Some Sanders Supporters Aren’t So Eager For A Repeat

Bernie Sanders could find repeating the success of 2016 in 2020 may not be so easy.

Some of the people who supported the campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in 2016 aren’t exactly enthusiastic about a sequel:

Bernie Sanders has a problem as he decides whether to run in 2020: Many of his former staffers are looking elsewhere.

With the Vermont senator kicking off a nine-state tour on Friday with stops in Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and California, a sizable contingent of the people who helped build his insurgent 2016 campaign is ambivalent about a second run, according to interviews with more than a dozen former staffers. Many of them are looking for a different progressive champion to finish what Sanders started.

anders should just declare victory, they said, content in the knowledge that much of his 2016 platform has been adopted by other ambitious Democrats considering White House bids. Plus, he’s a white man who would turn 80 in his first year as president, who’d be trying to lead a diverse party fueled by the energy of young voters, women and people of color.

“I think that if a younger candidate can pick up the mantle and have Bernie’s support, I think that would be a better option for 2020. I feel like 60 to 70 percent of former staffers are looking around for another Bernie-esque candidate this time around, even if it’s not him,” said Daniel Deriso, a field organizer for Sanders’ 2016 campaign who went on to help run a successful insurgent mayoral campaign in Birmingham, Ala., last year. “But if Bernie called me to have me work on the campaign then I’d do it.”

In many ways, Sanders is a victim of his own success. His lightning-in-a-bottle 2016 campaign helped move his ambitious proposals into the mainstream — ideas such as “Medicare for all,” a $15 minimum wage and debt-free college. The reluctance of former aides to embrace another campaign reflects what’s expected to be a sprawling field of Democrats stampeding left — unlike the binary Hillary or Bernie choice during most of the Democratic primary two years ago.

Sanders should just declare victory, they said, content in the knowledge that much of his 2016 platform has been adopted by other ambitious Democrats considering White House bids. Plus, he’s a white man who would turn 80 in his first year as president, who’d be trying to lead a diverse party fueled by the energy of young voters, women and people of color.

“I think that if a younger candidate can pick up the mantle and have Bernie’s support, I think that would be a better option for 2020. I feel like 60 to 70 percent of former staffers are looking around for another Bernie-esque candidate this time around, even if it’s not him,” said Daniel Deriso, a field organizer for Sanders’ 2016 campaign who went on to help run a successful insurgent mayoral campaign in Birmingham, Ala., last year. “But if Bernie called me to have me work on the campaign then I’d do it.”

(…)

Enough fervent supporters — from the 2016 campaign’s top officials to field organizers — are wary of a 2020 run that it could be difficult to reignite the 2016 movement. Jeff Weaver, who managed the 2016 race, has been talking about the idea of a “Draft Bernie PAC” of sorts after the midterms. But many supporters have been noncommittal, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions.

Weaver dismissed the notion that enthusiasm for a Sanders sequel has waned.

“I’ve spoken with a number of people who are interested in a draft-Bernie movement,” Weaver said. “My email is full and my voicemail is full of former Bernie staffers who are eager to come back should he run.”

But some people in the highest tiers of the Sanders hierarchy have already signaled they aren’t up for another go-round. His longtime chief of staff, Michaeleen Earle Crowell, who gained some notoriety for playing Hillary Clinton in debate prep during the 2016 primary, left Sanders’ Senate office this past summer to work for a private lobbying firm, a move that caught some people in Sanders’ orbit off guard.

“I hope Bernie does run for president again, and if he does, I plan to be as helpful as possible to him,” she wrote in an email.

Sanders’ omnipresent communications director in 2016, Michael Briggs, said in a text message that it was “unlikely” he’d join a 2020 run.

A common frustration among former staffers is that they feel Sanders and his tight circle of aides have taken their support for granted and failed to keep their 2016 team cohesive, which would have been an inherent advantage in a second run.

(…)

Multiple former staffers said that the Clinton campaign alumni network is far more connected and active than Sanders’.

Other former Sanders campaign workers — the “ride or die” cohort as one former aide dubbed them — say that no other Democrat has emerged who matches Bernie.

“I’ll do whatever I can if he runs as would most people I think who backed Bernie in 2016,” said Claire Sandberg, a senior campaign aide for Sanders in 2016. “I’m sure Elizabeth Warren knows all the people she’d appoint to the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] and the Treasury Department, cbut I want to know what she’s going to do on climate change. We need a candidate who understands that that’s an existential threat, and frankly he’s the only candidate who has shown that level of vision.”

