The Frustration With Bernie Sanders – An Explainer

There is a strange and persistent myth that Bernie Sanders didn’t run a negative campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2016. The myth persists because the mainstream media and GOP largely gave him a free pass to attack her. And they did so because his campaign was doing their dirty work, systematically assailing her public image with rightwing talking points.

Because the damage Sanders did helped elect Trump, it is important to create a record of it so Democrats don’t make the same mistake again.

As if to cement the point that Sanders helped the GOP, the most comprehensive compilation of his attacks on Clinton exists on the GOP’s website:

The Top 15 Sanders Attacks On Clinton

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In late April of 2016, Donald Trump voiced his approval of Sanders: “He’s been tough on her. In fact, I’d like him to keep going because the longer he goes the more I’m going to like it.”

Trump continued, “So Bernie Sanders, not me, said she is not qualified. So now I’m going to say, ‘She’s not qualified.’ OK?”

The Sanders campaign’s hard negative pivot as voting season approached turned into a full-fledged effort to eviscerate Clinton’s character as 2016 progressed. Most disturbingly and consequentially, it continued long past the point when it was clear Clinton would be the nominee and that she would face the singularly dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump.

Sanders and his operatives executed a brutally efficient attack strategy against Clinton, impugning her integrity and accusing her of being corrupt. Senior aides fanned out across cable to hammer her Wall Street speeches, a tactic Sanders himself had previously rejected as “a character assault,” according to the New York Times.

Sanders’ belated and tepid endorsement, which I welcomed at the time, was too late to undo the damage. Millions of Sanders supporters who eventually voted for Clinton did the right thing and should be praised for their decision. But more than 20% of his voters did not back Clinton in the general election. In fact, 12% voted for Trump. (While it is true that a portion of Clinton voters didn’t back Barack Obama in 2008, there is a vast difference between an election where John McCain might become president and one where Donald Trump could get his hands on the nuclear codes.)

Here are more examples of what was done to Clinton by – and in the name of – Bernie Sanders and his campaign:

  • In a press release, he accused her campaign of “money laundering” and “looting” donations.
  • Jane Sanders called Hillary Clinton the ‘The Anointed One.’
  • Sanders supporters threw dollar bills at Clinton’s motorcade.
  • Sanders supporters chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, Hillary Clinton has got to go”
  • Jeff Weaver said: “She made a deal with the devil.”
  • Tad Devine said: “She cannot be trusted to appoint someone to the Supreme Court who will take the issue of campaign finance seriously.”
  • Cornel West said: “How many politicians do we know have genuine integrity. You can count them on your hand, and Hillary Clinton is not one of them. She’s not one of them, brother.”
  • Tad Devine said that Clinton “lacks credibility” and that she’s a candidate who “voters don’t trust and believe.”

During the election, I chronicled numerous similar character attacks by Sanders and his aides and surrogates. These were not issue disagreements, these were direct claims that Clinton lacked integrity and honesty. The cumulative effect was to give Trump and the GOP a big head start and to unleash rage among a segment of Sanders supporters, primarily white males, that continues to this day. It is a noxious combination of Clinton hatred and self-righteous purism that is deeply harmful to Democratic prospects in future elections.

On April 2, 2016, I wrote the following:

The video of Hillary saying, “I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I’m sick of it,” is an important inflection point in the 2016 campaign. Hillary responded the way she did for a reason. That reason matters. It’s because her opponent keeps implying she’s corrupt without providing an iota of evidence to support that awful claim.

Here’s the Washington Post’s fact-checker giving Bernie “Three Pinocchios” and confirming our view: “The Sanders campaign is exaggerating the contributions that Clinton has received from the oil and gas industry. In the context of her overall campaign, the contributions are hardly significant. It’s especially misleading to count all of the funds raised by lobbyists with multiple clients as money ‘given’ by the fossil-fuel industry.”

Bernie sees the writing on the 2016 wall. So do his senior advisers. But rather than go positive and unite the party, they’ve clearly decided to spend the money they’ve raised and traverse the path of maximum negativity — the path that conservatives have tried and failed with Hillary.

More than a year later, Trump is president and Bernie Sanders is still attacking Democrats, taking the spotlight away from a new generation of Democratic leaders, while his diehards hound anyone who disagrees with him. The silver lining is that these Sanders diehards, though loud and aggressive, are a fringe element in American politics.

They claim the mantle of progressivism but set the cause back by pretending that progress is easy—if you only wish hard enough for it—and by harassing those who are working for meaningful solutions in the face of an intransigent and radical Republican Party. They even went after heroes like John Lewis and Dolores Huerta for supporting Clinton, conveniently ignoring things like Sanders’ highly questionable record on guns and his push to dump toxic waste on a poor Latino community. Not to mention his swipe at Planned Parenthood as the “establishment.”

