Bernie's Broken Promise (To Run A Positive Campaign)
When Bernie Sanders announced his run for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, he promised to run a positive campaign -- a campaign based on the issues, not personalities. And for a while he did that. But then he started falling behind in the delegate chase, and he morphed into a different candidate -- one not adverse to using GOP-style attack politics.
Bernie Sanders has done many things right in this race — and one thing very wrong. It is the wrong decision that I believe partially accounts for his poor showing on March 15th.
Let’s start with what’s right about Bernie’s message: he is a passionate purveyor of core progressive principles who has activated and energized millions of young voters. He speaks with conviction about crucial issues and he has helped bring those issues to the fore in 2016.
Here’s what’s wrong, terribly wrong: He caved to the pressure from his campaign manager Jeff Weaver and top aide Tad Devine to ride the ever-present wave of Hillary hate and to go after her character, impugning her honesty and insinuating that she is untrustworthy.
As I’ve argued repeatedly, Bernie’s Wall Street dog whistle is a barely concealed attempt to accuse Hillary Clinton of corruption, despite the fact that he lacks a scintilla of evidence to support that claim. No matter how lofty and inspiring his message, it is deeply unjust – and frankly, reckless – to run a campaign premised on the destruction of Hillary’s character through false innuendo. Especially when Democrats are facing a dangerous opponent like Donald Trump in a general election.
At some point in late 2015, Bernie’s campaign message and the behavior of his supporters became less about something and more against someone. Bernie’s campaign team determined that his path to victory runs right through Hillary’s integrity.
Tad Devine, Jeff Weaver, Cornel West, Killer Mike, and other Bernie aides and surrogates have led the charge against Hillary’s character, calling her honesty into question with no justification or evidence.
It has been a grave mistake for his candidacy, perhaps fatal. You can’t spend 2015 promising to run a positive, issue-driven campaign, then pivot in 2016 to a full-bore character attack against Hillary Clinton.
Going forward, it would be unwise for Hillary’s supporters to pressure Bernie to drop out, despite the prohibitive delegate math. All we should ask is that he drop the character attacks and stay positive.