May 19, 2016
By Niall Stanage – 05/19/16 06:00 AM EDT
As the fallout from last weekend’s Nevada Democratic convention spreads, sharply critical pieces about the White House hopeful and his campaign have appeared in progressive outlets such as Mother Jones, Talking Points Memo and Daily Kos within the past 48 hours.
The Sanders campaign has also taken hits from progressive CNN contributor Sally Kohn, who endorsed the Vermont senator from the stage at a massive rally in New York City just before the Empire State’s April primary.
Kohn wrote an article published Wednesday for Time magazine that was headlined, “I felt the Bern but the Bros are extinguishing the flames.”
The fact that the criticism is coming from left-leaning sources makes it more difficult for Sanders supporters to rebut it.
Meanwhile, Democrats outside Sanders’s orbit argue the jabs show that even influential writers on the left — who tend to take more progressive positions than Democratic leaders in Washington — are concluding that the senator is hurting the party.
“Progressive thought-leaders were early validators for Bernie Sanders’s candidacy, helping him define himself as a credible candidate for president,” said Democratic strategist Evan Stavisky.
“However, as it becomes clear to anyone who can do basic math that Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee … people who live in the real world see that the time has come for Bernie Sanders to say he did the best he could. Ultimately the math simply isn’t there for it to be viable.”
Some of the flak Sanders has faced has been unusually personal in nature, which is particularly striking given the leftward lean of many of the outlets involved.
“The one thing I do keep wondering about is what happened to Bernie Sanders,” writer Kevin Drum opined in Mother Jones. “Before this campaign, he was a gadfly, he was a critic of the system, and he was a man of strong principles. He still is, but he’s also obviously very, very bitter. I wonder if all this was worth it for him?”
At Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall said he had been wrong to think that the “key driver of toxicity in the Democratic primary race” had been Sanders’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver. Instead, he wrote, “it all comes from the very top” — from Sanders himself.
Criticism of the tone of the 74-year-old Independent’s campaign has been building for some time. Clinton’s large lead in delegates, and the shrinking number of contests left, have led some to suggest that Sanders’s quest is a quixotic one that is only likely to hurt the all-but-certain nominee.
But those fears became newly urgent after Saturday’s chaotic convention in Nevada.
Though many facts are still in dispute, complaints from Sanders supporters that the proceedings were biased against them led to scuffles at the venue and the event being shut down early because security personnel could no longer guarantee order. The state party chairwoman later had her cellphone number posted to social media and had threats made against her.
The scenes of mayhem led to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), among others, calling on Sanders to dial down the rhetoric. Instead, he released a fiery statement insisting that some of the criticisms were “nonsense” and that the Democratic Party needed to be open to change. Sanders continued that tone with a speech in Southern California on Tuesday night.
Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos, who is a columnist for The Hill, was among the most emphatic critics of the statement, describing it as “an utter disgrace” and complaining that Sanders gave too much prominence to talking points and not enough to his condemnation of violence, which appeared in the third paragraph of the statement.
Tad Devine, a senior adviser to the Sanders campaign, pushed back against such charges.
“Of course Bernie Sanders and the people around him condemn any talk of violence or threats of violence. We certainly don’t condone it. And whether the senator did that in paragraph number 3 or number 2 or number 1 should not be relevant,” Devine said.
He also complained about the fact that the Nevada state party had used the phrase “penchant for violence” to describe Sanders backers. To Devine, “that is completely out of bounds. That is an unfair assertion, and it leads to everyone jumping on it, and then some of the vitriol that followed that.”
But those explanations are not entirely persuasive to someone like Kohn, who told The Hill that, even before she endorsed Sanders, the online behavior of some of his most fervent supporters “gave me pause.”
Reflecting on the events in Nevada and the aftermath, Kohn said there was too much equivocation for her tastes in Sanders’s response.
“There is always a but — ‘But they’re passionate; but it’s rigged,’ ” she said.
“Has he done everything he can to truly distance himself from this kind of behavior in the full sense of moral leadership? I don’t think he has.”