Bernie Sanders isn’t just hanging around the Democratic primary because he has nothing better to do. He’s not even staying in the race to make a point. He’s in the race because he’s desperate to foment a revolution among the liberal wing of the Democrat Party.
“I think we are perpetuating the political revolution by significantly increasing the level of political activity that we’re seeing in this country,” Sanders told NPR. “I think it’s good for the United States of America, good for the Democratic Party, to have a vigorous debate, to engage people in the political process.”
The problem for Democrats is not just that Sanders’ decision to stay in the race forces Clinton—the establishment favorite and presumptive nominee—to fight a two front battle, it’s that Sanders’ is proactively undermining Clinton’s general election chances.
Contrary to the friendly narrative that suggests he is an issue-based candidate who is simply staying in the race to push the policy conversation to the left, Sanders continues to personally attack Hillary Clinton, particularly on her ties to Wall Street, which could leave a lasting mark in the fall. Sanders has also continued to suggest that the Democratic establishment is actively rigging the game in Clinton’s favor, a line of attack that risks poisoning the well for Clinton among many could-be supporters.
Most recently, Sanders accused party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of playing favorites at the party convention by packing committees with Clinton supporters.
“. . . I was so disappointed to learn that of the over forty people our campaign submitted at your request you chose to select only three of my recommendations for the three standing committees. Moreover, you did not assign even one of the people submitted by our campaign to the very important Rules Committee of the Democratic National Convention,” Sanders wrote in a letter to Schultz.
“If the process is set up to produce an unfair, one-sided result, we are prepared to mobilize our delegates to force as many votes as necessary to and the platform and rules on the floor of the convention.”
The committee debacle is just the latest in the string of overt measures the party has taken to thwart Sanders’ upset bit. Politico’s Daniel Strauss reports:
The tensions between the DNC and the Sanders campaign are long running, ranging from disputes over debates to a bitter feud was over the committee’s decision to revoke the Sanders campaign’s access to its voter data file following after a data breach. Last week, the Sanders campaign accused the DNC of having an inappropriate fundraising agreement with the Clinton campaign.
This may seem like inside baseball stuff that only matters to the politicos that reside at the center of the party, but Sanders has been able to effectively leverage these sorts of slights into his coveted status as an outsider. He’s also been able to weaponize the feeling that the system is rigged through his fervent supporters. Former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, a Clinton ally who was selected for the all-important position of party Rules Chairman, was booed at a recent speech and called a “sellout” who should “go back to Massachusetts.” But most worrisome for Democrats is that by drawing into question the political process of the establishment, you inherently draw into question the validity of the result.
Clinton has wisely stayed out of the intra-party bickering over process and instead has sought to buy off Sanders’ supporters by coopting pieces of his proposals. Her latest shift leftward was to give people the option to buy into Medicare, perhaps as early as age 50. The new idea flies in the face of her recent criticism of single-payer, and would likely cost the federal government trillions.
Unfortunately for Clinton, she no longer has the ability to stay on centrist policy ground and she no longer has the benefit of being able to debate based on facts. Not when you have the passion of Sanders’ voters to contend with.