In the latest installment in a continuum of columns denigrating Bernie Sanders, you continue to paint Bernie Sanders in a bad light. So far, you’ve written about Sanders as an infiltrator of the party with which he’s caucused for thirty years, a liar, a conveniently forgetful person who can’t remember what he looked like in his 20’s just to bolster his civil rights chops, and a candidate whose followers exhibit “the inability or unwillingness of too many to see that their insistence on political purity could lead to calamity.”
Today, in a column entitled, “Here’s why a Bernie Sanders victory for the nomination would make him a hypocrite,” we can add the slur that is calling Sanders a hustler for… get this… raising a lot more money than Clinton from actual voters and not wanting – just yet – to spend it on anything that isn’t the intended purpose said funds were donated to him: mounting a successful campaign to win the nomination of the Democratic party.
Why a slur? Because in this racialized age of dysfunctional politics, someone like you, Jonathan Capehart, should know far better than calling a Jew a hustler, on the heels of spending the last eight years in a state of moral outrage over the way President Obama has been treated. Yes, Sanders has indeed raised a lot of money. His donors gave it to him so he can win, and not so he can help a DNC that has done everything it possibly can to prevent him from winning. Once he’s accomplished that goal, I am quite sure his followers won’t mind it if he gives the money away to help progressive candidates across the nation.
You see, Jonathan, it really is OK to like Hillary and support her from your bully pulpit. It’s not OK, however, to denigrate an honorable man as you have, resorting to questionable tactics that border on the kind of age-old racial stereotyping that is as ugly as any of the slurs we’ve heard from the other side and supported you in repelling and condemning over the past seven years.
Of all people, you should know that calling a Jew a hustler for not handling publicly donated funds in the way you think is right smacks of antisemitism. Calling into question Sanders’ allegiance to Democratic voters reeks of that age-old antisemitic trope of the treacherous Jew whose loyalty to country can’t be counted on. Painting Sanders as an interloper, an outsider who is infiltrating the Democratic party smells of McCarthyite red-baiting and is not only a slur against Sanders, but against millions of progressive Democrats who are voting for him. I recently wrote two pieces about the racist whisper campaign that the Clintons have been waging, with David Brock’s help, on a subsonic level in the media. Whether you’re consciously aware of it or not, you’ve been a part of that ugly effort.
In your piece, you lob an accusation right in the very first line, linking readers to what one assumes is the source: video of Sanders and Rachel Maddow:
“Sen. Bernie Sanders’s ongoing hustle of the Democratic Party was revealed at the very end of his interview with Rachel Maddow on Wednesday.”
I write “assumes” because clicking the link takes readers, not to MSNBC’s sub-site for Rachel Maddow, but to Newsweek and a video of Sanders talking about Donald Trump. Now, the Maddow interview was long and there was a rather lengthy discussion of Sanders’ call for the DNC to run a Southern Strategy and his own failure to clinch states in the Deep South. That discussion preceded a brief section on veterans and the interview ended with the question you focused your piece on, but didn’t include either a video or a full quote of. So, in the interest of fairness, here is video of Sanders’ full answer of that question of Maddow’s at the very end of what was a 25-minute interview, with a partial transcript of the interview below the fold:
Bernie Sanders is not a hustler. He didn’t steal the contributions he received, nor did he obtain them under some false pretense as “hustle” connotes. Bernie Sanders is no less a democrat than any card-carrying democrat. His 30-year voting record is proof of it. Bernie Sanders was in the civil rights movement, no matter how hard you try to manipulate the backstory behind the University of Chicago sit-in photo. Here’s the new twist:
“Now, here’s where the Sanders hustle comes in. While most people still assume that Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, all that money she is raising for the DNC and state parties will go to helping said nominee in the general election — even if that ends up being Sanders. The master fundraiser who hasn’t lifted a finger to help his adopted party. The fiery campaigner who has hammered his opponent for raising the money to fortify the DNC for the general election. The person who stands to benefit enormously from Clinton’s big-money prowess without sullying his carefully crafted aura of campaign-finance purity.”
How each candidate’s victory fund works was set up at the start of the primary. The Huffington Post published a piece, “Democrats Are Proving Samuel Alito and John Roberts Wrong ” that includes this quote:
“Since the Hillary Victory Fund links the Clinton campaign, the DNC and 33 state parties, the total amount a donor could give is $669,400 per year. Technically, a maximum contribution to the fund would include $330,000 to be split among the 33 state parties. Since party committees are allowed to make unlimited transfers between each other, that money can easily be sent to the state parties most advantageous to the candidate raising the money — in a swing state, for example. Or, as is happening with the Hillary Victory Fund, that money can be sent to the DNC, which redistributes it as they see fit.”
In “Why didn’t Bernie Sanders raise any money for the DNC?” a Daily Kos piece, readers were given a number of explanations including:
“This diary will explore a few likely reasons why Sanders hasn’t raised money for the DNC like Clinton has, why this shouldn’t be too surprising, and why it’s not really a strike against him.
Sanders has not been invited to raise money in this way.
