Bernie Sanders Endorsed Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Primary Opponent, So Shit Is Pretty Real Now
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has run his campaign since day one as a movement against the establishment, or the current forces in power. Naturally, this includes the Democratic party’s present officials and their at sometimes moderate and even right-leaning economic policies. Sure, this underdog approach to authority has made him plenty of friends among common progressives, but it hasn’t had quite the same effect on hostile party leaders who have overwhelmingly endorsed frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Despite her “neutrality,” current DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has frequently had run-in’s with Sanders, and this weekend their feud reached new heights when Sanders backed Wasserman Schultz’s primary opponent in the August primary for Florida’s 23rd congressional district.
In a Sunday appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, Sanders was asked for his views on the race between Wasserman Schultz and Tim Canova, a Professor of Law and Public Finance at Nova Southeastern University.
Sanders didn’t even hesitate: “Well, clearly, I favor her opponent. His views are much closer to mine than as to Wasserman Schultz,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Toward the end of the interview, Tapper asked Sanders about the accusations by Sanders’ supporters that the DNC Chairwoman favored Clinton and was responsible for alleged unfair treatment toward Sanders’ campaign.
“In all due respect to the current chairperson, if elected president, she would not be reappointed to be chair of the DNC,” Sanders said, in a concise but not at all ambiguous response.
Also on Sunday, Sanders sent his supporters an e-mail with the subject “Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz,” encouraging them to donate to Canova:
“We’re doing this because it is too late for establishment politics and establishment economics. We need real change. We need U.S. Senators, members of Congress and state legislators who have the guts to take on the big money interests whose greed is destroying the American middle class.”
Following the hostile interview, Wasserman Schultz released an apathetic statement promising to maintain her “neutrality” regardless of Sanders’ decision:
“Even though Senator Sanders has endorsed my opponent I remain, as I have been from the beginning, neutral in the Presidential Democratic primary. I look forward to working together with him for Democratic victories in the fall.”
It’s important to note that all of this comes after high tensions at last Saturday’s Nevada Democratic party convention. Sanders supporters allegedly became violent, leaked phone numbers of part officials, and sent death threats after 60 Sanders delegates were deemed ineligible and Nevada Democratic party Chairwoman Roberta Lane refused requests to change the rules.
Sanders responded to allegations of violence by his supporters as well as treatment of them by party leaders by expressing doubt that these violent acts took place at all, and condemning shady and biased behavior on the part of Democratic party leaders.
“Party leaders in Nevada … claim that the Sanders campaign has a ‘penchant for violence.’ That is nonsense. Our campaign has held giant rallies all across this country, including in high-crime areas, and there have been zero reports of violence,” Sanders said. “If the Democratic Party is to be successful in November, it is imperative that all state parties treat our campaign supporters with fairness and the respect that they have earned.”
The Hill reports he added that Democrat leadership used its power “to prevent a fair and transparent” convention.
Sanders’ response was not satisfying to Wasserman Schultz, who called it “anything but acceptable” for not condemning “his supporters for acting violently.” Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver responded to the DNC Chairwoman by drawing on the hip lingo of Sanders’ young base of supporters and accusing her of “throwing shade” at Sanders since the beginning, to which Wasserman Schultz, not about to be one-upped, literally replied “SMH.”
And that takes us to where we are today.
Nevada is hardly the first incident of tension between Sanders, his supporters, and the DNC. For instance, this primary campaign season was slated to see a record-low number of debates, arguably an act of subtle bias favoring Clinton by limiting exposure to Bernie, the lesser-known candidate. And although more debates were scheduled, they took place on weekends and holidays, aka time slots during which much fewer people will tune in.
Then, of course, there was the lawsuit Sanders filed against the DNC when it suspended his campaign’s access to its voter data files over one of his campaign staffer’s allegedly stealing data from the Clinton campaign. Sanders has since withdrawn the lawsuit, but for a long time it remained a point of contention between the DNC and Sanders’ supporters.
To be fair to Wasserman Schultz, other Democratic leaders have been far more open about their disdain for Sanders, never giving up an opportunity to alienate him by pointing out that he was an Independent for decades. (As if that’s a bad thing when you consider some Democrats’ stances on global trade, or how the Democratic Party needs to appeal to the 31 percent of Americans currently registered as Independent in the general.) So few Democratic leaders have endorsed Sanders that when they do, it makes headlines.
But at the end of the day, I’m just going to say it: Biased or unbiased toward Sanders, endorsing Canova over Wasserman Schultz is the definitively progressive thing to do. Wasserman Schultz has clashed with progressives like Elizabeth Warren on several occasions over payday lenders, watering down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) where Warren wanted to see it expanded to protect the poor from being trapped in debt.
Wasserman Schultz has also come out supporting trade deals opposed by Sanders and Canova, which have arguably contributed to losing American jobs and even overseas labor exploitation.
Still, while Sanders isn’t feeling the Bern for Wasserman Schultz, President Obama, Joe Biden, and most of Florida’s 23rd congressional district are.