FEEL THE BERN: West Virginia Is For Lovers



THE ATLANTIC: How did Sanders win on Tuesday, though? West Virginia was once a solid Democratic state, a hotbed of labor unionism that went for Democratic presidential candidates from 1932 on in all but the Republican landslide years of 1956, 1972, and 1984. The state was represented in the Senate by two grand old men of the party, Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller. But more recently, the state has trended Republican, for a variety of reasons: Party realignment around conservative issues has led socially conservative West Virginians toward the GOP; racial animus toward President Obama has hurt the local Democratic Party; and the combination of weaker unions and liberal environmental advocacy against coal has lost the Dems some blue-collar backing. […] Sanders is not much like Robert Byrd—a former Klansman who became a moderate liberal—nor is he that much like Rockefeller, who was, well, a Rockefeller. But Sanders’s New Deal-flavored leftist populism still resonates with West Virginians. Like many states where Sanders has done well, the Democratic electorate is also overwhelmingly white. Demographics help explain why Sanders is expected to do well in the next two contests. Kentucky is another semi-Southern, rural, very white state where coal mining is important. Oregon, too, is heavily white and rural—while its biggest urban center, Portland, may favor Sanders for different reasons. “Last week we won a really big victory in Indiana, and tonight it appears we’ve won a big, big victory in West Virginia—and with your help, we’re going to win in Oregon next week,” Sanders told an enthusiastic crowd in Salem, Oregon. MORE