The first thing to do is to ask the Sanders campaign themselves what they think of the situation.
“We remain happy to work with them,” Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said Saturday, when asked about joint fundraising efforts. “The party hasn’t given us any dates for events.
This makes sense given the behavior of the DNC so far—preach equality and impartiality in public, but focus on electing Hillary behind the scenes. It echoes other situations where the DNC and the Sanders campaign have tossed the blame back and forth—like when Debbie Wasserman-Schultz claimed the Sanders campaign hadn’t shown the DNC the info they needed to reinstate VAN access, and then Jeff Weaver held up his cell phone (~12:30) to the camera to show an email he had earlier sent to the DNC with the info they needed. It also reminds me of earlier comments by the campaign I can’t place, where they implied that the ball was in the DNC’s court and they were simply waiting for instructions that never came. To say the least, the two are not on the same page.”
There really is no law that says Sanders has to hand over his hard won contribution money to the DNC, or how he should do it, when the time comes. His victory fund was set up and will be used for the express purposes it was established for, helping down-ticket candidates in the general election. The money he is raising for his campaign now was never intended to be used for any other purpose than the primary, just like the money Clinton is raising to run her campaign is not being used to bolster the party. To reiterate from the above quotes, the money Clinton is sharing with the DNC was raised for that purpose and a very large share of it comes from her SuperPACs. Sanders, as you know, does not have a SuperPAC. What you are insinuating in your piece is dishonest.
Sanders has run a pretty smart campaign, so far, and he hasn’t taken a dime of corporate money, nor has he paid off superdelegates. Were he to have listened to you, he’d be running as an independent, denying his own achievements and his core progressive beliefs, and… he’d be losing because, then, you’d be reminding voters about Ralph Nader! So, he did the smart thing and is running as a Democrat, in great part, not to cause the party harm by running from the outside, against a Democrat. But as long as he’s in this race, as a Democrat, surely, you don’t expect him to run to lose… Or do you?
Now, Jonathan, what will you do if and when Sanders does win the nomination? Will you keep up these attacks? Will you get behind him after writing all of these ugly things about him or will you switch sides and work against him?
This kind of editorializing is beneath your intelligence, Jonathan. I understand that the opinion business is cut-throat, especially for those who want to stay on top. You know what, though? By staying in you-know-who’s good graces, you’re falling out of favor with your readership. Pretty soon, all you’ll have left is the establishment echo chamber. This election season didn’t need to get as desperate and acrimonious as it has. It has become that way because of the attitude of a press corp that is far too invested in outcome and not enough in the mission it purports to fulfill. Polling continues to show that Americans are disillusioned by this nation’s institutions. The Washington Post is one such institution. Sadly, you’ve played no small role in that in recent months and it not only is to the detriment to our democratic process, but to your own profession.
I’ve tried my best to come out in support when I felt you were being treated unfairly, even when I disagreed with you. I felt that while your position is quite some distance to my right at times, you never pretended to be someone you are not – until today. What you’ve written in this latest column is as low as it can get and I am sorry to say, you should be ashamed of yourself. I hope, upon reflection, that you will come to regret what you’ve written and issue an apology to Senator Sanders. Whatever disagreements you may have with him, he doesn’t deserve to be called names.
MADDOW: One last question for you, Senator. I know you’re kind of tight today. Uh, and it is about your prodigious fundraising. After those huge wins this weekend in those three caucus states, we know that within something like 24 hours, your state had raised $4 million. Um, you have shown an incredible ability to tap large numbers of people for small amounts of money that really, really add up and you’ve got, ostensibly, infinite resources to stay in this campaign as long as you want…
MADDOW: — no matter what lese [sic] happens.
I have to ask, though, if you have thought about whether or not you will, at some point, turn your fundraising ability toward helping the Democratic Party more broadly, to helping their campaign committees for the House and the Senate and for other — for other elections?
SANDERS: Well, right now, Rachel, as you are more than aware, our job is to — what I’m trying to do is to win the Democratic nomination. And I’ll tell you something, I never in a million years, Rachel, would have believed that we could have, uh, received over six million individual campaign contributions averaging 27 bucks apiece, a very different way of raising money than Secretary Clinton has pursued.
So right now, we are enormously appreciative. You’re right, without that type of support, we would not be where we are right now. We would not be able to continue this campaign to the Democratic convention. So I am just blown away and very appreciative of all of the kind of support that we have gotten from grassroots America.
MADDOW: Well, obviously your priority is the nomination, but I mean you raised Secretary Clinton there. She has been fundraising both for the nomination and for the Democratic Party. At some point, do you think — do you foresee a time during this campaign when you’ll start doing that?
SANDERS: Well, we’ll see. And, I mean right now, again, our focus is on winning the nomination. Secretary Clinton has access, uh, to kinds of money, uh, that we don’t, that we’re not even interested in. So let’s take it one step at a time. And the step that we’re in right now is to win the Democratic nomination.
MADDOW: Vermont senator, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders.
Senator, thank you so much for your time tonight.
I know you’re stretched very thin.
Thank you, sir.
SANDERS: Thank you, Rachel.