In the debate before the New York primary, Bernie Sanders said the reason he did so poorly in the southern U.S. was due to the overwhelming number of conservative voters and conservative attitudes in the region.
“Secretary Clinton cleaned our clock in the Deep South, no question about it,” he said.
“That is the most conservative part of this great country.”
While some see this as some kind of affront, the senator is not entirely wrong. The Deep South is traditionally extremely conservative on top of having a tight-knit relationship with the Clinton family.
However, the area being conservative is not the culprit in the losses. The actual fly in the proverbial ointment? The generation gap combined with the digital divide is, in my opinion, solidly to blame for Sanders’ lack of traction in the south.
While Sanders is extremely popular with young voters who traditionally lean to the left, Clinton is extremely popular with older voters, who unsurprisingly have a tendency to lean to the right. They also happen to have over 20 years of Clinton history ingrained in their minds, while Sanders was relatively unknown to anyone outside of Vermont and Washington D.C. before the start of his campaign.
While they might not know that Sanders was fighting for civil rights with Martin Luther King, Jr., they know about Clinton’s legacy. Sanders’ campaign has been mainly a digital and grassroots effort, which notoriously fails to reach those in the more technologically-challenged areas. Thus while people may have heard his name, it is possible they didn’t know enough to make some kind of informed decision.
Of course, this is all speculation from raw data.
One of the most important factors in voting without having equal knowledge of each candidate is name recognition. The Clinton brand is one of the most recognizable names in politics in the last 30 years.
Whether you happen to be referring to one or the other, the pair have essentially made history in their own way. Since Sanders lacks reputation and recognition in the Southern states, people tend to vote for the person they know.
To put it in a bit of perspective, let us say that you are an average voter from the year 2004. You are suddenly transported to the future and asked to vote for one of three men. One named Cruz, one named Trump and another named Kasich. Chances are you would pick the one you know over the ones you do not.
Additionally, if you came from 2004, you might be confused as to why Trump had switched parties, but that is neither here nor there. But we happen to be getting off track.
Since 2000, almost all of the Deep South states were carried by the Republicans, but so were many of the states that Sanders won such as Kansas and Wyoming.
While it is historically true that many of the states in the south vote red, lack of recognition and a lack of information seem to be the main contributors to Sanders’ loss in the Deep South.