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During the Democratic debate last week, Bernie Sanders said:

Secretary Clinton cleaned our clock in the Deep South, no question about it. That is the most conservative part of this great country. But you know what, we’re out of the Deep South now. And we’re moving up.

Let’s ignore for now the racist implications of this statement. After all there are only six states where more than one quarter of the population is black, and five of them are part of the “Deep South“.

But let’s stick to the numbers, and for numbers, we always turn to Nate Silver of

Silver points out that Sanders’s statement is very misleading, if not outright wrong. Clinton is not just doing well with blacks in the deep south, she is doing well with all minorities (including hispanics and asian-americans) everywhere. And minorities are increasingly important to the Democratic party. In the last presidential election, only 55% of voters for Barack Obama were white, and that percentage is expected to go down over time. Silver predicts that for this election, whites will make up 54% of Democratic voters, with 24% black, 15% Hispanic, and 7% asian. And in fact, in states whose demographics mostly match these numbers (such as Ohio and Nevada), Clinton has consistently done well, much better than Sanders.

In fact, the only kind of state where Sanders is consistently doing well are states that have a caucus instead of a primary. If all states had a primary, then, as Silver puts it, “Sanders couldn’t even maintain the pretense of a competitive race”.



  1. ThatGuy wrote:

    I’m not sure I see anything racist about conceding that Clinton won big in areas of the country that are mostly solid red states.

    It’s not as though he made a Colored People Time joke…

    Monday, April 18, 2016 at 6:44 am | Permalink
  2. Wildwood wrote:

    Doesn’t sound racist to me. Just a statement of fact. The important thing is not so much whether Sanders wins, but the fact that his more progressive bent is really more of what most of the country needs to hear. He has pushed Clinton to the left, but whether she is just giving lip service remains to be seen. The dialog has changed because of Sanders and that is great. I also think that if she is just giving lip service, she might have a tough go for a second term.

    Monday, April 18, 2016 at 9:04 am | Permalink
  3. Ralph wrote:

    Agree with both comments above as well as the post. It’s no surprise Hillary has done better with AAs and minority communities in general. After all, her husband was ostensibly our first “black” President, so she can ride those coattails as far as they go, as well as being more front-and-center in the public eye over the years as First Lady, Senator and Sec. of State, not to mention her run for President in ’08. So she has a deeper, if not longer, track record than Sanders with those demographics so there may be a greater comfort level with her generally, despite her divisive tendencies among some. Just a hunch, but it’s like they say, you either hate her or love her, so much of her support has been baked in for some time now and much of the in-fighting is for the relatively few voters still undecided and on the margins.

    OTOH, Bernie’s message, and method of grassroots funding, is the message we (and DC and Wall St.) need to hear and the medicine we need to take over the long run to put the country back on a healthier, more egalitarian track and has done the party a great service speaking truth to power. How much of that message gets absorbed and later enacted in a 3rd Clinton Admin is the big question. And by “3rd” I mean does anyone really believe Bubba is just going to side idly by on the sidelines watching Hillary pull all the strings? Methinks not. But he’s already being seen as something of a loose cannon on the campaign trail at times; hopefully, being First Dude will not negatively affect her ability to be seen as her own “man” (unlike Bush vis-a-vis Cheney), setting the stage for another 4-8 years of endless bickering and stagnation. Then again, it often seems to be the only game Republicans know how to play anymore.

    Monday, April 18, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink
  4. Carter Shmeckle wrote:

    It’s an amazing thing how so many people will vote against their own economic self-interest. This occurs on both sides of the aisle. (E.g. poor and working class whites who have voted Republican). But not to worry Bernie boosters, he’s at least locked up the Brooklyn vote: . As for Silver’s argument that “If all states had a primary, then…’Sanders couldn’t even maintain the pretense of a competitive race,’”, it sounds a lot like Trump whining about the supposed unfairness of Colorado Republicans holding a convention instead of a primary.

    Monday, April 18, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    Carter, I really don’t see any analogy between Trump whining about the deck being stacked against him, and Silver analyzing demographics. Why is it that some Sanders supporters accuse anyone who talks about the math of this election of being against Sanders? Are they accusing reality of being biased against Sanders, like the Republicans accuse science of being biased against them?