When confronted with the reality that they helped Trump by vilifying Clinton, these Sanders diehards respond with ludicrous claims about a “rigged” primary and the baseless assertion that Sanders “would have won,” somehow ignoring the fact that he lost. They point to a debunked poll that he is the most popular politician in America, a poll that excluded Obama and Biden. They argue that Clinton should have defeated Trump, even as they did everything they could to damage her and cause his victory.  And all the while, Sanders remains silent about their bullying and intimidation tactics.

In the end, despite having raised important issues in the early part of the 2016 election and bringing new voters into the political process, Bernie Sanders leaves a legacy of having boosted Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency.

-Peter Daou

JOIN THE DISCUSSION
  1. The best way to purge Bernie from the party is to continue defeating his candidates like we did in VA. Did anyone notice how Bernie refused to endorse Ralph Northam after his chosen candidate lost? His PAC, Our Revolution, left the state after the democratic primary. Northam handily won despite that. If we keep defeating Bernie’s candidates, he’ll leave on his own. Hopefully.

    Perez may be getting the message about getting rid of Sanders. I’ve heard that several high ranking Sanders supporters have been relieved of their positions in the DNC.

  2. The Harvard-Harris poll polled exactly 2,027 people, 70% of them white. It polled a TINY group of African Americans. I am so sick of hearing it trotted out as any sort of actual evidence of his popularity. Meanwhile, he lost the primary by a huge margin, but somehow that’s all explained away. So then she also sold a helluva lot more books than he did. What did she rig the New York Times bestseller list too? The virulence of that echo chamber insists that “me and all my friends love him so everyone must” and just won’t face fact. He was never viable, and will never be. People didn’t like him in 2016, and they outright hate him now b/c of his divisive, self-serving b.s. (pun intended).

  3. Jane Sanders saying Hillary was the “anointed one” was a travesty. When that little sparrow flew onto Bernie’s podium during an outdoor rally, everyone including Bernie was in “awe” as if he was St Francis of Assisi. Lastly Bernie campaigned against Hillary as long as he possibly could…. dividing voters even more until he finally got out… leaving massive division within the Democratic party causing a lot of them to turn against “her” and vote for Trump.

    1. Late to discover this lovely website and to your reply but here goes .. first, omg the article about how Sanders royally messed things up is bang on! Every time he opened his mouth, he criticized Clinton and gave Trump mileage. It will take me a long time to forgive him and Comey.
      To your response Melissa .. I laughed out loud with that Francis of Assisi quip, so funny. It’s like people are looking for some holy idol to worship that will solve all their problems .. instead of a real flesh and blood human who will sweat to actually get the work done.

  4. Yes to all of this. How many female Hillary supporters spent the primary and even general campaign season being harassed endlessly by certain male Bernie supporters?! Not only that, but even the more level-headed Bernie supporters still refuse to admit that they even exist, as though all of us women who got the brunt of their ire are making it all up.

    I am terrified that he is going to deliver us a second term of the Trump presidency.

    1. The “progressive” credentials of many a male Bernie supporter were called into question when they saw fit to harass women about their right to bodily autonomy and made horrific comments about Hillary. They sounded every bit as bad as Trump supporters, and in some instances, far worse!

      1. They were Trump supporters disguised as Bernies Sanders loyalists thanks to the guerilla strategies of Ben Shapiro Milo Yianoppolis and Richard Spencer.

  5. Finally somebody writes about this. Thank you. I’ve seen so many people in the media claim that the attacks by Bernie and his male supporters weren’t that big of a deal. It has been a big deal. Many of us were too stunned for a long time to even realize what was happening. They were especially going after feminists & saying things I would never repeat. Once we started fighting back, some started acting like they had no idea where this was coming from & other doubled down even harder. Complete gaslighting.

  6. You all articulate this very well. In Santa Fe, NM, the Bernie diehards took over the Center for Peace and Justice where we had earlier started the Clinton campaign, but we beat them anyway, whereupon on election night they walked out and only one of them campaigned for Clinton, rather weakly. Instead, they held meetings and plotted to take over all the ward representatives to the Santa Fe County Central Cttee. Despite a high level Sanders staff member admitting that the DNC being stacked against Bernie was untrue and that he simply lost, these Sanders diehards are still parroting that narrative to this day. Still, “Our” Revolution (not mine or most Democratic Women, or people of color, has failed. Most of the candidates Bernie supported lost. The Sanders hard core supporters had little knowledge of politics prior to this election . They are really misinformed about Hillary Clinton. And, as is being shown by the “Womens Conference,” (which is false advertising because it is really all about Bernie). This lack of Party loyalty and a false claim to be ” progressive” (they are anything but) puts them in the class with history’s most blatant political frauds. Bernie lost an opportunity to do remedial civics with his supporters and instead numbed them. This made them vulnerable to Russian propaganda and interference on their sites. The Democratic Party has a real opportunity to fix security of voting, fight the extensive and complicated voter suppression tactics of Republicans, replace them and turn the congress and Presidency blue….but not with Bernie in the picture.

