Ursula Muñoz Schaefer/ Staff Writer
In what may just be the twist of the century, get ready to see Republicans attack the Left on moderate rather than radical viewpoints.
Bernie Sanders may very well become the Democratic nominee in 2020. As of right now, he seems to be the front running candidate for the party, having raised more money from campaign donations than any other Democrat. His massive fan base is largely made up of millenials and Gen-Z voters who haven’t forgotten the promises made in his last presidential campaign and are still bitter from their theory that the primaries were supposedly rigged against him in 2016.
Still, it is too early to tell who will be the candidate to run against Trump and the Republicans next year.
Up until recently, Sanders was always second in the polls after former Vice President Joe Biden who has not yet announced his candidacy but has strongly been hinting towards it. Wildly popular not only amongst the aforementioned age groups but rather all across the board, Biden proves to be a threat not just for the Republicans who have already begun smearing him, but to Sanders as well.
Senator Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke have been the two most consistent runner-ups and are therefore already facing backlash from Berniecrats, on everything from their moderate ideologies, to their corporate interests. According to them, Harris is a corporate duty-bound to Wall Street, whereas O’Rourke is a fraud with lots of family money and fossil fuel interests.
The Berners’ backlash on these and other Democratic candidates does not come as a surprise and is hardly out of trend when we look at Sanders’ 2016 run. The problem? His supporters’ belief that the Establishment is always looking for someone to stop his ascent and their stubbornness against any and all other progressive candidates has proven damaging to Democrats in the past—and it’s something Republicans have learned to capitalize on since then.
In the toxic months leading up to November 2016’s elections, foreign trolls profited off of the split within the Democratic party by targeting Bernie supporters enraged by the primary results. Bots bombarded Bernie fan groups on Facebook with ludicrous stories from sketchy sites, accusing Clinton of everything from having an illegitimate child, to murdering her political opponents and using body doubles. It got to the point where entire Bernie pages were being run from Albania despite saying that they were situated in Vermont.
While much of this had a commercial motive—the more clicks generated from a wacky headline, the more ad revenue for the trolls—some of it may have been political.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recent findings put an end to the long-standing rumors of Trump’s collusion with Russia, but that does not mean that regular civilians rooting for him in countries like Russia, Macedonia and Albania didn’t have their own agendas at the time. Whether or not this was behind the motivations for a big chunk of these trolls, it definitely made something of an impact in 2016 when Clinton could potentially have had 13-million Bernie voters at her disposal.
“The fake stories were pushed to people who wanted to believe the system is rigged and Hillary is a criminal more than they wanted to check Snopes.com,” said comedienne and talk show host Samantha Bee (who herself is a Sanders fan).
This is not to say that Sanders supporters and trolls alone were the reason that Clinton lost, that she couldn’t have had better campaigning strategies or that her political record was flawless, but it does speak a lot to the ugly cycle of vitriol that divided the Left in 2016 and still continues to do so today.
It also speaks to how the Right profits off of the divide.
No matter how politically motivated these trolls were, they succeeded in turning a decent amount of people who already detested Trump’s only alternative further away from her. Not only does the vulnerability of Bernie’s fan base represent something Republicans can cash in on, but it has been proven to be damaging to the Democratic party. Rather than standing united, the Left has been split into fractions.
While many of us have settled to support all or several of the diverse and sturdy bunch of Democrats who have announced their candidacy for 2020, Bernie’s most ardent supporters have already flocked to social media to attack the likes of Harris, O’Rourke and more. #BernieOrBust seems to be a thing again and the primaries haven’t even properly started. Should one of them become the Democratic candidate (which isn’t as unlikely as we might think), part of Republicans’ strategy will most likely be to attack their centrism—twist of the century, I know.
Or rather, Sanders fans are already doing it for them. From The Young Turks to Chapo Trap House, far-left and Sanders-friendly web series and podcasts are already waving the middle finger at O’Rourke and Harris for being “the new Obamas”—young, moderate liberals with money who are not far left enough for their sensibilities.
