Could 2020 bring Bernie vs Hillary vs Trump rematch?

posted at 4:01 pm on May 17, 2017 by Ed Morrissey

Wasn’t it bad enough the first time around? Democrats have grown frustrated with Bernie Sanders, Politico reports, or perhaps more frustrated than usual because he hasn’t yet announced any decision about his plans for 2020. His campaign staff and loyalists have been stuck in limbo, hoping that he’ll run again for the big brass ring … at the age of 79:

Many top Democrats are furious that Bernie Sanders appears to be running for president again, or at least planning to drag out his decision long enough to freeze the race around him.

He’s frustrating alumni of his 2016 campaign, some of whom would like him to run again, by showing no interest in raising early money or locking down lower level staff — moves they say would indicate he recognizes the need for a different kind of campaign operation in 2020. Outside of his tighter-than-ever inner circle, friends and staffers who’d be happy to back him again say they rarely, if ever, speak to Sanders these days.

Sanders hasn’t made any decision, and he tends to dismiss the discussion about 2020 as dumb. He hasn’t even fully committed to running for re-election to the Senate next year.

This seems a little overwrought, does it not? How can “many top Democrats” be furious with Sanders and think he “appears to be running for president again” when he’s not even in contact with his campaign staff? Even his friends aren’t hearing from him, which hardly sounds like someone who’s thinking of running again. It sounds like someone who’s ready to chuck it all and tell the world to pound sand — and at his age, he may well be thinking seriously about that.

It’s not just his age, though:

Weighing on him throughout it all and clouding his outlook, people close to him say, is the toll on his family from the ongoing FBI investigation into potential bank fraud at the small Vermont college where his wife was the president.

Yes, having the FBI investigate your spouse for bank fraud does tend to put a damper on a class-warfare politician’s ambitions. It’s not clear yet whether any laws were broken and whether Jane Sanders could be criminally liable for the Burlington College collapse, but the circumstances of the failure and the big hit to People’s United Bank (and to the Catholic archdiocese involved in the deal) would be a political cloud over any new campaign that didn’t exist in 2016.

Call me crazy, but this story seems to be a strange way of trying to pressure Sanders to get into the race. Please don’t throw us in the briar patch, Uncle Bernie! If Democrats really wanted to get angry over apparent attempts to revive disastrous and divisive campaigns, they’d focus their ire on Hillary Clinton, whose “Onward Together” looks suspiciously like a platform designed for another run at the presidency … or maybe a platform for another Clinton:

Some argue it might be a way for Clinton to distance herself from the Clinton Foundation, which has raised more than $2 million for causes that focus on the environment and health and wellness in developing countries around the world. She stepped down from its board after she launched her presidential campaign in April 2015, but her husband and their daughter, Chelsea, remained on the board. Still, the foundation has long been viewed by some as a conflict of interest for Clinton, especially as a Democratic presidential candidate. The family’s critics specifically targeted the donations the foundation has taken from foreign entities, saying those contributions might have influenced Clinton’s decisions during her tenure as secretary of state in the Obama administration. …

Some have speculated it’s Clinton attempt to rebuild her political brand for a third shot at the White House. Rumors circulated after “Hillary for Mayor” posters popped up around New York City. She was a U.S. senator from New York from 2001 until 2009.Quinnipiac University even conducted a poll in which Clinton, hypothetically running as an independent, would defeat incumbent New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, running as a Democrat, 49 to 30 percent.

You can take the Clinton out of the Foundation, but Onward Together might prove that you can’t take the foundation out of the Clinton. The Clintons used their foundation in large part to curry influence and to keep political loyalists on payroll until the time was right for another run at the presidency. Until 2015, their foundation kept their donors secret, and only got forced into transparency because of Hillary’s obsession with overturning Citizens United and imposing even more draconian restrictions on speech.

And that’s where the hypocrisy hits eleven on the Spinal Tap amplifier. As I note in my column at The Week, Hillary’s new political organization has the same tax status as Citizens United — and will keep donors secret, too:

Just how will Onward Together reflect Clinton’s values, as expressed during the 18 months she ran for the nation’s highest office? The group has a familiar arrangement, as CNN reported. According to one source within Clinton’s organization, Onward Together is a 501(c)(4) with an associated political action committee. That allows unlimited fundraising without any requirement to disclose donors, even though Clinton’s mission for the group explicitly includes finding candidates to run for political office. An aide to Clinton confirmed to CNN that Onward Together would not choose to disclose its donors, either. …

If Clinton has changed her mind about the Citizens United decision, that would make Onward Together understandable. Citizens United is the law of the land, and Clinton is as eligible to operate within the law as anyone else. However, she has given no indication of any such reconsideration. On her official website — still up and operating — Clinton still lists overturning the court’s decision as the first step in a new campaign-finance regime. “Overturn Citizens United,” it pledges, “the Supreme Court case that unleashed hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate and special-interest money into U.S. elections.” And further, the site implores Americans to “end secret, unaccountable money in politics,” stating that “we need federal legislation to require outside groups to publicly disclose political spending.”

Perhaps Hillary Clinton was against undisclosed political donations before she was for it. Clearly, she is also for citizens uniting for her causes, but not Citizens United for others. If, as some already suspect, Onward Together might end up being a platform for another Hillary Clinton campaign, the hypocrisy of her embrace of undisclosed contributions will prompt another documentary or two when the time comes.

At least that might provide some difference between 2016 and 2020 in a Bernie-Hillary-Donald rematch, but … not much. That’s a rerun America can do without.


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