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Bernie Sanders Cites Racism to Explain Progressive Defeats

Senator Bernie Sanders (I, Vt.) campaigns for local political candidates in Somerville, Mass., October 23, 2017. (Brian Snyder/Reuters )

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont says the reluctance of white voters to support minority candidates explains the defeat of a number of a highly touted progressive candidates in Tuesday’s midterms.

“I think you know 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,” Sanders told The Daily Beast in an interview published Thursday. “I think next time around by the way it will be a lot easier for them to do that.”

Sanders was referencing the defeat of Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, and the apparent defeat of Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, two progressive darlings, on Tuesday night.

Sanders campaigned aggressively for Gillum in the waning days of the race, touting their shared commitment to Medicare-for-all and tuition-free higher education during a well attended rally in Tampa, Fla. in late October.

“I think he’s a fantastic politician in the best sense of the word,” Sanders said of Gillum. “He stuck to his guns in terms of a progressive agenda. I think he ran a great campaign. And he had to take on some of the most blatant and ugly racism that we have seen in many many years. And yet he came within a whisker of winning.”

Despite Gillum’s defeat at the hands of Republican representative Ron DeSantis and the fact that Abrams was still trailing in her yet-to-be-called contest with Republican Brian Kemp, Sanders was optimistic about the country’s receptivity to his progressive agenda and cited the defeat of a number of centrist, red-state Democratic senators as evidence that the party’s leftward shift was politically advantageous.

“I think you got to contrast that to the votes of conservative Democrats who did not generate a great deal of excitement within the Democratic party, did not bring the kind of new people, new energy that they needed, and ended up doing quite poorly,” Sanders said, referencing the defeat of incumbent Democratic senators Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

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