For months we’ve seen Bernie and his even worse traveling circus of goons—i.e. surrogates—basically write-off the Southeast and laugh dismissively about Hillary’s wins there. They might say different variations of things like “Well, it doesn’t matter if Hillary won ‘Bamasippi’ as she’ll never win those states in November.” They might even mock the “ignorance” of those voters, or—even worse—suggest the Bible Belt isn’t voting for the Jewish senator simply out of prejudice. Though that implies Hillary being a woman is not just as groundbreaking, and it’s somehow a reactionary process to nominate the first female president over Bernie.
Bernie himself said at Thursday’s debate that his campaign got their “clock cleaned” in the South. Then somewhat brushed-off the entire region by saying “but now we’ve left the ‘Deep South’ and we’re moving up.” He didn’t offer a real reason for his losses in the region or his lack of appeal there or indicated that he even cared to think of one. To anyone who is remotely paying attention, it seems like Sanders is fairly content to blow-off “the Deep South” and just concentrate anywhere else. And that is a huge mistake that unintentionally reveals a lot about him.
“But Alabama Liberal, how on Earth can you say that the Southeast—of all wretched, racism and Bible-drenched places—is the most important area of America for Democrats?” It comes down to three things that are all equally important.
–There has never been a winning Democratic Presidential candidate who’s been shut out of the Southeast. Look at your electorale college maps, and you’ll see that the “Deep South” was absolutely a part of any winning Democratic President’s path to the White House from Andrew Jackson all the way to Bernie’s hero FDR. In most recent decades, it’s been a bit more mixed, but Kennedy, LBJ, and Jimmy Carter all managed key victories in Southern states. For his part, Bill Clinton took Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Georgia. Barack Obama has come the closest to getting shut out in the Southeast, but has still won Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina back in 2008. And the Democratic candidates who’ve been completely shut out of the region? Walter Mondale, Michael Dukasis, John Kerry, and even Al Gore. People talk about Florida costing Gore the race, but he also would have won if he’d carried his home state of Tennesse. You cannot become President and not win a single Southern state. And the fact that Hillary scored huge victories in key states Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida—as well as an outside shot she might carry Arkansas and Tennessee—dramatically increases her odds of becoming President.
–The South’s Democratic Party is the Future of the Democratic Party. There are only six states in America where black Americans make up more than 25% of the electorate, excluding Maryland, all the rest are Southern: Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama (believe it or not), Georgia, and Mississippi. If you look at a measure of who’s actually voting in the Democratic Party, it’s nearly half-minority and we’re scheduled to become the first winning minority-majority political party in first-world history. But the states where minority voters already make up more than half of the Democratic Party? You guessed it, “the Deep South.” It is extremely representative of the Democratic electorate. You know the states that aren’t? The lily-white caucus states Bernie’s won in a landslide like Vermont and most of the Midwest and Northwest. And please don’t give me that bull about Bernie winning non-continental states Alaska and Hawaii and their native populations, the guy has lost every single state where the Democratic electorate is majority black or Latino.
–Believe it or not, there’s something called “congressional” Democrats. The only place that really matters for the Democratic Party’s future is the Southeast. They used to own this region, and that was the key to big legislative victories for FDR and LBJ (you would think Bernie would know that). The Democrats dominate the Northeast and West Coast, but they still are not in control of either branch of congress and they barely control one third of state legislatures or Governorships. They need to win over either the Midwest or Southeast to really get their big agenda accomplished. And I think they can safely rule out coastless America’s participation in any Democratic agendas (they’ve been Republican pretty much as long as the party’s existence) but the South is definitely fair game. Virginia is already halfway there (two of Hillary’s VP candidates are senators from the state), and there’s been real signs that Tennesse, Georgia, Kentucky, and maybe, juuuust maybe Louisiana are soft-targets for a Democratic surge. To say nothing of a state like Texas which may be minority-majority soon, whether they like it or not.
Democrats have got to make legislative gains in the South if they ever hope to take back the House of Representatives. Plus, there are these things called “state legislatures” and Governors that have enormous power over exactly how much of the federal agenda the states actually adopt. The national congress can pass all the bills they want to, but none of it matters if states refuse to implement them, as we’ve seen on everything from the long, nasty, shameful fight over interracial marriage to today’s problems of red states refusing to take Obama’s stimulus money or Obama’s medicare expansion or Obamacare or even a gold bar Obama might have touched.
Like it or not, the Democrats need The South, and The South most definitely needs the Democrats.