‘Dam­aged’ Clin­ton turns on San­ders

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ROBERT PHILPOT

IT IS some­times said about the Demo­cratic party that were its mem­bers asked to form a fir­ing squad, they would stand in a cir­cle.

This month, it was Hil­lary Clin­ton’s turn to un­load, fir­ing a se­ries of salvos at the man she de­feated in last year’s Demo­cratic pri­maries. Ac­cord­ing to Mrs Clin­ton’s re­cently-pub­lished ac­count of the 2016 elec­tion, ti­tled What Hap­pened, Se­na­tor Bernie San­ders aided and abet­ted Don­ald Trump in pulling off the big­gest po­lit­i­cal up­set in mod­ern US his­tory.

Ac­cus­ing him of “in­nu­endo and im­pugn­ing my char­ac­ter”, Mrs Clin­ton sug­gests that Mr San­ders’ at­tacks “caused last­ing dam­age, mak­ing it harder to unify pro­gres­sives in the gen­eral elec­tion and pav­ing the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hil­lary’ cam­paign”. She takes is­sue, too, with Mr San­ders’ sup­port­ers — “the so-called Bernie Bros” — for “ha­rass­ing” her sup­port­ers on­line, while also not­ing that the Ver­mont se­na­tor is an in­de­pen­dent who has long re­fused to join the Democrats. “He didn’t get into the race to make sure a Demo­crat won the White House, he got in to dis­rupt the Demo­cratic Party,” she writes.

Mr San­ders, whose strong run in 2016 made him the most elec­torally suc­cess­ful Jewish pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, was typ­i­cally dis­mis­sive of Mrs Clin­ton. He said that, hav­ing lost against “the most un­pop­u­lar can­di­date in the his­tory of [the] coun­try” she was “un­der­stand­ably up­set”.

But while her detractors ac­cuse Mrs Clin­ton of “re­lit­i­gat­ing” the 2016 elec­tion, the real bat­tle be­tween the two for­mer op­po­nents is about the fu­ture. As the New Yorker com­mented re­cently, while Mr San­ders’ pres­i­den­tial race for­mally ended last sum­mer “his cam­paign never did”. The Ver­mont se­na­tor has es­tab­lished a na­tional po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion, Our Rev­o­lu­tion, main­tained a high me­dia pro­file, and has re­peat­edly criss­crossed the coun­try, vis­it­ing key elec­toral states. Over the sum­mer he made a num­ber of trips to New Hamp­shire and Iowa, the much­watched first states to vote in the 2020 pri­maries.

Nei­ther this ac­tiv­ity, nor Mr San­ders’ re­fusal to rule out run­ning in 2020, has es­caped the at­ten­tion of the Washington press corps. Early polls sug­gest he leads the race for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion, com­fort­ably beat­ing for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, among oth­ers.

Mr San­ders con­tin­ues to rail against the “re­sis­tance of the Demo­cratic es­tab­lish­ment” to his plans and in­sists that he re­mains an in­de­pen­dent. How­ever, A Bet­ter Deal, the Democrats’ man­i­festo for the 2018 con­gres­sional elec­tions, is in­fused with Mr San­ders’ eco­nomic pop­ulism.

Mr San­ders is skil­fully tap­ping the anger many Democrats feel in the face of Mr Trump’s hard-right po­lit­i­cal agenda. How­ever, as some com­men­ta­tors have noted, he re­mains, as he was through­out last year’s race, ret­i­cent to speak about his Jewish iden­tity.

At an event in New York ear­lier this month, for in­stance, Mr San­ders re­port­edly omit­ted men­tion­ing Jews and an­ti­semitism as he at­tacked the “op­pres­sion and suf­fer­ing” fac­ing many Amer­i­cans un­der Mr Trump.

In the wake of the sharp rise in an­ti­semitic at­tacks that have ac­com­pa­nied Mr Trump’s ar­rival in the White House, the events of Char­lottesville last month, and the pres­i­dent’s ap­par­ent in­abil­ity to un­equiv­o­cally con­demn neo-Nazis, Mr San­ders’ be­hav­iour may ap­pear strange. In some re­gards, how­ever, it per­haps re­flects a crit­i­cism strongly hinted at by Mrs Clin­ton: that Mr San­ders’ em­pha­sis on class and eco­nomics some­times ap­pears to blind him to ques­tions of iden­tity.

Mr San­ders, who would en­ter the White House at 78 if ran and won in 2020, may ul­ti­mately de­cide to sit the race out.

His cur­rent cam­paign, more­over, is de­signed to en­sure that, whether he is at the helm or not the Demo­cratic party moves de­ci­sively to the left with the elim­i­na­tion of the last ves­tiges of the busi­ness-friendly cen­trism as­so­ci­ated with both Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

San­ders has moved the Democrats away from Clin­ton’s cen­trism

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