Bernie Sanders claims white voters in Florida and Georgia were 'uncomfortable' voting for black candidates

Alex Edelman/Getty ImagesSen. Bernie Sanders.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders argued that white voters “uncomfortable” with casting their ballots for a black candidate are in part to blame for Democratic losses in Florida and Georgia’s gubernatorial races.
  • Sanders claimed these white voters were “not necessarily racist,” a comment that was met with swift opposition online.
  • But others have pointed out that black candidates also saw success in uphill races in overwhelmingly white districts around the country.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, argued that white voters “uncomfortable” with casting their ballots for a black candidate are in part to blame for Democratic losses in Florida and Georgia’s gubernatorial races.

“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 a Thursday interview.

Sanders endorsed and campaigned with both Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum – who conceded to Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Florida gubernatorial race – and Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat who may engage in a runoff election with Republican Brian Kemp in that state’s governor’s race. And the senator argued that their tight races are a testament to the appeal of boldly progressive policies like Medicare for All and raising the minimum wage.

But he added that both Gillum and Abrams faced high-profile racist attacks during their campaigns.

Indeed, just days into the general election campaign, DeSantis called Gillum an “articulate spokesman” for the Democratic Party and warned that the state would “monkey up” its economy by putting a “socialist” in office – comments some interpreted as racist. Gillum and Abrams were also targeted by white supremacist robocalls.

“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.”

Read more:

Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis defeats Democrat Andrew Gillum to become Florida’s next governor

But other Democrats pointed out that several black candidates were successful on Tuesday in uphill battles in red and purple districts. Some of those candidates include Lauren Underwood, who won in an overwhelmingly white Illinois district; Lucy McBath, who beat a GOP incumbent in Georgia; Antonio Delgado, who prevailed despite racist attacks in upstate New York; and Colin Allred, a lawyer and former NFL star who won in the Dallas suburbs.

Sanders’ contention that the white voters he referred to were “not necessarily racist” was met swift opposition online.

“Bernie Sanders nor Elizabeth Warren have demonstrated a capacity to talk about race and racism honestly or thoughtfully,” author Michael Arceneaux tweeted– apparently referring to Warren’s controversial decision to use a DNA test to support her claims to Native American ancestry. “Might want to learn how to finally if you aim to run against an audacious white supremacist.”

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