Bill Clinton let his Southern roots show as he appeared to take great offense to Bernie Sanders minimizing the votes of Southern Democrats who supported his wife’s presidential campaign.
While campaigning for his wife in the Bronx, Bill Clinton said, “About the only thing that disappointed me about the debate last night was the sneering reference that her opponent made to the mammoth victory she won in the South. Oh, it’s just the South. We know how conservative they are. Well excuse me, but Democrats need to win Florida and North Carolina not only to get elected, but they are states of the future — highly diverse. And she won a big victory there. She won in Mississippi partly because they have a major in Jacksonville, an African-American guy who is the embodiment of the future who helped her. She won in Alabama, 93% of the African-American vote and a majority of the white vote because when she was a young woman, this is one reason, she went to Alabama for the Children’s Defense Fund to help shut down private segregated academies that were pretending to be public schools. It took a lot of guts to go in and pose a racist mother who wanted her kid at an all white school to prove that they were ripping off the taxpayers and violating the law.”
Former President Clinton was reacting to Sen. Sanders downplaying the South during the CNN debate, “Secretary Clinton cleaned our clock in the Deep South. No question about it. We got murdered there. That is the most conservative part of this great country. That’s the fact. But you know what? We’re out of the Deep South now. And we’re moving up. We got here. We’re going to California. We got a number of large states there. And having won seven out of the last eight caucuses and primaries.”
Sen. Sanders has won caucuses in deep red states like Alaska, Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho during his recent hot streak, so it isn’t like the Sanders campaign is expanding the map for November with their caucus wins either.
Bill Clinton seemed to take Sanders’ remarks personally because he is a Southerner, and Southern Democrats have long been ignored by the Democratic Party. Southern Democrats get a bad rap and are often lumped in with Republicans because they are trapped in red states. Sen. Sanders might not have meant it this way, but he has developed a habit of suggesting that the real Democratic states are the blue ones in the North and West.
Twitter lit up with Southern Dems who not only noticed, but were offended by Sanders’ dismissal of their role in the primary process. Clinton was correct on one point. States with changing demographics like Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas are the future for the Democratic Party, so it would be a mistake for anyone to dismiss a Democrat who might appeal to voters in these states.
As Sanders continues to struggle mightily with African-American voters, his seeming dismissive of states where substantial numbers of African-Americans have voted may not help his cause in future more diverse primaries.
There are Southern Democrats who want nothing more than to turn their states’ blue. These people work day and night against great odds to lay the groundwork for a future Democratic victory. Just because many of them voted for Hillary Clinton, their efforts should not be discounted. Bernie Sanders is trying to keep hope that he can win alive, but in the process he needs to be respectful of those who play an important part in the Democratic primary process.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association