Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was clear that racism cost two black candidates their chances to win elections Tuesday, but less clear whether he was blaming voters or Republican politicians.
The Vermont senator, a leader in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, was interviewed after the election by The Daily Beast. During the interview, Sanders spoke about the elections in which black gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia appeared to have lost elections to their white, Republican rivals — Ron DeSantis in Florida and Brian Kemp in Georgia.
The interview showed him scoffing at voters who failed to vote for a black candidate.
“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 said.
“I think next time around, by the way, it will be a lot easier for them to do that,” he added.
From the left and right, Twitter was riled by what Sanders had to say.
Bernie Sanders mansplains racism in a way that is itself deeply racist. Shocker! https://t.co/xIc6TKFIIy
— Rachel Rendeiro (@rrendeiro) November 8, 2018
Bernie Sanders is a moron https://t.co/iNXQxavrWt
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) November 9, 2018
— Betsy Rubin (@BetsyRubin) November 8, 2018
After those comments indicting white voters as racists whether they knew they were or not reverberated across America, Sanders offered follow-up comments to National Public Radio.
According to a spokesman, Sanders believes that votes Gillum or Abrams did not get because they are black can be laid directly at Republican opponents who ran “racist” campaigns against them.
“What @BernieSanders actually said was DeSantis, Kemp and Trump ran explicitly racist campaigns,” Josh Miller-Lewis tweeted.
What @BernieSanders actually said was DeSantis, Kemp and Trump ran explicitly racist campaigns.
“Gillum ran a great campaign and he had to take on some of the most ugly and blatant racism that we have seen in many, many years.” https://t.co/TkCCp8acPr
— Josh Miller-Lewis (@jmillerlewis) November 8, 2018
“There’s no question that in Georgia and in Florida racism has reared its ugly head. And you have candidates who ran against Gillum and ran against Stacey Abrams who were racist and were doing everything they could to try to play whites against blacks,” Sanders said.
“And that is an outrage, and we have got to continue doing everything that we can to fight all forms of racism.”
Sanders said Gillum “had to take on some of the most blatant and ugly racism that we have seen in many, many years. And yet he came within a whisker of winning.”
The campaign between Gillum, who is black, and DeSantis, who is white, drew charges of racism from Gillum’s side.
During their final debate, DeSantis said he was tired of hearing complaints about allegedly racist statements made by his supporters.
“How the hell am I supposed to know every single statement somebody makes?” he said, according to the Miami Herald. “I am not going to bow down to the altar of political correctness. I am not going to let the media smear me as they’ve done with so many people.”
Gillum replied by jabbing DeSantis
“My grandmother used to say a hit dog will holler — and it hollered through this room. … Now I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist,” he said.
DeSantis did not let that pass.
“I am not going to sit here and take this nonsense from a guy like Andrew Gillum who always plays the victim, who’s going out and attacking and aligning himself with groups who attack our men and women in law enforcement, attack our military,” DeSantis replied.
However, battles over who was saying what continued through the final days of the campaign.
On Saturday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue of Georgia made a Florida trip to support DeSantis, CNN reported.
“Public policy matters. Leadership matters. And that is why this election is so cotton-pickin’ important to the state of Florida,” Perdue said. “I hope you all don’t mess it up.”
Perdue’s language was attacked by some as “racist.”
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