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The genesis of the #NeverBernie movement

Are moderate and center-left Democrats conspiring against the front-runner?

April 16, 2019

5:04 PM

16 April 2019

5:04 PM

Is a #NeverBernie faction starting to emerge among Democrats? Sanders is on a roll after his appearance at a town hall meeting on Fox News where he garnered the applause of many in the audience and attracted several million viewers. He attacked Trump as a ‘pathological liar’ and defended his sweeping healthcare — BernieCare? — plan. After Bret Baier asked how many in the audience were willing to trade in their current plans for Medicare for All, a majority raised their hands, much to his surprise. President Trump was clearly irked by Sanders’s successful foray into hostile territory, tweeting “So weird to watch Crazy Bernie on @FoxNews. Not surprisingly, @BretBaier and the “audience” was so smiley and nice. Very strange, and now we have @donnabrazile?’ An interesting concession that he was watching. It offers further evidence that Trump pays closer to attention to Fox than to American national security.

But it is among Democrats that the real apprehensions are starting to mount about Sanders who leads in the Democratic pack in fundraising with $18.2 million in individual donations. Much of the animus to Sanders stems from what is seen as his role in 2016 as a spoiler. Had Sanders only dropped out earlier or backed Hillary more vociferously, we are told, she might well have won the race.

So it’s no accident that Neera Tanden, the head of the Center for American Progress and a former Hillary Clinton aide, is making headlines as the leader of the resistance to Sanders. Just as Trump was an insurgent candidate who captured the Republican party, so Democrats now fear that Sanders could duplicate his feat. Right now, Tanden is embroiled in a brouhaha with Sanders over an article and video that appeared on ThinkProgress about Sanders’s wealth. Tanden tried to smooth over the dispute with an emollient statement: ‘We believe the content of the ThinkProgress video critiquing Sen. Sanders is overly harsh and does not reflect our approach to a constructive debate of the issues.’ For his part, Sanders sent in a letter declaring, ‘This counterproductive negative campaigning needs to stop. The Democratic primary must be a campaign of ideas, not of bad faith smears. Please help play a constructive role in the effort to defeat Donald Trump.’

The prospect of Sanders as standard-bearer, however, is one that not a few Democrats see as Trump’s road to a second term. The New York Times reports that Democrats are agonizing — what else do they ever do? — about how to stymie Bernie. It provides what amounts to a tip sheet to the leading members of the NeverBernie faction: ‘The matter of What To Do About Bernie and the larger imperative of party unity has, for example, hovered over a series of previously undisclosed Democratic dinners in New York and Washington organized by the longtime party financier Bernard Schwartz. The gatherings have included scores from the moderate or center-left wing of the party, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Sen. Chuck Schumer, the minority leader; former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., himself a presidential candidate; and the president of the Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden.’

If Sanders becomes the favorite, however, they may find themselves as isolated as the Republican establishment in 2016.


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