Hillary Clinton thinks Bernie Sanders isn’t popular enough among his colleagues in Washington. A new documentary series for Hulu finds the failed presidential contender saying: “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.”
She stood by these comments when interviewed by Lacey Rose for the Hollywood Reporter, refusing to say whether she’d endorse Sanders if he got the Democratic nomination. Clinton also suggested that Sanders mobilizes an online army of “Bernie Bros” to attack women candidates by “giving them a wink.” Yeah, no bitterness here.
It’s barely worth pointing out that Sanders has a sky-high approval rating and a formidable grassroots movement behind him. To frame the election as a popularity contest, one might note that Bernie is beloved by those whose opinion should matter most: American voters. I say “should” because we know that our stupid primary system and rotten party politics tend to mute this thunderous support in various ways. But the distaste for this establishment, which became a crucial ingredient in Trump’s 2016 victory, is more pronounced four years later — especially on the left. We’ve already seen a traditional Democrat lose to an ethno-nationalist shitposter thanks to the electoral college, and we’re aware that both belong to a circle of sexual predators.
What’s funny this time around is that while Trump wants nothing more than to run against Hillary once more (as the continued “Lock her up!” chants demonstrate), she just opened the door for Bernie to run against her, an icon of the despised Beltway set who isn’t particularly well-liked herself. When even the Pod Save America dudes are aghast at your willingness to smear the socialist in the race, you probably miscalculated what percentage of the country identifies with your workplace grudge. Hillary sat in front of a camera and said, in essence, that “he’s not one of us” — and seemed not to realize how that would confirm the positive regard in which so many people hold him. If I didn’t know better, I’d guess she was trying to boost his standing by acting the resentful foil.
It’s not just Hillary, of course. Barack Obama has pledged to campaign for whoever the Democrats nominate, though previously said he’d speak up to stop Sanders from rolling too easily through the primaries. The media bias against Sanders, in coverage and debates, is well documented. When the Editorial Board of the New York Times interviewed the senator ahead of the embarrassing televised endorsement special, they dinged him for not being bipartisan enough (i.e., working with Trump’s craven GOP), managed to offer a ludicrous parallel between his public events and the current president’s endless MAGA tour (“I’m wondering how you flying around the country in 2021 rallying the people would be different than what Donald Trump has been doing?”) and pushed back when Sanders said that Trump voters’ racism can be explained in part by a feeling that “the political establishment, Republican and Democrat, have failed them.”
The Times isn’t independent of said establishment, as Bernie likes to point out, and all of their questioning felt miserably bound to the view that a presidential hopeful must be an obvious product of that very hierarchy, not someone aiming to upend it.
These career politicians and corporate media institutions are overestimating, deliberately or not, the value that average Americans place on the perceived normality of what happens in D.C. — refusing to acknowledge that “normal” hasn’t benefited the masses in decades. Meanwhile, they miss the countervailing appetite for disruption that helped Trump to power. By backing (in laughable addition to Elizabeth Warren) a candidate that they note is running “a distant fifth place” in Iowa, despite her touted Midwest bona fides, the Times is begging for a return to a status quo it can understand, one that isn’t ever coming back. The perfect irony of calling their gimmicky double-endorsement a “break with convention” is that they don’t know which convention we really want to see broken: the Democratic party’s faith in tired, uninspiring voices.
Well, if that’s how it has to be, bring it on. Something tells me that the attack line “Bernie won’t play the game like everyone else” isn’t as effective as the D.C. insider class appears to believe. Indeed, it’s more likely to broaden his base and allow him to pick off some Trump voters interested in a maverick actually taking on the elites as promised. (And hey, if Hillary hates his guts…) We aren’t trying to choose a nominee who can magically transport us back to 2011 — though god knows Biden is making the pitch — but a leader to beat Trump and start to dismantle the conditions that paved the way for his reckless, corrupt regime. The liberal clichés of electability, practicality and strategy that grew from this same lousy dirt will be of no use in the fight ahead.