Bernie Sanders has played coy about endorsing Hillary Clinton and fostering some much-needed party unity after a hard-fought primary. This morning, House Democrats made sure the runner-up knew how they felt about it. Politico reports that a meeting to settle differences instead turned into a forum of catcalls, with some of Sanders’ Capitol Hill colleagues complaining about his “self-obsession”:
“It was frustrating because he’s squandering the movement he built with a self-obsession that was totally on display,” said one senior Democrat.
After delivering his opening remarks — which touched on Sanders’ favorite issues including campaign finance, Wall Street reform and trade — lawmakers inside the meeting pressed Sanders during a tense question-and-answer session on whether he would ultimately endorse Clinton and help foster party unity.
House Democrats including John Garamendi of California and Joyce Beatty of Ohio asked Sanders for specifics on when he would ultimately get behind Clinton — questions that were accompanied by some cheers and clapping from other House Democrats, sources inside the room said.
Sanders didn’t give them a clear answer, according to attendees. Instead, the Vermont senator emphasized that elections are not necessarily about winning, multiple sources said, but about transformations — an answer that was met with some boos from lawmakers, one person inside the room said.
At one point, Sanders told the House Democratic caucus that the goal was “not to win elections,” according to Politico’s source for the story, but to score policy points. That’s a rather odd message to bring to a group of politicians who all have to win their jobs back in November. Sanders should know that, having been in the House for 26 years before shifting over to the Senate in the 2006 election. He doesn’t have to worry about keeping his job for another couple of years, though, so perhaps it slipped his mind.
Besides, as House Democrats can attest from the last six years, you have to actually win elections in order to score the policy points Sanders prioritizes. If they could determine policy, then the caucus wouldn’t have done its stunt sit-in last month in favor of an unconstitutional gun-control proposal. Thanks in large part to overreach by Barack Obama and the party’s progressives, Democrats gave back the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014. They’re rather keenly aware of the priority of elections, even if Sanders is safe enough to lecture them otherwise.
The Associated Press corroborates Politico’s report, and adds another shout directed at The Bern during the meeting:
House Democrats frustrated with Bernie Sanders’ slow-moving support for Hillary Clinton shouted “timeline, timeline” at the presidential candidate during a closed-door meeting.
A dozen Democrats wanted to know the Vermont senator’s timeline for endorsing Clinton, the presumptive nominee, with just three weeks to the start of the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.
Not to go the full Hillary on Sanders, but what difference at this point does all this coyness make? Does anyone seriously believe that Sanders will now split off from the Democrats and march over to the Green Party? The time to do that passed a month ago, before his supporters began falling into line behind Hillary. Sanders can’t even bring himself to criticize Hillary for a truly disqualifying set of circumstances outlined by FBI Director James Comey yesterday, let alone come up with a good reason to pretend to be on the fence.
It’s not just self-obsession, it’s self-deception. Sanders can’t bring himself to admit that his moment is over, and he has returned to the back-bencher status that, in more rational political cycles, Sanders never would have left in the first place.
In other words, Democrats have a message for Bernie: