As a Liberal in the South, Let Me Address Bernie Sanders’ Thoughts on Southern Voters

I wasn’t planning to write more about this, but this talking point seems to be something that won’t go away. It’s become the go-to line by Bernie Sanders, his campaign and many of his supporters to try to delegitimize Hillary Clinton’s lead by saying that many of her biggest wins came in the South – in “red states.”



Yes, some of Clinton’s bigger wins have come in states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama – states that definitely aren’t going to be “blue” in November. But she’s also won in key swing states like Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Iowa. Not only that, but in 2008, Barack Obama won many of these same “red states” while Clinton won very “blue” states like California, New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

I’ve covered all of this before.

But what I wanted to address here is the hypocrisy of those who dismiss Southern progressives like myself (I’m a born and bred Texan) because we live in “red states.” Isn’t Sanders the candidate who originally pushed the idea that his “strategy” to win was a 50-state campaign?

In fact, here are Sanders’ exact words during one of the debates in January:

To those of you in South Carolina, you know what, in Mississippi — we need a 50-state strategy so that people in South Carolina and Mississippi can get the resources they need.

But now here’s what he had to say just the other day:

“Well, you know people say, ‘Why does Iowa go first, why does New Hampshire go first,’ but I think that having so many Southern states go first kind of distorts reality as well.”

Distorts reality? Why? Are progressives, liberals and Democrats in Southern states not important? In a democracy (especially a presidential primary), doesn’t every vote count? How does it “distort reality” to view “red state” progressive votes as important? .

Here’s a “fun fact”: No matter who wins the nomination, they’re not losing these “blue states” – so this argument is completely moot. In a presidential election, it’s the swing states that matter. You know, the states like Florida, Iowa, Virginia and Ohio that Sanders lost. 

But for someone who’s preached a “political revolution” and a “50-state strategy” to seemingly try to devalue or dismiss the millions of red state progressives is very hypocritical and actually kind of offensive.



Just because these progressives live in states that don’t go for Democrats in the general election doesn’t mean their vote isn’t just as important as someone in California or New York. This is a country where every vote counts. Not only that, but we’re in a primary election where every single state counts. The general and primary elections are completely different from one another. Furthermore, some of Sanders’ biggest wins have come in very “red states.”

This whole idea that Clinton’s lead isn’t impressive because she’s won a lot of “red states” is idiotic and petty. I didn’t see many people saying that in 2008 when Barack Obama won a lot of these same Southern states.

Of all people, for Bernie Sanders to be using this rhetoric seems to go against a huge part of his entire campaign. In one breath he talks about revolutions, voter turnout and getting people engaged in the voting process – then he tries to dismiss states he didn’t win because of something that’s completely unrelated to what a primary election is all about. And last I checked, I saw Sanders spending a lot of money and campaigning in quite a few of these “red states,” so he’s clearly trying to win in these places. He’s just happened to win the “red states” where there’s hardly any African-American or Latino voters.

As a Southern progressive, this is the type of attitude I get from many “blue state” liberals. It’s an almost condescending “you really don’t matter” type of attitude because we’re in “red states.” I’ve seen it and experienced it for years. Not that it’s really ever bothered me, but I’ve never seen a legitimate presidential candidate have the gall to project that attitude publicly. Bernie Sanders has – which is disappointing.

I can tell you this much, there are millions of progressives in “red states” and we bust our asses just as hard – on “enemy territory” no less fighting the same battles progressives in “blue states” are fighting. And even though we know our states might not go to the Democratic nominee in the general election, we still get out there and vote to make certain our voice is heard. And I’ll be damned if I let anyone try to tell me that we matter less just because of the states in which we live.




Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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