Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential candidate almost exactly one year ago on May 26. He started out focusing on two major issues—the economy and the climate—that energized an electorate, primarily young, who had previously ignored the voting process. He also started out as a pretty decent person who claimed that he wouldn’t run a negative campaign as shown by his comment to Clinton in last October’s debate that “the American people are sick and tired about hearing about your damn emails.”
Then Sanders started winning states. He now claims that he can win the candidacy despite being behind Clinton by over 3 million votes and 270 pledged delegates—and short another 498 super delegates. To just equal Clinton in pledged delegates, Sanders needs to pick up 463 of the remaining 655 delegates—over 70 percent of them. His one endorsement from the Senate in comparison to Clinton’s 41 is turning a bit lukewarm. All except one of the Democratic governors support Clinton as are the vast majority of Democratic members of the U.S. House. Sanders has nine representatives and no current governors—not even the one from his own state—on his endorsement list.
The media, once entranced by the Vermont senator who represents fewer than 627,000 people, has grown increasingly disenchanted. The disappointment vastly increased after Sanders’ supporters intimidated speakers at last month’s Nevada Delegate Convention, threw chairs, sprayed graffiti on the state Democratic office, and posted death threats and obscene messages on party chair Roberta Lange’s personal telephone. All because Sanders lost two delegates. In Donald Trump fashion, supporters are now threatening problems at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia this summer. It’s not the first time that the “Bernie Bros” behaved badly, but this event hit the mainstream media.
Instead of condemning the abusive behavior, Sanders first walked away from questions and then denied that his supporters would behave like this. Later he released a weak statement that blamed the Nevada Democratic party for preventing a “fair and transparent process” and he threatened Democrats with failure if they refuse to “treat our campaign supporters with fairness and the respect that they have earned.” Sanders rationalized the violence with grievances and conspiracy theories. Gone is the man who declared that “Mr. Trump should take responsibility for addressing his supporters’ violent actions.”
Politifact found that Sanders supporters’ claims of fraud in Nevada’s convention rules were completely wrong. Delegates, even some of them Clinton’s, weren’t seated because either they were not Democrats by May 1 or their names or addresses could not be confirmed. Only eight of the rejected delegates even showed up to the convention, meaning that seating them would not flip the majority. As in other situations, Sanders’ campaign didn’t check the existing rules of the party that he wants to elect him. By last Friday, he admitted that the Democratic Party rules aren’t rigged; he’s resorted to calling them “dumb.”
Yet Sanders lumps what he calls a corrupt Democratic Party into cries against income inequality, big banks, and Wall Street. His campaign reported that it will increase attacks on the party and Clinton in order to run up Sanders’ delegate count. Sanders’ attacks started over six months ago when he sued the DNC for briefly suspending his use of voter information after one of his staffers inappropriately accessed Clinton’s voter data. Sanders blamed the access on the DNC, and the problem was settled within a day. Yet the lawsuit reemerged in March.
Another Sanders’ war against the DNC comes from super delegates; supporting Clinton. He toned down that rhetoric when he decided to take all of Clinton’s super delegates by falsely persuading them that he had a better chance of winning against Donald Trump. He railed against closed primaries, but doesn’t mind undemocratic caucuses because he is more successful with them. (He won nine of the 11 states with caucuses which is almost half of the states that he won.) Ironically, the two states in which he overwhelmingly won with caucuses (Nebraska and Washington) voted him down in primaries.
Sanders has long wanted to remove DNC chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, from her position, going so far as to support her opponent in the Florida primary. Last week, he demanded the removal of Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy from being co-chairman of the platform committee and former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank from leading the rules committee. His excuse is that they don’t support the Sanders’ candidacy.
For the past several months, Sanders has consistently attacked Clinton, calling her unqualified and insinuating that she is giving favors to Wall Street. He now says that Clinton’s emails are a “serious issue” and voters should take a “hard look” at it. Yet after months of trashing Clinton and then claiming that he’s in a better position to win the presidency, he announced that it is her responsibility for winning over his supporters. According to Sanders, “it’s the candidate’s job” to win over his supporters. At the same time, he indicated a willingness to be her vice-president.
Several Sanders’ media supporters aren’t swallowing his claims: CNN backer Sally Kohn in Time, “I Felt the Bern But the Bros Are Extinguishing the Flames”; Esquire’s Charles Pierce, “It’s Time for Bernie’s People to Calm Down”; and Harold Meyerson, “The Bros Are Undermining Bernie.” At least two wrote in Sanders’ “fanzine” Salon that it’s over, and Berners are abandoning their following in Reddit.
The complaint of male entitlement in the GOP has begun to shift to the Sanders’ “movement.” Sally Kohn wrote:
“It’s also too easy to suggest that Sanders’ supporters are a different kind of angry than Trump’s. Are we entirely sure about that? The populist right may be more inclined toward misogyny and xenophobia, but the populist left is not immune from these afflictions. And as I’ve written before, when you see progressive white men—many of whom enthusiastically supported Barack Obama’s candidacy—hate Clinton with every fiber of their being despite the fact that she’s a carbon copy of Obama’s ideology (or in fact now running slightly to his left), it’s hard to find any other explanation than sexism. Either way, the brutish, boorish behavior of Bernie Bros (and their female compatriots, too) was a huge reason I was reluctant to seemingly side with them in endorsing Sanders—and has been the only reason I have ever questioned my decision to do so since.”
Joan Walsh wrote:
“If you’d told me a year ago that we’d go into Philadelphia with 45 percent of the delegates committed to a socialist, as a firm flank on the left, backed by the many millions of Clinton supporters like myself who also identify with the left, I’d have said we were on the verge of transforming the party into a vehicle for racial and economic justice. Now I’m afraid of what’s coming. If Sanders wants to destroy the party instead of change it, if he wants to demonize progressives like Barney Frank and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (Devine has suggested he wants them removed from leadership roles because they endorsed Clinton), if he wants to turn the first female presidential nominee into a corrupt caricature of herself, a cross between Carly Fiorina and Marie Antoinette, then Philadelphia will be a disaster. For the party, and for Sanders too. He thinks he’s the only one who can defeat Donald Trump. But in fact, he’s the only one who can elect him, by tearing the party apart.”
Dana Milbank asked if “Bernie Sanders want[s] to be the Ralph Nader of 2016”:
“A few weeks ago, I wrote that I wasn’t concerned about Sanders remaining in the race until the very end, because he doesn’t wish to see a President Trump and will ultimately throw his full support to Clinton. Sanders has, indeed, lightened up on Clinton and is instead trying to shape the Democrats’ platform and direction. But his attacks on the party have released something just as damaging to the causes he professes to represent. Coupled with his refusal to raise money for the party, his increasingly harsh rhetoric could hurt Democrats up and down the ballot in November and beyond.”
“We are taking on virtually the entire Democratic establishment,” Sanders proclaimed, and his arguments sound exactly like the ones that Ralph Nadar made 16 years ago when he handed the country to the Republicans. Now Nadar is talking about Trump’s good points in opposition to Clinton. When Sanders started his campaign, he declared that he would never do what Nadar did because there’s a clear difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. Now his campaign against the Democrats is a strong support for Trump. Little wonder that the polls are causing concern for a Democratic presidential election in 2016.
The question is why Sanders is destroying his political career. He has never had much clout in the Senate, but most of the Democratic senators are turning against him. His entire political future depends on whether he can drop the angry, bitter old man persona and return to the ethical-appearing character who started the campaign just a few months ago.
Sanders has proved himself to be just like the politicians he pretends to reject. He wants people to think that he’s driven by lofty ideology but avoids inconvenient positions, like gun control, that are politically driven.
As a Washington Post editorial stated:
“Mr. Sanders is not a brave truth-teller. He is a politician selling his own brand of fiction to a slice of the country that eagerly wants to buy it. It proves that many progressives like being told everything they want to hear…. “Senator Sanders has fostered a toxic mix of unreason, revolutionary fervor, and perceived grievance.”
Sanders chose to use the Democratic Party to make his run for president rather than being an independent candidate. He has no loyalty to the party that gave him publicity and a platform for his success and instead uses the term “anti-establishment” to campaign. His single-minded focus ignoring the fact that class intersects with race and gender causes him to lose among minority groups and, to some extent, women. These are not his issues; he addressed them only after Hillary Clinton did. Bernie Sanders promised not to run a negative campaign. He failed.