It’s not news that the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) is a vicious operation. It is news that Bernie Sanders has decided to call it out.
The New York Times obtained a letter (I wonder how) that Sanders sent to the boards of the Center for American Progress and its sister group, the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The letter accuses the think tank of undermining Democrats’ chances of taking back the White House in 2020 by “using its resources to smear” him. Sanders calls for an end to CAP’s “counterproductive negative campaigning” and urges the organization to “play a constructive role in the effort to defeat Donald Trump.”
Sanders wasted no time fundraising off of his dispute with CAP. According to the Times, his campaign promptly sent out a fund-raising email to supporters based on the dust-up. The subject line stated: “We are under attack.”
Sanders is. His letter appears to have been prompted by the suggestion by ThinkProgress (which is associated with CAP) that Sanders’ attacks on income inequality are hypocritical in light of his growing personal wealth (which is based on he success of his book). However, Sanders surely was mindful that the Center worked tirelessly to defeat him in 2016 so that Hillary Clinton, to whom it is closely connected, would win the Democratic nomination.
Since 2016, Democrats have been trying to heal the wounds created by the tactics used to undermine Sanders’ quest for the nomination. The Times suggests that CAP has pretended to play along with the healing process while, at the same time, working to undermine Sanders:
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.
That sounds right.
Sanders isn’t complaining solely on his own behalf. He accuses CAP of personal attacks on Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker. He cited a post on ThinkProgress’ website accusing Booker of undermining a bill he wrote with Sanders regarding the importation of medications from Canada and other countries. He also cited op-eds criticizing Warren for claiming Native American heritage.
By including Warren and Booker, Sanders gains credibility. His letter seems less self-serving and he comes across as a fair-minded team player, not just a cranky, bitter old man.
Apparently, Kamala Harris has been exempt from CAP’s accusation of hypocrisy. I guess that means it’s okay for her to attack wealth inequality even though she reported nearly $1.9 million in household income in 2018.
Joe Biden also gets a pass. “Middle Class Joe,” as he likes to call himself, has been “raking in millions,” according to Politico. He has a $2.7 million vacation home, charges more than $100,000 per speaking appearance, and has signed a book deal likely worth seven figures. Bernie Sanders, from all that appears, isn’t nearly that wealthy.
But the story here isn’t about hypocrisy. There’s nothing wrong with rich people favoring income redistribution as long as they are willing have their wealth transferred under the same terms as the similarly situated rich.
The story here is about the Democrats’ seeming inability to heal the ideological fissures and personal ill-will that plagued the party in 2016. (Republicans have done a much better job of this, thanks in no small measure to being in power). And given PAC’s longstanding ties to the Clintons, it’s also about the party’s inability to shake free of the Clintonistas.
The anti-Sanders wing seems to believe it can keep Sanders’ backers in the fold if/when the party nominates a less left-wing candidate by giving lip-service to unity and relying on disgust with President Trump to overcome hurt feelings and doctrinal disgruntlement. Sanders’ letter should be viewed as a warning against counting on this scenario.
UPDATE: I see that Steve has also written a post about Sanders’ letter. It looks like our posts went up at around the same time.
If you read my post first, check out Steve’s as well. He covers additional “pass the popcorn” developments.