    1. Sounds like an ordeal. An old college buddy sent me one of the Santa Fe Hillary 2016 t-shirts which I will always treasure.

  7. I am just going to leave this here as ask women who support Bernie to please explain why they are giving him a pass for this. He wrote it when he was in his 30s, during the height of the woman’s liberation movement, less than a year before the Roe vs. Wade ruling.

    Does any man who thinks like this and writes the things down for a publication really have the best interests of women in his heart? I don’t think so. These are Bernies’ words, not mine:
    http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/191337/bernie-sanderss-1972-essay-man-and-woman

      1. His voting record is why I can never ever support him.

        * He voted against DACA.
        * He voted against DREAM.
        * He voted against background check 5 times.
        * He voted every chance he could to prohibit the CDC from performing research on gun injuries. He says he supported this research in the primary but his voting record says otherwise.
        * He voted voted against Universal Health Care in the 90’s when it might have passed.
        * He voted against ending the military requiring you to pledge that you were straight and investigating your sexuality in the 90’s (then he had the gall to try to act like that was a good thing).
        * He votes consistently against funding for NASA.
        * He votes consistently against research into salt reactors(they take in nuclear waste that would be hot for hundreds of thousands of years and excrete waste that is slightly warm for 300 years).
        * He pledged to convert 19.5% of our grid to coal by shutting down all our nuclear power plants which he has an all consuming irrational fear of.
        * He did manage to get Vermont’s clean, green, nuclear plant shut down leading to a 7% increase in carbon and spiking energy prices the following year as coal replaced it.
        * During the ACA fight he was trying to push amendments to force insurance to cover fake medicine (acupuncture, naturopathy, etc).
        * He voted against letting rape victims know if their attackers have deadly STDs.
        * He voted to prevent a Hispanic community (Sierra Blanca) from being able to do their own environmental impact statement of a nuclear waste dump he wanted build by their town. His wife is on the payroll of the organization who would build the dump.
        * He voted for the Omnibus Crime Bill of ’94 ( More importantly he made Hillary speaking in favor of it a political attack when *he actually voted for it*. Hypocrisy, thy name is Bernie )
        * He voted against freezing the assets of Russian criminals *twice*. The first time he tried to pretend he was part of the 90+ majority and supported the sanctions but was voting against the bill because of something else in it. The second time his lies were revealed as it was a clean sanction bill. See Magnitsky act.
        * He loves his purity tests, but doesn’t think abortion should be one and endorses pro-life democrats like Heath Mello, Marcy Kaptur, and Tom Perriello who will vote to control women’s bodies. He has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t consider pregnancy an “important, economic, issue” even though family planning is literally the most important economic issue a family faces.
        * He voted consistently to set 1.5 trillion dollars on fire funding the F-35 joint strike fighter jet which can’t fight and occasionally asphyxiates it’s pilots. He did this while claiming that peaceful, scientific, NASA is to expensive to fund. And not as part of a larger bill, he voted on it specifically and spoke out in support of it (http://taskandpurpose.com/sanders-position-on-the-f-35-contradicts-his-views-on-defense-spending/)

        The list goes on and on. And its even worse when you go beyond votes. Everyone focuses on his rape essay but his other essays are far more appalling. He has essays arguing that orgasm prevents cervical cancer, that maternal medicine is an establishment hoax because pregnancy is “natural” and “safe”, and that we should give polygamy a chance.

        No. Just no.

    1. He voted AGAINST letting rape victims know the HIV status of their rapists ffs, because the rapists should have medical privacy.

    1. Thank you, Mr. Daou. You’ve saved me the agonizing trouble of writing all this myself. So I’m putting it on my blog with my hearty–or dis-heartening–confirmation.

  8. Bernie using the Democratic party, which he seems to find loathsome, simply because he needs their infrastructure and prominence and doesn’t have the integrity to run as an independent — this all speaks much more to his character than that of the Democratic party.

  9. I’m sick and tired of the Bernie worshiping. He let his ego get ahead of his ideals. Bernie seems like to have more contempt for democrats than he does republicans.

