Sen. Bernie Sanders brought his “Feel the Bern” tour here to Atlanta this week. Sanders, hoping to break through something called the Clinton “firewall.” What is that, and can he do it?
This is a Reality Check you won’t see anywhere else.
How Bernie Sanders Can Break Through "Clinton Firewall" In The South
Posted by Ben Swann on Thursday, February 18, 2016
“When you have billionaires buying elections, that is not democracy, that is oligarchy and we are going to change that.”
That was Senator Sanders speaking to nearly 5,000 people at Morehouse College here in Atlanta two days ago. Sanders is making a push to win minority voters in Nevada and South Carolina the way he pulled out huge showings in Iowa and new Hampshire.
But moving now to the south, the Clinton campaign has been depending on something called the Clinton “firewall.”
The idea here is that the Clinton campaign has a wall of minority voters—Latinos in Nevada and black voters in South Carolina and across the south like here in Georgia—who are devoted to her campaign.
But is the Clinton firewall, a firewall or a myth?
Already in Nevada, the Clinton campaign is talking down expectations. But the question becomes, how does Sanders win the south?
Here are the issues he is highlighting. Other than Sen. Rand Paul, who is now out of the race, Sanders is the most staunch presidential candidate on criminal justice reform. He has called for automatic federal investigations for anyone who dies in police custody.
He’s also called for the federal legalization of marijuana, which certainly helps him with the youth vote. He’s taken a hard-line stance against private prisons and believes the so-called “war on drugs” is and has been a failure. But among young black voters, his biggest weapon might turn out to be this guy—Atlanta rapper Killer Mike.
“We’re here on this great campus because slaves chose to educate their children.”
Killer Mike says that last year he reached out to Sanders and to Clinton, wanting a conversation about how they would help the African American community. He says Clinton never responded but Sanders did. Now, Killer Mike, who is famously suspicious of government, is backing the candidate who actually wants to grow the size of government.
For many young voters, hearing from a socially-conscious artist like Killer Mike is far more important than hearing a political endorsement from a politician.
“Lethal force is the last resort, not the first resort,” Sanders said, speaking in Atlanta on Tuesday. “And we need to make sure that students with high interest rates on student debt need to refinance those loans at the lowest interest rates possible.”
What you need to know is that perhaps the most valuable thing Senator Sanders has in his arsenal in the south is his own personal history.
Whether you like him or not, Sanders marched with Martin Luther King Jr. on Washington. He was also an organizing member of CORE (Committee on Racial Equality) and later SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). As an organizer, Sanders as an activist who fought for desegregated housing in Chicago and was arrested while protesting those practices in the 1960s.
In an election year, when voters are looking for authenticity more than anything else, the consistency of who Sanders has been make just be able to break through that Clinton firewall in the south.
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