The PJ Tatler

Sanders Tries to Take Back the Deep South for Socialism

The Senate took a break this week after its arduous brush with default and and CR negotiations. Some went back to their home districts. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) went to Afghanistan to meet with President Hamid Karzai and get a progress report on operations there. Some hit the airwaves to hammer on the Obamacare exchange website failure.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was a man on a mission, determined that red states have a shot to swing left even in the Deep South.

He took a three-day swing through South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi to talk socialism at a high school, community health centers and union halls.

As reported by socialist magazine In These Times:

“I really strongly disagree with this concept that there’s a blue state and red state America,” Sanders tells me in the parking lot outside a community health clinic in Atlanta. “I believe that in every state in the country the vast majority of the people are working people. These are people who are struggling to keep their heads above water economically, these are people who want Social Security defended, they want to raise the minimum wage, they want changes in our trade policy. And to basically concede significant parts of America, including the South, to the right-wing is to me not only stupid politics, but even worse than that—you just do not turn your backs on millions and millions of working people.”

…Sanders tells me the trip’s purpose is, in part, to identify potential candidates who could benefit from a small influx of cash next election cycle—“whether it’s independents, whether it’s third-party people or progressive Democrats…folks who have the courage to stand up to big money interests and represent working families.” The Senator’s political action committee, Progressive Voters of America, has raised about $300,000 over the last three election cycles for left-leaning Democrats in Congress. So far, the overwhelmingly majority of those candidates have been at the federal level, but Sanders is open to finding state-level candidates worthy of financial backing. After trouncing his 2012 Republican challenger 71 percent to 25 percent, it seems an opportune time for Sanders to lend his growing national clout to fellow economic populists.

…Sanders ultimately has his eyes set on winning over a decidedly less supportive sector of the population that has increasingly turned to Republicans in recent elections: the white working-class. In each of the four states that Sanders visited—Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina—President Obama received less than 20 percent of the white vote in 2012.

“All over this country, but maybe most noticeably right here in the South, you have white working class people voting against their own best interests,” he told the crowd at the CWA hall in Atlanta. “This country is facing some enormous problems, and we can’t address those problems for working people if the South keeps sending us members of the House and Senate who are continually voting against the interests of a vast majority of the American people.”

The 72-year-old was pressed about whether he intends to run for president in 2016.

“I suppose if you’re running for president, probably going to Mississippi and Alabama is not the place most candidates would go. You go to Iowa and New Hampshire or something like that,” Sanders says with a laugh. “But what I do think is there needs to be a progressive voice in the presidential process. I hope very much there will be a voice coming up to do that.”

But when pressed to say if he’s completely decided against running, he acknowledges he hasn’t. “I haven’t ruled it out.”