    If Sanders had come out and said “we do better in states that are primarily white or where voting takes a lot of time and effort so poor people are much less likely to vote, and we have a bunch of states like that coming up” would you have responded the same way? In what way is a “voter ID” law or reducing the number of polling places so voters have to wait in line for hours, which we all agree are naked disenfranchisement plays, different than a caucus in effect?

    Note that I am NOT complaining about caucuses. The rules are the rules. If you want to change them, change them in the future. So far, the only Dems I’ve heard complaining about the rules are Sanders and his supporters complaining about superdelegates.

    Monday, April 18, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink
  6. Carter Shmeckle wrote:


    IMHO, Silver saying “if all states had a primary,” then Hillary would win hands-down, and Trump saying in effect, “if only Colorado had a primary” he would’ve won, are both analogous to me saying that if I were a monkey, I could climb tall trees. I’m not a monkey (except perhaps mentally), and I can’t climb tall trees. In other words, all the above are useless hypotheticals.

    Monday, April 18, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink
  7. ThatGuy wrote:

    IK “In what way is a “voter ID” law or reducing the number of polling places so voters have to wait in line for hours, which we all agree are naked disenfranchisement plays, different than a caucus?”

    “Note that I am NOT complaining about caucuses. The rules are the rules. If you want to change them, change them in the future. So far, the only Dems I’ve heard complaining about the rules are Sanders and his supporters complaining about superdelegates.”

    That’s the difference between a caucus and voter ID/disenfranchisement laws. Unless you’re positing that caucuses were, ages before Sanders’ run, designed specifically to disenfranchise voters rather than simply being awful (look! a Dem/Sanders supporter complaining about caucuses… as I have done here before!) for their hopeless inefficiencies, then the intent and motive are huge differences.

    Again, pretty tough to take Sanders’ discounting of some states because they’re conservative as racism on par with voter ID laws. I don’t particularly like telling anyone that their vote doesn’t count, and Sanders would do well to remember his “wins” in conservative states, but pointing out that some of Clinton’s big wins are in states Dems will certainly not win is hardly racist.

    Monday, April 18, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    Carter, maybe I didn’t make my point very well. Complaining and making excuses (like Trump is doing) is completely different than using math (statistics) to predict the future, which is Silver’s job.

    > pointing out that some of Clinton’s big wins are in states Dems will certainly not win is hardly racist.
    Look, I said I would ignore that. Silver’s point is that Sander’s statement just isn’t true. Clinton’s wins have happened in both liberal (Massachusetts, Illinois, etc.) and conservative states. The biggest single predictor of a Sander’s victory is how white the state is. And the biggest predictor of a Clinton victory is how close the demographics of that state match the real demographics of the Democratic party.

    The Sanders campaign manager said that they chose not to really compete in Texas, Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, and Louisiana. And his chief campaign strategist said about Clinton “Her grasp now on the nomination is almost entirely on the basis of victories in states where Bernie Sanders did not compete.” But as HuffPo points out: “Sanders held rallies in Austin and Dallas. He held multiple events in Virginia. He held rallies in Atlanta, Georgia. He also visited Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. His campaign had field offices in most of those states.” Sounds like sour grapes to me.

    And you know what? Assuming that Trump or Cruz is the GOP nominee, I wouldn’t put any state out of reach of the Dems. In 1984, Reagan won every state except one, including states that are solidly blue, against Walter Mondale. In 1972, Nixon also won every state except one, including solidly blue states, against George McGovern (who in many ways was as liberal and reformist as Sanders).

    Why does this matter? I think it is a mistake to be focused solely on the presidency. What is Sanders doing for all the other Democrats running for office down the ballot? How will he enact any of his massive and sweeping reforms without them?

    (One last thing, I was not saying that caucuses are deliberately racist, but they do have the same effect, as well as being not very democratic. Is it better that they are unintentionally racist? I do have a problem with Sanders complaining about superdelegates. Has Clinton complained about caucuses?)

