Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spoke to the Daily Beast following disappointing election results for Democrats in Georgia and Florida, particularly for African-American candidates for governor in each state.
The results of both races may still be in question Thursday, depending on final vote tallies and the potential for a recount, but had Stacey Abrams won in Georgia she would have become the nation’s first female African-American governor. In Florida, Gillum would have become the first African-American governor in the state’s history.
Sanders, a strong advocate for Abrams and Gillum, told the Daily Beast that he believed their race played a factor in their potential losses.
“I think you know there are a lot of white folks out there who are not necessarily racist who felt uncomfortable for the first time in their lives about whether or not they wanted to vote for an African-American,” Sanders told The Daily Beast, referencing the close contests involving Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia. “I think next time around by the way it will be a lot easier for them to do that.”
But it’s not immediately clear what Sanders is talking about. In Florida, white voters came out for Barack Obama in huge numbers in 2008 and 2012. Nearly 4.3 million Floridians voted for Obama in Florida in 2008, besting Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) by more than 200,000 votes. In 2012, Obama earned just about 50,000 fewer votes than in 2008, carrying the state over Mitt Romney.
Political losers often struggle in the days and weeks after an unexpected or less-than-ideal election result to make sense of what happened. But Sanders’ decision to immediately blame white racism for African-American losses in 2018 appears to be factually inaccurate, based on Obama’s success in Florida, and just bad spin.
But it also might serve to remind some Democrats, particularly 2016 Clinton voters, about Sanders’ perceived slights to Obama. The Clinton campaign tried to play up Sanders’ differences with Obama during the presidential primary to varied success. His erasure of Obama from the history books in the aftermath of the 2018 midterms could feel like one more subtle criticism to some Democrats.