 10 poorest states are red ones. The same group earned the same rating for a claim that 97 of the 100 poorest counties are in red states. And then there’s a recent study by Princeton economists Alan Binder and Mark Watson that finds the economy has grown faster under Democratic presidents than Republican ones. Under the likes of Nixon, Reagan and Bush they say we averaged an annual growth rate of 2.54 percent. Under the likes of Kennedy, Clinton and Obama? 4.35 percent.

Yours truly is no expert in economics, so you won’t read any grand theories here as to why all this is. You also won’t read any endorsement of Democratic economic policy.

Instead, let me point out a few things in the interest of fairness.

The first is that people who actually are economic experts say the ability of any given president to affect the economy — for good or for ill — tends to be vastly overstated. Even Binder and Watson caution that the data in their study do not support the idea that Democratic policies are responsible for the greater economic performance under Democratic presidents.

It is also worth noting that PolitiFact’s endorsements of Occupy Democrats’ claims come with multiple caveats. In evaluating the statement about 97 of the 100 poorest counties being red, for instance, PolitiFact reminds us that red states tend to have more rural counties and rural counties tend to have lower costs of living. It also points out that a modest income in rural Texas may actually give you greater spending power than the same income in Detroit. So comparisons can be misleading.

Duly noted. But the starkness and sheer preponderance of the numbers are hard to ignore. As of 2010, according to the Census Bureau, Connecticut, which has not awarded its electoral votes to a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, had a per capita income of $56,000, best in the country, while Mississippi, which hasn’t gone Democrat since 1976, came in at under $32,000 — worst in the country. At the very least, stats like these should call into question GOP claims of superior economic policy.

Yet, every election season the party nevertheless makes those claims. It will surely do so again this fall. So it seems fair to ask: Where are the numbers that support the assertion? Why is Texas only middling in terms of per capita income? Why is Mississippi not a roaring engine of economic growth? How are liberal Connecticut and Massachusetts doing so well?

It seems to suggest Republican claims are, at best, overblown. If that’s not the case, I’d appreciate it if some Republican would explain why. Otherwise, I have another earnest, but pointed question for my Democratic friends:

How in the world do they get away with this?

NOTE: In a recent column, I pegged the indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry to his “Democratic opponents.” Though the indictment did come out of Austin, which is a blue island in the red sea that is Texas, I should have noted that the judge who assigned a special prosecutor in the case is a Republican appointee and the prosecutor he chose has, according to PolitiFact, ties to both parties.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, September 3, 2014

 

 

 

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Blue States, GOP, Red States | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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