    Monday, April 18, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  9. ThatGuy wrote:

    Even with Cruz or Trump as the candidate, I would be shocked to see an electoral map all that different from 2008. Maybe I’m a pessimist, but I don’t see many solidly red states going blue for several cycles. I would not discount the possibility of a really good swing state showing for Dems, however.

    The problem with comparing the Silver and Sanders quotes is that they aren’t zero-sum. Everything Sanders said is correct. They got beat badly in the deep south. The deep south is very conservative. The outlook beyond the deep south contests looks better. All of that is true and nothing Silver says, though also correct, invalidates the debate statement. Either way, my main point was that it’s not a racist statement, not that it’s a wise statement (even if technically correct).

    As for the Sanders campaign manager statements, we can call “did not compete” false just based on the fact that he was on the ballot. But it’s clear they spent the bulk of their resources elsewhere. Either way, show me a campaign that doesn’t downplay losses. You know, sort of like pointing out Sanders only does well with the group that makes up over half of the Dem’s electorate and mostly playing down how pumped young folks are for him. This stuff goes both ways.

    To THAT end, I can’t disagree with your penultimate points. I think the biggest bonus is turning out young voters who will, at least to some extent, be retained for future elections. The Democrats need to keep acquiring fresh blood if they want to augment the demographic shifts that have carried them for the past several decades, and (thinking Steinem quote here) deriding that enthusiasm is a huge mistake.

    Finally, I figured you weren’t outlining caucuses as deliberately racist, and I agree they’re relatively undemocratic. I guess I’d give the nod toward intentional racism as being worse, since caucuses also impact poor/elderly/disabled folks of other ethnicities I’d have to call them more classist than racist. In my opinion, it should be ballot boxes the whole way down with state/federal holidays or at least mandated leave for participating, plus expansions of absentee voting.

    But, I’ve trod the superdelegate ground before on this site. So I guess I’ll ask if it’s better to be more unintentionally undemocratic (caucuses) or exactly intentionally undemocratic (superdelegates). In the end, they’re both quite undemocratic.

    Monday, April 18, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink
  10. ThatGuy wrote:

    I always do this with the extra post, sorry. For example on the superdelegates being anti-democracy: Sanders crushed Clinton in my home state of NH. NH also does a decent job of having currently-elected folks as superdelegates. Give you three guesses who they’re pledged to.

    Monday, April 18, 2016 at 5:52 pm | Permalink
  11. Iron Knee wrote:

    Other than one thing, I think we agree. The thing I disagree on is that I believe that if Trump and Clinton are the candidates, I can see lots of Republicans staying home and not only not voting for Trump, but not voting for other Republicans too. Consequently, I think it is definitely in the realm of possibility that the Dems take both the Senate (very likely) and the House (probably not, but still a possibility, and at the very least it will close the gap). Not to mention governorships, legislatures, and on down the line.

    My biggest fear is that if Sanders is the nominee, the Republicans will go all out attacking him, and he will not be as good defending himself. It doesn’t matter if it works (I doubt if the Republicans can win the White House), it just has to get the Republican base stirred up enough to go vote.

    I mainly agree with you about superdelegates, but a) they (like caucuses) are the rules, and we shouldn’t change the rules in the middle of the game and b) I believe they are much more democratic than caucuses (about a third of superdelegates are elected representatives so I have no problem giving them extra voice in the process, and the rest are party officials, who are mostly picked by elected representatives, which is not as good, but still better than a caucus).

    And finally, I believe that the real problem is political parties. Parties have far worse problems than just caucuses and superdelegates; arguing about such details will at best be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The Republicans (supposedly) don’t have superdelegates, but look how Cruz has been able to game the system. As I’ve said before, I’d rather switch to a single open (non-partisan) primary with the top two candidates going to the (run-off) election.

    Monday, April 18, 2016 at 7:14 pm | Permalink
  12. ThatGuy wrote:

    I can certainly see the GOP having poor turnout, and sure they’ll get loads of mileage out of Sanders calling himself a Democratic Socialist. But we can’t forget just how hated Clinton is by a good deal of this country. I think her unfavorable rating is over half right now and a good deal of the GOP base believes (shocking, this bunch believing nonsense) that she should be in jail. We also can’t forget that, economically, Trump voters and Sanders voters share some similar concerns. Sanders also benefits,sadly, from the ability to get angrily defensive without being castigated for not smiling enough.

