Why Bernie Sanders Lost, Part II: He Was Principled To A Fault

June 10, 2016  |  

Bernie Sanders Netroots


Yesterday, I wrote a bunch about how Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders lost the Black vote and its impact on his performance during the primaries, however there was a much more important factor in his lost.

In short, he’s just too damn principled.

And for a longer version, I point to to this article in Politico by Edward-Isaac Dovere and Gabriel Debenedetti entitled: “Inside the bitter last days of Bernie’s revolution.” In it, the writers suggest that it was Sanders who ultimately called all of the shots in his campaign. And got in his own way.

More specifically, they write:

It was the Vermont senator who personally rewrote his campaign manager’s shorter statement after the chaos at the Nevada state party convention and blamed the political establishment for inciting the violence.

He was the one who made the choice to go after Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz after his wife read him a transcript of her blasting him on television.

He chose the knife fight over calling Clinton unqualified, which aides blame for pulling the bottom out of any hopes they had of winning in New York and their last real chance of turning a losing primary run around.

And when Jimmy Kimmel’s producers asked Sanders’ campaign for a question to ask Donald Trump, Sanders himself wrote the one challenging the Republican nominee to a debate.

There are many divisions within the Sanders campaign—between the dead-enders and the work-it-out crowds, between the younger aides who think he got off message while the consultants got rich and obsessed with Beltway-style superdelegate math, and between the more experienced staffers who think the kids got way too high on their sense of the difference between a movement and an actual campaign.

But more than any of them, Sanders is himself filled with resentment, on edge, feeling like he gets no respect — all while holding on in his head to the enticing but remote chance that Clinton may be indicted before the convention.”

It happens. I mean, not the indictment thing. But the resentment thing. And it is understandable. This is a man who has spent 30 years in Congress being the last of the true honest men. An independent. A socialist for the working poor. Regardless of how half-ass his approach, as noted yesterday, there is no denying that Sanders meant well. And for his efforts, he was rewarded with years of being perceived as a man on the fringes and ignored a lot (until the Democrats needed him of course).

That was up until this election cycle. While some critics are reluctant to call it a movement, as the article notes Sanders’ run for the White House had reignited the progressive spirit among voters, which many felt had left the Democrat Party. He should have been getting praised for bringing new voters into the fold. Or at the very least, not going hard on Sen. Hillary Clinton like many of his supporters wanted him to do.

But even with all that he contributed, the man still gets very little respect within his party or the media. And as the article notes, he grew particularly disappointed by former allies turned supporters of Clinton who he felt to be “cynical, power-chasing chickens.” That included, Sen. Sherrod Brown, who as the article stated was “one of his most consistent allies in the Senate before endorsing Clinton and campaigning hard for her ahead of the Ohio primary.”

As such, he got a little bitter. And he became a man who could not be pushed around. Or even listen to advice.

As the article states:

“In the days following, before Sanders scored his win in Indiana that campaign aides feel no one acknowledged because it came the same night Trump locked up the Republican nomination, the calls started coming in from Democratic power brokers.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s call was part advice, part asking a favor, urging Sanders to use his now massive email list to help Democratic Senate candidates. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin was the most obvious prospect, and Reid wanted to make introductions to Iowa’s Patty Judge and North Carolina’s Deborah Ross—to help Democrats win the majority, but also to give Sanders allies in making himself the leader of the Senate progressives come next year.

Reid, according to people familiar with the conversation, ended the discussion thinking Sanders was on board. He backed Feingold. But that’s the last anyone heard.

Word got back to Reid’s team that Weaver had nixed the idea, ruling out backing anyone who hadn’t endorsed Sanders. Weaver says it’s because the Senate hopefuls had to get in line for Sanders’ support behind top backers like Gabbard and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.)—though neither has a competitive race this year.

Sanders never followed up himself.”

Of course, that mistake would cost him dearly particularly in battleground states like California and in the delegate count. As the article states, most of the campaign staff had felt for weeks, if not months, that Sanders didn’t stand a chance of winning. They wanted to think long term, whether or not the campaign should throw its support behind Clinton or instead focus their attention on defeating Trump, sans any endorsement.

However Sanders, still upset with how he had been treated, was much more concerned with getting payback at the upcoming Democratic National Convention. More specifically,

“Campaign aides say that whatever else happens, Sanders wants former Congressman Barney Frank and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy out of their spots as co-chairs of the convention rules committee. It’s become a priority fight for him.

Sanders, the aides say, believes Frank has hated him for years, but the former Massachusetts congressman’s calling him a “McCarthyite” pushed him over the edge.”

And it is partially the reason why he will not let go.

As the writers conclude, Sanders reluctance to do things his way might be a matter of strategy. As they Write: “He likes that he’s been in front of almost a million people since the campaign started. But he knows that as soon as the campaign’s done, the crowds will start thinning, and he’s not going to get on television anymore. He’s certainly not running for president again.

Sanders knows the ride is about to stop—but he’s going to push it as far as he can before it does.”

While some may see this as a matter of principle; A man willing to fight against the status quo for what he believes to be right to the very end. It also says something about the value of compromise, particularly in Washington. Most of us don’t like to do it. However, for the sake of our goals and agendas, we bend.

However, Sanders, at times during this campaign, forgot that his goal was to push this movement to the White House. Fresh off of Occupy Wall Street and straight into Black Lives Matter, the chorus of the disaffected was loud and ready. Sanders had the momentum. And honestly there was no reason for him not to capitalize off of that.

But instead he made moves based a lot on principle. And unfortunately it is what cost him in the end.

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