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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

“Striking And Ominous”: Bourbon Democrats On The Rise Again

The parallels between today’s conservative-dominated Republican Party and southern “Bourbon” Democrats in the post-Civil War era are striking and ominous.

The Bourbons — as conservative Democrats in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were known — were prosperous property owners in the South who set out to end Reconstruction and bring back the good old days of domination by upper-class whites. The Post’s Charles Lane alluded to them in his April 17 column, “A ‘white man’s party’?

Historian Harvey H. Jackson III captured the objectives of the Bourbons in a 2004 article:

“Among their many goals was to keep Bourbon money in Bourbon pockets. They limited the state’s taxing power, abolished boards and offices (including the board of education), allowed the state debt to be settled in ways not fully understood today, and prohibited state support for projects such as river improvement and railroad construction.” Any of that sound familiar?

“The Bourbon [Democratic-written] constitution of 1875 was a victory for prosperous . . . Alabamians who did not want to pay taxes to improve the lives of those less fortunate than themselves and who did not want to finance commercial development that did not benefit them directly.” What contemporary political party comes to mind?

The Encyclopedia of Alabama, developed by the Alabama Humanities Foundation and Auburn University, puts it that “low taxes (particularly on property), weak government, and white supremacy — the core concerns of the Bourbons — became of the law of the land.”

The term Bourbon was most likely associated with the reactionary Bourbon Dynasty of France that attempted to undo the effects of the French Revolution. “In Alabama and the South,” the encyclopedia says, “Bourbon Democrats worked to undo what was done by the Civil War and Reconstruction.”

Conservative Republicans undoubtedly will take umbrage at any suggestion they belong in the same camp as post-Civil War conservative Democrats who proudly favored white supremacy and life before Appomattox.

So, let’s see. Are today’s conservatives big champions of states’ rights, a smaller and weaker federal government, less taxes, and more individual liberty? Yes, they will agree. But those goals, they would insist, are not racial in nature; they reflect a philosophy and set of values.

Yet even House Republican leader Eric Cantor acknowledges the existence of a “darker side” in this country. Asked this week by Politico’s Mike Allen if he has felt anti-Semitism from his GOP colleagues, Cantor, the lone Jewish Republican in Congress, first said no.

Then Cantor said, “I think that all of us know that in this country, we’ve not always gotten it right in terms of racial matters, religious matters, whatever. . . . To sit here and say in America that we’ve got it all right now, I think that pretty much all of us can say we’ve still got work to do.”


What’s more, the net effect of goals espoused by today’s conservatives is to achieve some of the outcomes sought by Bourbon Democrats. President Obama described their philosophy in a speech last month:

“If you’re out of work, can’t find a job, tough luck; you’re on your own. If you don’t have health care, that’s your problem; you’re on your own. If you’re born into poverty, lift yourself up out of your own — with your own bootstraps, even if you don’t have boots; you’re on your own,” he told a crowd in Burlington, Vt. “They believe . . . that’s how America has advanced. That’s the cramped, narrow conception they have of liberty.”

Conservatives today, of course, reject that characterization.

But conservative Democrats of the late 19th and early 20th century and today’s Republican conservatives would probably agree that:

America is better off when the federal government leaves people to fend for themselves;

Markets that are free from government regulation and taxes will produce prosperity;

There are rungs on the ladder of opportunity, but many at the bottom are too lazy to climb;

The wealthy, to whom much has been given, have no stake in anybody else’s success;

A business’s obligation is to those who own it;

We will not as a people go up or down together; in the end, each is on his or her own.

Yes, there are differences between the United States at the turn of the 20th century and today. But there are similarities too.

Protecting the interests of the propertied and the politically powerful may be a legacy handed down from yesterday’s conservative Bourbon Democrats to today’s conservative Republicans.

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 20. 2012

April 22, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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