    I don’t at all think superdelegates should go away this election, you’re right on rules-are-rules. But my point on the NH elected superdelegates is that being elected doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll behave democratically. Gov. Hassan, Sen. Shaheen, and Rep. Kuster are ALL pledged to Clinton (plus most unelected supers) despite the outcome of the primary. I voted for all three of them when I was a resident, as I’m sure did many current Sanders supporters, and yet they’ve blunted the impact of our primary votes by hewing to the party line. I suppose “we’ll ignore and counteract your primary votes” wasn’t a cornerstone of any of their elections, oddly.

    Now of course that IS the point of superdelegates, to know “better” than the masses. But this is why I don’t think, at all, that being an elected official serving as a superdelegate insulates that system from criticism of being undemocratic. They could alleviate this by holding their votes until the convention or allotting at least some by who wins the state, but having hundreds declared before any votes are cast is terrible. Who’d watch a playoff game where one team gets a big chunk of points before the opening kickoff?

    As always, I agree on parties. I just don’t see the DNC or RNC being circumvented or disassembling themselves any time soon.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2016 at 7:07 am | Permalink
  13. Iron Knee wrote:

    Your arguments make sense, but I still think it is ironic that people seem to want to elect politicians who don’t just follow the polls of their constituents, they want politicians that have “principles” (even when those principles are different from those of the voters), but then complain loudly when their elected superdelegates don’t follow the voters blindly.

    Superdelegates may be “undemocratic”, but so is the Electoral College, and the founders did that on purpose. The current success of Trump is strong evidence that the founders may have been right.

    As for the parties “disassembling” themselves, the Dems did it in California by instituting a non-partisan open primary. Of course, the party still exists, so it really isn’t disassembling, it is just giving less power to them. A big problem I see is “strategic” primary voting, where people from one party vote in the opposing party’s primary to nominate a person they think they can beat. A non-partisan primary makes this impossible. You would think the parties would be for that.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2016 at 7:43 am | Permalink
  14. ThatGuy wrote:

    The reason I want a politician with principles is because that’s what you need in a republic. We don’t vote on every issue because that would be insane, so we vote for people whose judgement and stated values are closest to our own. If politicians just followed the polls and did exactly what those said, we’d have no consistency and erratic policy. Imagine the sort of stuff that could get enacted after a terror attack or crime spree.

    Elections, primary or general, are another matter. They’re relatively infrequent and therefore far more manageable than responding to crises or going about day-to-day legislating. They’re chances for voters to have a fairly direct impact on the place in which they live. Superdelegates counteract that and I think that’s nonsense outside of a tie-breaking situation. In my examples, these politicians wouldn’t be following the voters or some poll blindly, they’d be following the voters as they voted… similar to how they got their current jobs. This is a case where the trust of a past election could be repaid in kind.

    The EC is possibly worse than superdelegates. We are in no danger of Trump winning the popular vote in the general, but as we know from Bush II, the EC ‘Trumps’ the popular vote. Most recently to our extreme detriment.

    I think an open primary sounds good. What I would worry about are years like 2004 or 2012 where only one party is holding primaries. Then again, I suppose with ample time to change party registration, it’s no different than it is now. Perhaps ironically, parties would need to wield more power in those situations to ensure partisans didn’t knowingly elevate the least electable individual into a position of being the nominee.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink
  15. Iron Knee wrote:

    Sorry, the term “open primary” is ambiguous. I should have said something like “non-partisan open primary”. I’ve edited my earlier comments to make this clearer.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2016 at 12:11 pm | Permalink
  16. Hmm wrote:

    I’m not convinced that most republicans will stay home if it comes to Clinton vs. Trump. I have a lot of Republican relatives and have queried them. Almost to a man they say that they don’t like Trump, but will vote for him because he’s a Republican candidate. More of them will refuse to vote if it comes to Cruz.

    Hoping it ain’t so.

    Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 8:37 am | Permalink