They better straighten up because should Sanders not get the nomination, their whining and bickering will be what lands us four more years of Trump.
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Photo courtesy of sanders.senate.gov
I appreciate the well written article. I agree that it is hard to fathom that people who would have voted for Sanders ended up voting for Trump, just as it is hard to believe that some people who voted for Obama ended up voting for Trump. However, your argument that toxic Sanders supporters were responsible for Trump’s election, and that they will be once again should things play out similarly, is extremely shallow and it ignores everything we should have learned from the last election.
First and foremost, the 2016 election cycle was driven by anti-establishment sentiment. THAT is why Trump won. If you can’t understand that, then you don’t understand the current state of social politics and you don’t understand a majority of voters. It’s how Trump became the nominee out of a mess of candidates. As long as Trump is the opposition, the 2020 election will also be rooted in anti-establishment rhetoric.
Second, establishment Democrats and the apparatuses they control (including the DNC) used their influence to bias the primary in Clinton’s favor. That happened: (https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/11/14/16640082/donna-brazile-warren-bernie-sanders-democratic-primary-rigged). Between voter purging, misinformation, and influence from elite establishment Democrats, the primary was constructed to make her selection as the nominee inevitable. I would even argue that article I linked is still a bit biased for Clinton as it claims (among other things like Clinton’s strength being debates during that cycle) that bias ultimately favored Sanders, as though the unintended consequence of giving Sanders a wedge issue was a major reason people supported him and makes the bias okay. It completely ignores that outside of the Democratic party, anti-establishment sentiment stewing among voters was creating the monstrosity known as Trump. Furthermore, notice how after the Clinton lost the GE, the democratic establishment started spouting their own “theories” about how the election was rigged against Clinton.
This brings me to my third point: disinformation campaigns and election meddling by foreign entities, namely Russia, were real, but not in the way that you perceive it. The goal in Russian meddling was not to push for one side over the other, it was to push both sides against each other in all ways possible. Here is a great NYT series on that: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/12/opinion/russia-meddling-disinformation-fake-news-elections.html. Now, it is fair to assess that by the time of the general election, a majority of the “left trolls” in the disinformation campaign were pro-Sanders and anti-Clinton (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-were-sharing-3-million-russian-troll-tweets/). However, that doesn’t take into consideration that the strategy was to use whoever the “loser” of the primary was to discourage voter turnout. Had the primary gone the other way, the strategy would have been to employ pro-Clinton anti-Sanders trolling rhetoric.
Finally, the ultimate nail in the coffin was the elitist superiority complex Clinton and other establishment Democrats were (and still are) entrenched in. After defeating Sanders in the primary where Clinton benefited from establishment bias, the DNC and her campaign showed almost no tact and a complete lack of understanding of what voters at large (regardless of party) were feeling. A lot of the people who came out to vote for Sanders in the primary would not have participated in the election otherwise. The Clinton campaign and supporters felt that they were owed those votes. They felt that anyone who wanted to abstain or vote different was an idiot, or sexist, or racist. Their message? Fall in line. I still don’t know who thought that was a good idea, but it showed an incredible lack of awareness. The only real consolation the Clinton campaign made to Sanders supporters was to “borrow” his talking points and to remind people of the possibility of Trump. This arrogance also showed when Clinton entirely skipped campaigning in states that would later be her downfall in the general election.
Now, look at the rhetoric in your article. You talk about the left being divided, and yet here you are blaming the proponents of one candidate for all the mud-slinging going on. That doesn’t help party unity. You lambast the advocates of a single candidate for complaining about interference and meddling in elections, as though those same cries of outrage haven’t come from both the left and the right after the 2016 general election. You largely blame a single constituency for a candidate losing. You are being incredibly narrow and biased in your analysis here, and if you really care about party unity and defeating Trump, you should dial back the angry rhetoric and be more thoughtful and measured in your criticisms. When we are all shouting at each other, the loudest asshole wins.