Bernie Sanders is going to war with Democratic establishment
Posted March 3, 2020 9:55 a.m. EST
CNN — On Monday, two things became clear:
1) The Democratic establishment was falling in line behind former Vice President Joe Biden, believing him to be their best option to keep Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an avowed democratic socialist, from being the nominee against President Donald Trump this fall.
2) Sanders is not going to deflect or de-escalate this war over who the Democratic Party is and where it's going.
Which means: Get ready for a very nasty (and likely protracted) fight between the establishment wing of the party and the activist liberal base.
Consider what has happened over the past 24 hours as a sort of microcosm for what's to come. In the wake of Biden's sweeping South Carolina victory, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg both ended their presidential campaigns and endorsed Biden. Former 2020 candidate Beto O'Rourke also endorsed Biden. Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth did too. Plus a slew of House members who represented districts in states set to vote today.
Amid that lining up of forces against him, Sanders replied, well, with fire of his own. Asked by a reporter about the endorsements, Sanders said this:
"Look, it is no secret -- The Washington Post has 16 articles a day on this -- there is a massive effort to stop Bernie Sanders. That's not a secret to anyone in this room. The corporate establishment is coming together, the political establishment is coming together, and they will do anything and everything. They are really getting nervous that working people are standing up.
"And by the way, when we talk about South Carolina, and when we talk about other states, we are winning working-class voters by big numbers. So they're nervous that working-class people are standing up for decent wages. They're nervous that we are prepared to take on the fossil fuel industry to try to save this planet. And they're nervous that more and more Americans understand that health care is a human right, not a privilege. So it doesn't surprise me, alright?"
Then, later Monday, in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper before a town hall in Minnesota, Sanders sounded a very similar warning/message:
"We have shown from day one taking on the establishment. Whether it's the corporate establishment on Wall Street, the drug company, the insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry or the political establishment. Let me be very clear, it is no surprise they do not want me to become president because our administration will transform this country to create an economy and a government that works for all of the people, not just the 1%."
So, yeah. He's not backing down. In fact, with that rhetoric, Sanders is ramping things up. He's suggesting that the "political establishment" is getting behind Biden because they are afraid of him and the change he represents. That the party establishment is a bunch of elites who have, for years, taken working people (and their votes) for granted. And that Sanders is leading a movement that will unseat these elites from their perches -- and that is why they are lining up against him.
Which is a pretty big accusation to make against your own party -- and against Biden, who spent eight years as former President Barack Obama's vice president and three-plus decades before that representing Delaware in the Senate.
"We're all getting a little sick of Sanders and his 'corporate wing' of the Democratic Party BS," tweeted former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart, a CNN contributor. "What he means is the non-socialist part of the party. What he means is the heart and soul of the party. He's frustrated because in 4 yrs he's not been able to expand his base at all."
And so, we have the battle lines drawn -- even before we know what happened on Super Tuesday. Sanders will cast himself as the working-class hero, charging directly at the establishment's line with a set of progressive policy proposals that they are deeply afraid will shake up their longtime sinecures of power. The establishment, almost certainly after the votes today represented by Biden, will savage Sanders as something well short of a Democrat (Sanders has run as a democratic socialist in all of his races with the notable exception of this one and his 2016 presidential bid) -- a rogue agent seeking to destroy the party from within by insisting that no one, except him, is pure enough of heart and mind to truly represent it.
"This isn't an election to spend all our time in the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party," Biden said in Houston on Monday.
He's dead wrong. That's exactly what this is -- and likely will be for months.