Last week presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders visited several Southern states on a mission to see what promotes policy for lawmakers in the region and to take the temperature of Southern Democratic voters at a number of rallies in South Carolina, the first state in the South to vote in presidential election primaries in 2016. Sanders is coming up against a few obstacles in a state where his progressive views are often at odds with a more conservative, middling view among Democrats. Hillary Clinton enjoys a higher approval rating among South Carolinian Democrats, namely black voters. Sanders has been scrutinized for a dearth of rhetoric concerning racial inequality in America. Following a takeover by Black Lives Matter at a Bernie Sanders event in Seattle, the senator has clearly ramped up his efforts to appeal to black voters and their allies.
This past Friday in Columbia, Symone Sanders, a black criminal justice advocate and Bernie’s new national press secretary, opened the rally up and set the stage for a discussion that focused heavily on income inequality, systemic racism, and criminal justice reform as well as corporate greed, the Koch brothers, and Citizens United. While Bernie Sanders’ speech was rousing and met with loads of energy considering the stifling heat inside and out, it fell primarily on white ears. Bernie Sanders touched on the recent massacre in Charleston, one of the few points during his speech when the room fell silent, devoid of air. Governor Nikki Haley, vice presidential nominee hopeful according to much speculation, received unnamed criticism from the senator for her refusal to expand Medicaid in the state, a decision Bernie Sanders says denies 200,000 South Carolinians much-needed access to healthcare.
Across the state, Bernie Sanders reached about 10,000 voters, not a modest number, the polling effects of which remain to be seen in a state where the political climate has become more tumultuous and vitally self-reflective following a new wave of civil rights movements. While Clinton continues to give Sanders push-back in the region and beyond, there are whispers of a possible run from Vice President Joe Biden alongside pugnacious and favored Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren, who by herself poses a significant threat to fellow progressives in the race.