  10. Bernie Sanders has always relied on the kindness of women/strangers… To support him both financially and domestically. Why would anyone ever believe he’d treat Sec. Clinton any better than he treated his current spouse on the election circuit? There’s plenty of video evidence to show how he really feels about women. Truly heavy sigh.

  11. I began following Peter Daou because he always beautifully articulated exactly what was bouncing around in my head. He certainly didn’t disappoint with this piece. I yelled at my television and debated with family members about the daily damage Bernie was doing to Hillary during the months he refused to accept defeat.

    Statistics now bear out the damage Bernie and his ilk did to Hillary’s candidacy. Not only did she have to run against Russia, she was forced to run against members of her own party, And now, instead of celebrating her and her history-making run, her own party is embracing the very NON-DEMOCRAT who harmed her and either ignoring or criticizing her. It’s outrageous and hurtful and it has me wondering if the 65 million of us who voted for Hillary and would again today even have a party. I really doubt it.

    1. I leave this party I have been in since I first voted in 1976 (for Jimmy Carter) if they run bernie as a Democrat again.

    2. I knew we were in trouble during the Convention – the behavior of his “Bernie-or-Busters” and his refusal to support Hillary in any meaningful way (like she did for Obama in 2008 when she gave her delegates to him during roll call – a true class move and a demonstration in how to unite a party and win elections) was a total embarrassment and I’m sure the Republicans ate it up.

  12. Bernie and purists are the tea party of the left. I’m horrified at the similarities between Bernie and Bannon. I’m afraid for our eroding democracy under trump. Verrit and articles like this give me hope that truth will prevail.

  13. Thanks for setting the record straight.

    Sanders is one of the top 3 reasons that we have to fear Trump will start World War III, or that millions of Americans will lose their health care via “Trumpcare,”, etc., etc. The other two are the Russian interference and the October 28, 2016 Comey letter. If Sanders was not as ego-driven as Trump, he would have conceded after the New York Primary, after which it was mathematically for him to win enough pledged delegates to win the nomination. Doing so would have cemented his legacy as a true believer in the existential threat Trump posed. But he didn’t & his continued denigration of the Democratic Party, which, by the way, is nothing new for him (he wanted someone to primary President Obama in 2011), could pave the way for a Trump re-election in 2020.

    I firmly believe Sanders realized that a Hillary loss would raise his standing & profile. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party hierarchy has fallen for Sanders’ trap. For every diehard Sanders supporter there are many more like me who will not donate to the party until Sanders is put in his place or jettisoned altogether.

  14. My heart still hurts to see her treated so disrespectfully. Her strength steels my resolve and as a 62 year old POC, I continue to fight this arduous fight for equality. I’ve been “woke” for over a half a century and I have seen Berne and his ilk try to destroy the hard work that we do only to lay claim to it later with his pious finger wagging speeches. Thank you for this article and let the facts speak for themselves.

    1. What a wonderful and powerful reply. Thank you Maria. For your spot-on observations and for staying in the fight. My resolve is strengthened by Hillary and also by knowing people like you are out there helping us all. And I may just ask permission to re-use “pious finger-wagging speeches”. That captures the essence of the man perfectly!

  15. Thank you for putting words to my feelings. I still think Sanders’ campaign caused the damage that gave us Trump, and I’ll never forgive him for it.

  16. Great article. Finally someone is talking sense about this spoiler who intentionally damaged the country and Hillary. Its revolting to see him walking around as though he innocent while pretending he’s not dismantling the Democratic party.

    1. The white men running the Democratic party allowed him to run as a Democrat, despite his loud contempt for them.
      And America suffers.

      1. I still don’t understand WHY the Democrats let him run under the party name…has the Democratic party ever explained why on earth they let this happen?

        1. Perhaps they believed, like many of us, that he would do right by Hillary in the end. Whilst he did stump for her a bit, he waited too long. And he never reigned in his diehards. It is deeply troubling to think he could divide the liberal progressives again in 2020, ensuring four more years of Trump.

          1. For the first couple months of the primary season, I was actually glad he was in the race, and even attended one of his rallies and (briefly) considered backing him. Their first debate was a perfect contrast to the clown show of the Republican debates, and together they made the Democrats look like the party of the reasonable adults. It’s too bad Bernie went off the deep end somewhere along the way. I think he is the number two reason we have a Trump presidency, after Comey and his stupid October announcement. And it certainly appears that he plans to do it again in 2020.

  17. Well said. HRC was vilified by Bernie, Nina and others and we all now suffer because of their actions. As a POC I am exhausted with white privilege and the roll backs to hard fought progress in Civil Rights. Enough…

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“I don’t believe that she is qualified.” – Bernie Sanders on Hillary Clinton, April 6, 2016
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