Bernie Sanders on Primary Losses: ‘Poor People Don’t Vote’

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Sanders, speaking with voters in Baltimore.Photo: YURI GRIPAS

In an appearance on Sunday’s Meet the Press, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders pegged his losses to Hillary Clinton in many states on the lack of poor voters at the polls. Asked by host Chuck Todd why he has tended to lose states with the highest levels of income inequality, despite that issue being a primary focus of his campaign, Sanders responded, “Well, because poor people don’t vote. I mean, that’s just a fact.”

Adding that a majority of the poor didn’t vote in the 2014 elections, he called low voter turnout among eligible voters with lower incomes “a sad reality of American society, and that’s what we have to transform.” Sanders said on Meet the Press that 80 percent of low income voters skipped the last election, but a Politifact review of the data indicates that the actual number was more like 65 to 70 percent. Nonetheless, the argument itself is of course a staple of the Sanders campaign, as one of its central tenets has always been the idea that Sanders would be able to transform the country on the back of a progressive political revolution powered by increased voter turnout among traditionally low-turnout demographics like the poor.

But while Sanders may be correct that an influx of poor voters would somehow transform politics in the country, that influx might not have yielded the victory he imagined for his campaign, as the Washington Post explains:

Sanders has lost Democratic voters with household incomes below $50,000 by 55 percent to 44 percent to Clinton across primaries where network exit polls have been conducted. (He has lost by a wider 21 percentage-point margin among voters with incomes above $100,000, and by 9 points among middle income voters.)

Regardless, as the Guardian notes, Sanders’s appearances on the Sunday shows also seemed to indicate a possible, if slight, redefinition of his campaign’s purpose to focus on voter turnout. If such a shift is indeed underway, it may at last be an acknowledgment of the unlikelihood that Sanders will be able to win the Democratic nomination away from Clinton, though he continues to reject calls to leave the race and insisted on Sunday that he thinks his campaign still has a path to victory.