It’s a little early in the 2020 season for local newspapers to endorse favorite sons or daughters. One Vermont newspaper’s editors think the time is perfect for an anti-endorsement, however. “Bernie Sanders should not run for president,” a Saturday editorial in the Times Argus began. “In fact, we beg him not to”:
We fear a Sanders run risks dividing the well-fractured Democratic Party, and could lead to another split in the 2020 presidential vote. There is too much at stake to take that gamble. If we are going to maintain a two-party system, the mandate needs to be a clear one. There is strength in numbers, and if anything has been shown in recent years, it is that unless tallies are overwhelming, there can always be questions or challenges raised over what “vote totals” really mean: popular vote vs. Electoral College results.
For us, this comes down to principle over ego. It is one thing to start a revolution, but at a certain point you need to know when to step out of the way and let others carry the water for you.
The editors have a few complaints about Bernie, actually. They’re not happy with his response to allegations of sexual harassment in the 2016 campaign. They cite a New York Times article (sans link) that claims the culture of harassment has damaged his standing among progressives, thanks to an e-mail chain among activists in which these allegations are being aired and debated:
Accounts like Ms. Di Lauro’s — describing episodes of sexual harassment and demeaning treatment as well as pay disparity in Mr. Sanders’s 2016 campaign — have circulated in recent weeks in emails, online comments and private discussions among former supporters. Now, as the Vermont senator tries to build support for a second run at the White House, his perceived failure to address this issue has damaged his progressive bona fides, delegates and nearly a dozen former state and national staff members said in interviews over the last month.
And it has raised questions among them about whether he can adequately fight for the interests of women, who have increasingly defined the Democratic Party in the Trump era, if he runs again for the presidential nomination in 2020.
The editors are none too happy with Sanders’ initial response to the allegations, which do not involve him personally. They feel his quip at the end of this clip — “I was a little bit busy running around the country trying to make the case” — was far too dismissive of the problem:
To be fair, it’s only too dismissive if one first dismisses everything that Sanders said preceding that line. He ran again in 2018 for his Senate seat and tried to address it, or so he argues, and wants to look forward rather than backward. Still, this is the essential curmudgeonliness of Sanders, which is why no one took his bid seriously in 2015 until he became the only non-Clinton left standing when the DNC did its best to circle the wagons around Hillary.
The editors also complain that Sanders is getting too big in the britches to pay attention to Vermont rather than national media:
While he makes regular visits “home,” you are more likely to catch Sanders on Colbert, CNN or MSNBC than you are to see him talking to reporters here in Vermont. Evidently, microphones here don’t extend far enough.
Why is “home” in scare quotes? Because Bernie’s been in Washington since Bush 41’s “This aggression will not stand”? That sounds an awful lot like sour grapes from the local media. Whatever their concerns now, it didn’t prevent the Times Argus editors from endorsing Sanders in his re-election bid two months ago. In fact, they made quite a point of endorsing Bernie’s incumbency in October.
A 2020 Feel the Bern campaign seems unlikely anyway, given how many younger progressives are on hand this time around. Sanders would be better positioned to play coronation master than heir apparent. This set of arguments feels a lot more like excuses, though, than a cogent argument about Sanders’ presidential hopes … or concerns about Democratic Party unity. Next time you’re in town, Senator, be sure to throw the local newspaper a bone or two, and they’ll be singing your praises again.