I wrote here about how Sen. Bernie Sanders called out the Center for American Progress (CAP) for “smearing him” and a couple of other Democratic presidential contenders. Sanders cited ridicule from CAP over the fact that he’s a millionaire.
CAP promptly backed down, sort of. Its president, Neera Tanden, disavowed responsibility for the attacks by publications of CAP Action and by CAP’s website ThinkProgress. She said she disagreed with their tone.
This is consistent with CAP’s approach all along to Sanders. The New York Times explained:
Since Mr. Trump’s victory, Ms. Tanden [the head of CAP] has recast herself and her organization as leaders of the anti-Trump “resistance,” and has sought to harness the energy of liberal activists who backed Mr. Sanders in 2016, even as she has continued complaining about his supporters.
CAP is talking out of both sides of its mouth.
The truth is that CAP and other establishment Democrats are scared stiff of Bernie Sanders and are dead set against him being their Party’s nominee. As the New York Times puts it, they are “agonizing over [Sanders’] momentum.”
The Times elaborates, in its hack journo style:
From canapé-filled fund-raisers on the coasts to the cloakrooms of Washington, mainstream Democrats are increasingly worried that their effort to defeat President Trump in 2020 could be complicated by Mr. Sanders, in a political scenario all too reminiscent of how Mr. Trump himself seized the Republican nomination in 2016.
How, some Democrats are beginning to ask, do they thwart a 70-something candidate from outside the party structure who is immune to intimidation or incentive and wields support from an unwavering base, without simply reinforcing his “the establishment is out to get me”’ message — the same grievance Mr. Trump used to great effect?
CAP’s answer — taking cheap shots at Sanders and then disclaiming responsibility for them — seems inadequate. But what’s the alternative?
The Times continues:
[Sanders] has enormous financial advantages — already substantially outraising his Democratic rivals — that can sustain a major campaign through the primaries. And he is well positioned to benefit from a historically large field of candidates that would splinter the vote: If he wins a substantial number of primaries and caucuses and comes in second in others, thanks to his deeply loyal base of voters across many states, he would pick up formidable numbers of delegates. . . .
That prospect is spooking establishment-aligned Democrats, some of whom are worried that his nomination could lure a third-party centrist into the field. And it is also creating tensions about what, if anything, should be done to halt Mr. Sanders.
What can be done?
David Brock. . .said he has had discussions with other operatives about an anti-Sanders campaign and believes it should commence “sooner rather than later.”
There’s a good chance that CAP’s attacks on Sanders are a product of such discussions. But Sanders’ forceful pushback serves as a powerful warning against an out-and-out anti-Sanders campaign. The Times quotes former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak in this regard:
If the party fractures again, “or if we even have anybody raising an eyebrow of ‘I’m not happy about this,’ we’re going to lose and they’ll have this loss on their hands,” Rybak said of the anti-Sanders forces, pleading with them to not make him “a martyr.”
The wisdom of Rybak’s warning depends on whether Sanders is less electable than other contenders with a realistic shot at the nomination. If so, then shooting at him is probably worth the risk.
I’m not convinced Sanders is less electable, but establishment Democrats seem to be. This belief is self-serving, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.