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Greg Bluestein

Southern Democrats to Bernie Sanders: Quit dissing us

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NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 17: Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to throngs of supporters in Prospect Park to hear Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. AP file

Bernie Sanders speaks to throngs of supporters in Prospect Park. AP file


Remember all the talk from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders downplaying Hillary Clinton’s wins across the South? Well, some Democrats in these parts are fed up.

The head of the Democratic Party of Georgia joined with party chieftans from four other Southern states to send a message to Sanders to back off his characterizations of the South.

Sanders has dismissed Clinton’s victories across the region – she swept Georgia and every other state in the SEC primary – as pickups in the “the most conservative part of this great country.” And he said the scheduling of Southern states early in the Democratic primary “distorts reality.”

The letter-writers argue that Sanders’ rhetoric should “amplify our voice, not diminish them.” Here’s more:

“First, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, “55% of the African American population lives in the South, and 105 Southern counties has a black population of 50 percent or higher.” The African American community has been the most reliable and consistent vote for the Democratic Party for a generation, and in this year’s primaries, in the Southern states of South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and North Carolina, African Americans represented between 31-71% of the Democratic electorate. To dismiss the importance of this region is to minimize the importance of the voices of a core constituency for our party.”

“Democrats ought to embrace the South and all regions to build an organization that can compete in all 50 states. We must continue winning states like Virginia and North Carolina, and we can’t write off states like Tennessee and Georgia. Even Texas could turn blue in less than a generation. And beyond the presidential race, there are important statewide and other federal races happening every cycle. Boosting Democrats’ chances in those states is vital to enacting a progressive agenda at the local level and in General Assemblies. This can only happen if we show up, speak to the region’s needs, and compete for every vote, even in the face of long odds. That’s how change really happens.”

Georgia Democratic chair DuBose Porter signed the letter, along with the party chairs of South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. All are supporters of front-runner Hillary Clinton.

More: How Georgia Democrats plan to turn Georgia into a battleground state

Politico’s Gabriel Debendetti offers some analysis on why the letter matters:

Even for sitting party officials who support Clinton, the act of sending such a missive is an unusual move in the interest of party unity, many prefer not to show any preference between competing candidates when acting in their official capacity. But the Vermont senator’s statements have become a source of constant chatter for high-level Democrats across the South.