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?
Before 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?
Then, 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…
I’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.