One of the things I do for fun here at Houston Press is exploring and debunking memes currently making their way around the Internet. In fact, I somehow managed to find myself in a Wikipedia article on the subject, which is one of the more dubious honors I've accrued.
The latest one is this...gem. One of the recurring themes in the Democratic race since the first Super Tuesday has been that Hillary Clinton is winning only in the Southern states that usually vote Republican in the general election, with the implication that somehow the millions of people who have voted for her in those states matter less than the true-blue states more prevalent in the North. It's at times like this I like to remind people that in 2012, more Texans voted for Obama than voted period in 38 other states. Reminding people that the South has a whole lot of liberals gets really annoying, and this meme is just the latest expression of that erasure from the Yankees.
It's also completely full of it, from a strictly historical standpoint.
When the Civil War started, there were 23 states that formed the Union: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. During the war, Nevada and West Virginia joined as new states of the Union. Tennessee and Louisiana were returned to Union control early in the war, but we'll count them as Confederacy since they did initially rebel. So there were 25 states in the Union total as we understand it.
The Confederacy was initially seven states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas), and four more joined after the fighting started (Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia). All told, 11 states rebelled.
Now, it’s true Clinton has won every single state primary that has been held in an old Confederacy state (11 — South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and North Carolina). The only territory you could say Sanders won was the border state of West Virginia. Looking good so far.
However, of the state primaries that have been held so far, 23 of them were in the Union during the Civil War (California and New Jersey won't be held until June). Of those, Sanders has won 11 (New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Indiana and Oregon). Clinton has won 12 (Iowa, Nevada, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Kentucky). So if the election had been held in the Union at the end of the Civil War, Clinton would still be winning at this point.
Worth noting, though, that Sanders has won seven states that were not yet states during the Civil War (Colorado, Oklahoma, Idaho, Utah, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska). Clinton has won only one, Arizona. How that should factor into your estimation is up to you, but the fact stands that Clinton has actually won both the Union and the Confederacy. That will still be true unless Sanders wins both California and New Jersey, at which point Sanders will have won. If you add in Louisiana and Tennessee, which did vote in Lincoln's re-election campaign in 1864 though their votes weren't counted in the Electoral College yet, Clinton would have an unbeatable state-win advantage even if Sanders did take California and New Jersey.
It may make for a neat talking point, but Clinton has won a lot more than the old Confederacy. The only arena that Sanders has dominated in has been the unincorporated territories in the West that were not technically part of the Union. Sorry, Mr. Meme, Clinton isn't just winning under a rebel flag. She's winning under the American one.
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