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Midterms 2018

Bernie Sanders Claims Racism Fueled GOP Gubernatorial Victories

This is how the Vermont socialist explains an apparent pair of losses by two African-American candidates in the midterms

While neither race had been called officially as of late Thursday night, it appeared that Democrats Stacey Abrams of Georgia (shown above right) and Andrew Gillum of Florida (above left) were both behind in their respective gubernatorial races.

Both Georgia and Florida went to President Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election — and he endorsed the Republicans in their respective races: Brian Kemp and Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Sanders ignored this fact and claimed the likely defeats of the Democrats had more to do with the color of the candidates’ skin.

“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,” he said in an interview with The Daily Beast.

In saying this, Bernie Sanders ignored that former President Barack Obama won Florida twice, in 2008 and 2012 — and that as an ideology, progressivism tends not to be popular in the south. After all, Florida has not elected a Democratic governor since 1994 (Lawton Chiles) and Georgia not since 1998 (Roy Barnes). It’s also worth noting that Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who is Irish-American and shares many of his beliefs with Abrams and Gillum, lost his Senate race this week to incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Related: Florida Must Do Everything Possible to ‘Protect the Integrity’ of the Election Process

Horace Cooper, Project 21 co-chair, weighed in on Sanders’ comments while speaking with Fox News host Laura Ingraham on “The Ingraham Angle” on Thursday night. Cooper, who is African-American, disagreed with the Vermont senator’s notion.

“If everything is racism, then nothing is racism,” Cooper said. “People who voted for Barack Obama now voted for Donald Trump. They voted Republican and they voted Democrat. That is just how people make choices. Calling them out as bigots or [as] somehow uncomfortable with blacks does not serve any interest. In fact, it sets us all back.”

Related: Andrew Gillum May Seek Recount in Florida Governor’s Race

As Cooper pointed out, there was a significant overlap in Trump voters and Obama voters. Last year, Rasmussen released a report saying that as many as 13 percent of Obama 2012 voters cast a ballot for Trump in 2016.

Civil rights attorney Will Jawando, who is also African-American, disagreed with Cooper’s logic. He argued that people’s voting habits can still be fueled by racism.

“These are southern states,” he said. “There’s only been two black governors ever [elected] in the history of the country. Slavery, racism is still our original sin here. We’re still living with the aftereffects of it. There’s a reason why the DOJ [Department of Justice] had pre-clearance in these states until the Voting Rights Act [of 1965] was eviscerated.”

“I’ve [run] for office,”added Jawando, who was elected to the County Council in Montgomery County Maryland earlier this week. “I’ve had people call me the N-word at their door. I’ve had people invite me in who didn’t look like me. It exists in our country — but I think it’s getting better. I think you see Gillum, Abrams and other [Democrats] like Lauren Underwood in a 94 percent white district [Illinois’ 14th congressional district] get elected, so things are changing — but it’s the dichotomy of America.”

Cooper counted by saying, “You can’t be an extremist and win. Don’t call it racism. Let’s have a real conversation.”

“I’ve had people call me the N-word at their door. I’ve had people invite me in who didn’t look like me. It exists in our country — but I think it’s getting better.”

Ingraham agreed that attacking people as racist because they did not vote for a candidate based on the color of his or her skin does not help the civil discourse.

“When you call someone racist, that kind of ends the conversation,” she said.

“There’s nowhere to really go there. You don’t even deserve a debate,” she added.

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Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday,