Bernie And His Buts

I’ve said from the start how much I have admired Bernie Sanders. I’ve cheered him on for years on MSNBC, back before the network abandoned most of its liberal programming. He has always had my moral support, if not my enthusiastic support for his presidential ambitions.

Now I have to admit something. If Bernie were to climb Mount Improbable and reach the summit of the Democratic nomination, I would most certainly vote for him—a Republican victory in November is unacceptable—but I would do so with a vise-grip painfully pinching my nose. What he and his surrogates have been doing in this campaign, well, to put it in King James language: stinketh.

I have previously documented how Sanders himself has essentially suggested that Hillary Clinton is untrustworthy and dishonest and corrupt. I have documented how some of his top spokesmen have openly called her a liar. Recently, a top surrogate, Susan Sarandon, suggested that if Bernie didn’t win the nomination, it might be better if Drumpf became president so the “revolution” would come more quickly after the country “explodes.” I have yet to hear Bernie distance himself from that brilliant analysis.

Out of politeness, I haven’t focused on other troubling aspects of Sanders “positive” campaign. For example, here is a question Bernie was asked during an interview recently with left-winger Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks:

UYGUR: You have convinced [millennials in the “movement”] that Hillary Clinton is the establishment candidate. If you were to lose, and the Democratic Party comes to you and says, “Okay, now, take this movement that is full of energy and is against the establishment and make sure they vote for the establishment candidate.” What do you say?

sanders on young turksBefore I get to Bernie’s answer, it is clear what any good Democrat would say to that question, isn’t it? Something like: “Why, of course I will do everything I can to make sure a Democrat is elected in November.” Shouldn’t we expect an answer like that from a person seeking the Democratic nomination for president? Yes. We should. But to be honest about it, Bernie is not a Democrat. Never has been. He is a party unto himself.

Worse than that, not only is Bernie not a Democrat, he has spent a good part of his political career trashing the Democratic Party. In a revealing article in Politico, we learned that the head of the party in Burlington, Vermont, said that during the 1980s, Bernie’s “goal was to destroy Democrats.” We learned that in 1985 Bernie said, “I am not now, nor have I ever been, a liberal Democrat.” We learned that in 1986, when he was running against Democrat Madeleine Kunin for governor of Vermont, Bernie said the party was “ideologically bankrupt” and “They have no ideology. Their ideology is opportunism.”

It turned out that the ideologically bankrupt and opportunistic Kunin went on to become Vermont’s first female governor and the first Jewish woman elected governor of any state. Politico noted that in Kunin’s memoir, she wrote that Bernie’s “daily diet consisted of vitriol.” So much for the “positive” campaigner.

In 1988, Sanders said again, “I am not a Democrat.” He called the Democratic nominee for president that year, Michael Dukakis, “the lesser of two evils.” Politico reports what he did next:

In an op-ed in the New York Times in January 1989, he called the Democratic and Republican parties “tweedle-dee” and “tweedle-dum,” both adhering in his estimation to an “ideology of greed and vulgarity.”

The next year, at a “Socialist Scholars Conference,” he asked out loud: “Why should we work within the Democratic Party…?” Why, indeed.

Going back to that question Cenk Uygur asked Bernie, about whether he would urge his enthusiastic supporters to support Hillary Clinton, here’s what Bernie said, not in 1985 or 1988 or 1989, but here in 2016:

Well, you know, what I say, number one, I’m not big into being a leader. I much prefer to see a lot of leaders and a lot of grassroots activism. Number two, what we do together as a growing movement is we say, “Alright, if we don’t win”—and by the way, we are in this thing to win, please understand that—“what are the Democratic establishment gonna do for us?”

That answer tells me at least one important thing about Bernie Sanders. He doesn’t give a damn about a Democratic Party that he can’t shape into his own image. It’s pretty much that simple. Let me give you another example from just the other night. Saint Rachel Maddow interviewed Bernie and they had this exchange:

MADDOW: I have to ask, though, if you have thought about whether or not you will, at some point, turn your fundraising ability toward helping the Democratic Party more broadly, to helping their campaign committees for the House and the Senate and for other – for other elections?

SANDERS: Well, right now, Rachel, as you are more than aware, our job is to – what I’m trying to do is to win the Democratic nomination. […]

MADDOW: Well, obviously your priority is the nomination, but I mean you raised Secretary Clinton there. She has been fundraising both for the nomination and for the Democratic Party. At some point, do you think – do you foresee a time during this campaign when you’ll start doing that?

SANDERS: Well, we’ll see. And, I mean right now, again, our focus is on winning the nomination.

“Well, we’ll see?” Huh? That was Bernie’s answer to a question about helping other Democrats win elections? If, as a Democrat, that answer doesn’t make you mad, then you’re a strange kind of Democrat. And if that man is the leader of a political revolution, he’s a strange leader and it’s a strange revolution. How can you peacefully revolutionize our politics without working to win congressional elections?

cllinton and greenpeaceThen, we have what happened yesterday. First, Hillary Clinton’s rally in Syracuse, New York, was interrupted by Bernie supporters who were chanting “If she wins, we lose!” Then when she was out greeting people after the event, a Greenpeace activist asked her a question based on a falsehood perpetuated by Sanders and his campaign. The activist asked her if she would “act on your word to reject fossil fuel money in the future in your campaign.” Clinton responded angrily:

I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies. I am so sick— I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I’m sick of it.

Me, too. Taking money from people who work for fossil fuel companies is not the same thing as taking money from the companies themselves. If postal workers gave money to Hillary Clinton, it wouldn’t be fair to say that she is taking money from the Postal Service. Here’s how Blue Nation Review put it:

One can hardly blame her. Bernie, his staff, his surrogates, and his supporters routinely accuse Hillary of accepting money from fossil fuel companies, along with every other industry they find objectionable. But what they are alleging isn’t even legal. Accepting direct contributions from corporations is a violation of campaign law.

Additionally, as BNR pointed out, “Bernie has received$203,885 in donations from energy industry employees.”  Maybe Clinton should send someone in to disrupt Bernie’s next rally and ask him if he will “reject fossil fuel money in the future in your campaign.”

In any case, Bernie had a chance to condemn all this nonsense this morning on ABC’s Good Morning America. David Muir asked him for his reaction to what happened to Clinton yesterday. The answer we got was typical Bernie-speak:

Well, I’m not crazy about people disrupting meetings. But…

sanders on gmaI’m going to stop here for a moment. There always seems to be a “but” when Sanders is asked about these kinds of things. He just can’t bring himself to say, without equivocation, that his supporters should not disrupt his opponent’s events, that his supporters should support whoever wins the Democratic nomination, and his supporters should stop suggesting Clinton is corrupt. You know why he can’t? Because he is the main author of their doubts about Hillary. Here is the rest of his answer this morning:

Well, I’m not crazy about people disrupting meetings. But the fact of the matter is Secretary Clinton has taken significant sums of money from the fossil fuel industry.

Now, first of all, that was hardly a condemnation of his supporters disrupting meetings. In fact, it was no condemnation at all. Second, what he claimed was false. Unless one counts taking money from employees in the industry as taking money “from the fossil fuel industry,” it is a phony charge against Clinton. And if one counts employees in the industry as the industry itself, then Bernie is also “corrupt” because, as noted, he has also accepted lots of money from energy company employees. If this is positive campaigning, I don’t want to see Bernie go negative.

Finally, this morning ABC’s David Muir finished up his interview with Bernie this way:

MUIR: Senator, do you think by being in the race, you have forced Secretary Clinton to evolve her message?

SANDERS: I think, if you look at issue after issue after issue, she has moved very much closer to us. But I think the real, what people have really got to look at, is who has been there for decades. Who has time after time taken on the special interests, whether it’s Wall Street, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industries. And I think if people check the record, they’ll find that Bernie Sanders was there a lot earlier.

I think if people check the record, they’ll find that Bernie left out one special interest group that he has, quite fiercely, taken on for decades: the Democratic Party. And that is why it is so damned hard for him to now support the party or its candidate, should that candidate be someone other than Bernie Sanders.

14 Comments

  1. King Beauregard

     /  April 1, 2016

    Here’s another one with Bernie. Now, the man is campaigning on making Election Day a national holiday, right? He wants to make sure everyone has a chance to vote, and for their vote to count. All very noble.

    Now the other night on Colbert, Bernie said the following:

    “We have won six of the last seven caucuses, most of them by landslide victories. And I think superdelegates should listen to the will of their people.”

    Let’s be clear about this: Sanders is boasting about how well he does at caucuses — overall much better than he does at primaries, here are some numbers:

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/bernie-sanders-continues-to-dominate-caucuses-but-hes-about-to-run-out-of-them/

    But the big difference between primaries and caucuses is that it’s much harder to attend a caucus than a primary. You need to have transportation, you need to go to a location that is probably some distance away, you need a possibly significant block of time as they wait for everyone to assemble and then count votes. It is a system that puts up significant barriers to a lot of people, in ways that primaries (at your local polling station for quick easy access) do not.

    And Bernie is gloating about doing so well at caucuses and how it proves the will of the people. While, at the same time, campaigning on how we need to make Election Day a national holiday to remove barriers to voting.

    The more I see of Bernie, the less I see of a principled, decent man.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep. It’s very true that caucuses are mostly for people with a lot of free time on their hands. Here in Missouri (a hybrid system with a primary and a caucus!), someone tried to recruit me to a caucus, either for Hillary or for Bernie. I was given a form to fill out and was told that I should go to training and then I had to be available on at least two separate dates, if I wanted to both caucus and be a delegate. Huh? Only the lonely would be willing to go through all that stuff, as far as I’m concerned. It is much easier to go to a polling place and vote, which is why Hillary does so much better in primary situations. What a goofy, democracy-unfriendly situation.

      And as for Bernie’s big victories a few weeks ago, you know how many Democrats participated in the Alaska caucus? A whopping total of 539! Yes, 539 hardy souls bothered to caucus and Bernie got 440 of those hardy souls. Nothing demonstrates your point more than that.

      Duane

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      • King Beauregard

         /  April 1, 2016

        To be super clear — because I know what is coming — I’m not faulting Bernie for winning the caucuses. He didn’t create the system, and whether or not I think caucuses are the way to go, Bernie won fair and square.

        But one shouldn’t gloat about doing better in caucuses than in primaries, then turn around and call for dropping barriers to voting. At some level, Bernie should recognize that his better performance in caucuses means he’s profiting from barriers to voting, and that’s not something to brag about. I can guarantee that, if Bernie were losing caucuses, he and his fan base would be up in arms at how undemocratic they are; Lord knows they hated superdelegates until they started seeing them as a potential path to victory. To say nothing of Bernie’s campaign director saying that regular delegates could always flip to Bernie, i.e. deliberately undermining the will of the people. Joe Stalin would smile down from heaven approvingly.

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        • You are right, of course.

          When it comes down to it, I think my biggest problem with Bernie along these lines, aside from the one you mentioned, is his criticism of the superdelegate system. The reason Hillary Clinton has such an overwhelming lead among those superdelegates, who are party regulars and officials, is that he has trashed the party from the beginning of his political career.

          It’s no mystery why, after all that trashing and after years and years of refusing to raise money for Democrats, the party faithful, those who work their asses off running as a Democrats and raising money for fellow candidates and doing the hard work related to elections, aren’t too sympathetic.

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      • King Beauregard

         /  April 1, 2016

        … been doing some research on that 539 figure; it’s not quite what it appears to be. It looks like the real figure is 10,617 caucus attendees, 1.4% of the state population.

        http://www.bustle.com/articles/150373-how-many-people-voted-in-alaska-the-last-frontier-state-was-overwhelmed-with-participants

        And the Democratic caucus in Washington couldn’t get quite 5% of the state population to attend. Contrast with Ohio’s Democratic primary (not caucus), where over 10% of the state population showed up. How is it that a deep blue state like Washington can’t hit 5% but a purple-red state like Ohio can exceed 10%? The difference is probably in the voting barriers inherent to caucuses.

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        • Thanks for correcting my rather egregious error. I look at that now and realize what a dumbass I was for thinking so few Democrats voted in Alaska. I can only appeal to the fact that I still see Alaska as a barren place where no one lives because it is too damned cold. And, more important, because Sarah Palin lives there. So, again, thanks for doing the hard work of actually falsifying something I said. Believe it or not, I appreciate it.

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          • King Beauregard

             /  April 5, 2016

            You are a member of the reality-based community and thus would rather be corrected than persist in error. I totally get that.

            For what it’s worth:

            http://www.talkleft.com/story/2008/5/27/92144/7994/elections2008/Caucuses-vs-Primaries-A-Report-

            By the numbers, in 2008 primaries have averaged 400% greater voter turnout in eligible voters than caucuses.

            The average Democratic voter turnout in 2008 caucuses has been 4.5% versus 19.92% in primaries.

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            • The fact that more than four times more people participate in primaries over caucuses should be enough, at least for the Democratic Party, to scrap caucuses altogether. Why the party leaders at the national level don’t insist on it, is beyond me.

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    • Yeah, I heard Bernie’s campaign manager on TV this morning talking about Hillary’s troubling centrism. I don’t even know what that means. But I do know the center is where elections in America tend to be won, whether you or I like it or not.

      In any case, the writer you referenced is, well, a bit unhinged from reality. He says Bernie is “a moderate on the political spectrum.” I’m guessing even Bernie would object to that ridiculous attempt to characterize him. Say all what you want about Bernie, but Bernie is no moderate—in terms of American politics. And that is what we are discussing: American politics. 

      On that dual-axis measurement, the economic axis is defined by extremes that are foreign to American politics. On the left, it means complete collective control of the economy. On the right, it means, essentially, laissez-faire. In our country, neither of those extremes has any political support to speak of. Ask President Ralph Nader or President Ron Paul if you don’t believe me. Thus, the writer of this article, apparently a leftist’s leftist, doesn’t even understand American politics. He is right that the “American left” is “politically relevant again,” but he has no idea what the real American left is. Bernie Sanders represents the American left today and to call him a “moderate” is, well, laughable.

      Duane

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  2. King Beauregard

     /  April 5, 2016

    Hey Duane, I’m sure you saw this, but just in case …

    http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/05/politics/bernie-sanders-interview-new-york-daily-news/index.html

    The media’s finally started paying attention to Bernie, and he comes across as an idiot. I saw this coming months ago. Somehow, Bernie didn’t.

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  3. Your post is clarifying, Duane. And the discussion. My take on Bernie is that he is the ideologue and Hillary is the professional politician. Ideologues typically persist until they achieve martyrdom and get pilloried or crucified. Professional pols typically persist until they achieve compromise, stinky as that often becomes. I’m going with the pol.

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    • You know, Jim, if I want my now-computerized car fixed, I go to a guy who has had training in cars so equipped. If I were to have heart problems, I am pretty sure I’d go to a cardiologist. And if I want something good to get accomplished in government, I tend to go with a politician who understands, as you suggest, that compromise is not the worst thing in the world, if at least some incremental good comes out of it. Bernie simply abhors compromise and incrementalism. He has made that clear in this campaign.

      Liked by 1 person

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