early and often

Sanders Campaign ‘Not Thinking About’ Party Unity, Says Top Adviser

Rage, rage against the dying of the nomination. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

The Democratic party is still on edge after a raucous convention in Nevada where Bernie Sanders supporters threw chairs at (and afterward sent death threats to) party officials. On Tuesday, Sanders released a statement that stopped short of condemning their behavior, which Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz called “anything but acceptable.” And although the Sanders campaign isn’t promoting the false idea that the election is — to use Trump’s term — “rigged” against them, it isn’t quashing it, either.

On Wednesday, Vice-President Joe Biden tried to calm the waters. “I’m confident that Bernie will be supportive if Hillary wins, which the numbers indicate will happen,” he said at a press event in Columbus, Ohio. “So I’m not worried. There’s no fundamental split in the Democratic party.” But unfortunately for the Democratic party, new reports from the Sanders campaign cast doubts on Biden’s sunny proclamation.

Sanders advisers told the New York Times that the Vermont senator is “newly resolved to remain in the race,” thanks in part to new polls that put him ahead of both Clinton and Donald Trump in a general election. He’s also polling relatively well in California, where he’s hoping for a strong showing. “There are a lot of people out there [who] they say Bernie Sanders should drop out, the people of California should not have the right to determine who the next president will be,” Sanders said at his rally there on Tuesday. 

His aides are echoing his sentiment. “The only thing that matters is what happens between now and June 14,” Tad Devine, a senior adviser, told the Times, suggesting the Sanders campaign would maintain its aggressive posture in order to arrive in Philadelphia with as much clout as possible. “We have to put the blinders on and focus on the best case to make in the upcoming states. If we do that, we can be in a strong position to make the best closing argument before the convention.” 

The Sanders campaign, he said, is “not thinking about” whether its attacks — including those against “big-money campaign contributions” — will affect Hillary Clinton in a probable race against Donald Trump. In fact, party unity in general is on the back-burner: 

For weeks, some current and former Sanders campaign workers have privately acknowledged feeling disheartened about Mr. Weaver’s determination to go after the Democratic National Committee, fearing a pitched battle with the party they hope to support in the general election. The intra-party fighting has affected morale, they say, and raised concerns that Mr. Weaver, a longtime Sanders aide who more recently ran a comic book store, was not devoted to achieving Democratic unity. Several described the campaign’s message as having devolved into a near-obsession with perceived conspiracies on the part of Mrs. Clinton’s allies.

And as the Washington Post points out, conservatives are beginning to take advantage of Sanders’s narrative. “Bernie Sanders is being treated very badly by the Democrats — the system is rigged against him,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “Many of his disenfranchised fans are for me!”

While it might be a stretch to suggest Sanders supporters would switch to Trump should their candidate lose the nomination, Clinton supporters are beginning to worry they might withhold their support out of anger over what they see as a fixed race. “I’m hopeful that the two candidates will come together, and soon,” said Edward Rendell, a Clinton supporter who’s the chair of the Democratic convention’s host committee. “But you look at what happened in Nevada, and you worry.”

Sanders Campaign Won’t Strive for Party Unity