First the Bernie Sanders campaign issued dishonest talking points aimed at harming Elizabeth Warren. Then the Bernie campaign released a video which purported to show Joe Biden talking about cutting Medicare and Social Security, when in fact Biden was mocking Paul Ryan’s desire to cut those programs. Then a key longtime Bernie surrogate published an op-ed accusing Biden of “corruption” – coming dangerously close to aligning with Donald Trump’s lies about Biden.
The toxic divisiveness coming from the Bernie Sanders campaign has gotten so dangerously out of control, Sanders ended up publicly apologizing to Biden last night over the op-ed. But there’s still little reason to expect that Bernie will rein in his campaign’s antics any time soon. He populates his campaigns with these kinds of henchmen for a reason. Since 2015, Bernie has been consistently looking the other way while his henchmen carry out dishonest attacks on competing Democratic candidates, and while his support base spreads lies about other Democrats across social media. Bernie only ever occasionally reins in these antics when public pressure is on him to do so.
For some reason Bernie, his surrogates, and his supporters are allowed to consistently carry out these dishonest and divisive antics – but if anyone calls Bernie out for it, Bernie’s supporters label that person as the one who’s supposedly being “divisive.” Throw in the media’s fear of being harassed by Bernie’s base for daring to suggest that he’s anything less than a perfect candidate, and it’s created an asymmetrical scenario in which the other Democratic candidates have a very tricky time of pushing back against Bernie’s divisive antics.
And yet, with the Bernie Sanders campaign now loudly spreading damaging lies about Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren – the two candidates who are by far the most likely to end up being the Democratic nominee – something must be done. Biden and Warren have one hand tied behind their backs when it comes to asking Bernie’s campaign and supporters to knock off this nonsense, because they face the prospect of having to come back and ask Bernie’s supporters for their votes in the general election. Enter Hillary Clinton, who just made her big 2020 move.
Hillary Clinton is, rather obviously, not running in 2020. Accordingly, she doesn’t have to care whether voters like her. She can offend Bernie Sanders’ base and not have to worry about whether she gets their votes later. So she said this about Bernie in a new documentary: “He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done … He was a career politician. It’s all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.”
Bernie’s supporters are now (understandably) enraged at Hillary Clinton. What she’s saying is mean spirited, factually accurate as it may be. But she’s the one person in Democratic politics who can get away with saying what everyone else in Democratic politics knows to be true: Bernie spent decades in the House and then Senate stomping his feet, getting along with no one, getting nothing done, being a cross between a mascot and a well-meaning punchline. Then the media decided to build this bizarre fictional heroic narrative about him in the 2016 election, which sucked in a whole lot of people who weren’t all that familiar with politics, and didn’t know that most liberals have always known Bernie was kind of a joke.
The tricky part is that Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden can’t get away with saying that about Bernie Sanders. But Hillary Clinton can say it, and she just did. She’s speaking the ugly truth that needs to be spoken, which should help sober up some folks who have passively supporting Bernie Sanders without really understanding how they even got sucked into it. Hillary is making herself the main target for the Bernie fanatics out there, but she’s fine with that, because it’ll get them to stop focusing on spreading lies about Biden and Warren for awhile.
Some of you are already gearing up to leave comments about how Hillary is being “divisive” by saying what she said, and how I’m being “divisive” for pointing out the ugly truth about why she said it. But that just underscores the absurd imbalance of the past two Democratic primary races, where Bernie Sanders and his people can be as toxically and dishonestly divisive as they want, and the people who ask Bernie to knock it off are the ones who get labeled “divisive.” So be it.
This election is far too important to allow it to get screwed up by a toxically divisive Democratic primary candidate who tacitly encourages his campaign and his supporters to spread lies about other Democratic primary candidates. By the way, there’s a reason the Bernie campaign has been ramping up its divisive attacks over the past few weeks: Bernie is not on track to win, or to even come close. Even if he wins Iowa and New Hampshire (which is unlikely), he’s on track to get blown out in South Carolina, and then more importantly he’ll get blown out again on Super Tuesday. If you can’t read the polling averages and see how this is the case, or if you think your gut is more accurate than the polling averages, you shouldn’t be in the prediction business.
It’s how he lost last time (by four million votes), and it’s how he’ll lose this time. Bernie won’t be the nominee. It’s time to put a stop to the damage he’s trying to do to the Democratic candidates who could end up being the nominee. The stakes are too high in this election to let Bernie’s fragile ego and bitter vindictiveness run wild unchecked.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report