In many respects, of course, Sanders is a victim of his own success. The “progressive” message that he ran on in 2016 has been adopted by a significant number of other Democrats, and several of those Democrats are openly considering running for President themselves in 2020. Among these potential candidates, of course, is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose decision not to run in 2016 likely resulted in many of the people who hoped she would do so turning to Sanders as the next best alternative, and in any case better than Hillary Clinton, who many saw as representative of an “establishment” wing of the party that had failed the rank and file in recent years. If Warren does run in two years, which certainly seems to be a possibility, it’s likely that she will be the most prominent competitor for the votes of the “progressive” wing of the party that Sanders would face in a second bid for the nomination. In addition to Warren, Sanders would likely also face stiff competition from other candidates such as Senators Kamals Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, both of whom utilized the recently concluded fight over the nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to boost their national profiles, and both of whom have already spent time in early primary states such as Iowa and South Carolina making appearances on behalf of Democratic candidates while at the same time making connections in two of the most important early primary states.

In addition to the fact that a Sanders campaign in 2020 would end up having to compete for votes, money, and resources with a number of other candidates basically all saying the same thing as Sanders did in 2016, Sanders and any of the other “progressive” candidates would have to deal with the fact that several of the issues that he ran on in 2016 are now at least somewhat part of the Democratic Party’s platform. This includes everything from increases in the minimum wage and the idea of a Medicare-For-All type solution to the healthcare situation to increased protections for workers and a focus on income inequality. While the Democratic Party hasn’t adopted the Sanders agenda lock, stock, and barrel, it is certainly more sympathetic to many of the most popular parts of it to the point where Sanders is arguably no longer the iconoclast he was in 2016. Given that, and taking into account the fact that many of the people who will be running in 2020 will be younger than he is, Senator Sanders may find it hard to capture lightning in a bottle the second time around.

Sanders benefited greatly in 2016 from the fact that he was largely unique among the Democrats running for the nomination, and his grandfatherly and somewhat professorial image served as a good contrast to Hillary Clinton’s more establishment and oftentimes unemotional performance on the campaign trail. That won’t be the case again in 2020, and there are likely to be candidates that better at reaching out not only to the “progressives” that Sanders appeals to but also the more mainstream wing of the party. Because of that, it seems likely that Sanders 2020 won’t be nearly as successful as Sanders 2016 was.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    Among these potential candidates, of course, is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose decision not to run in 2016 likely resulted in many of the people who hoped she would do so turning to Sanders as the next best alternative

    I would have supported Warren in 2016 — I could not bring myself to support Bernie, since he isn’t even a Democrat, but I had no strong fondness for Clinton, so I just sat out the primaries. She has a great, lefty-populist message that she can explain well, and which would be a good counterpoint to Trump.

    She boils down progressive ideas into simple to instant statements, like “You don’t need to be an electrical engineer who reads circuit diagrams to buy a toaster, and you shouldn’t need to be a financial planner and a lawyer to get a mortgage. The terms should be standard and simple.” (From memory, here was better)

    People get that.

    I’m wary of really old people running for the Presidency though. Not sure I’ll support her this time out, it depends if someone younger can take up her message and explain it well.

    I’ll vote for Bernie in the general election if he somehow gets through the primary, but it will be holding my nose.

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    Sanders was a message candidate. It was less about him, more about his message. Something authors learn if they’re smart: the love isn’t for you, it’s for the product.

    Look, I’m a Baby Boomer, 64 years old, and I don’t want another Boomer. Even if ‘we’ find a lot of what the younger progressives are talking about off-putting or naive, it’s their future, not ours and they shouldn’t have to rely on one of us to lead the charge. I’m not in the least suggesting we should shut up – I won’t – but we are not Luke Skywalker, we’re Yoda. We should utter profundities while reversing the syntax and let them fly the X-Wings.

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  3. Kylopod says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Look, I’m a Baby Boomer, 64 years old, and I don’t want another Boomer.

    Then you’re in luck, since Sanders isn’t a Boomer, he’s a pre-Boomer. (He was born in 1941, at least 4 years short of when the Baby Boom generation is usually said to begin.)

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  4. Neil J Hudelson says:

    I voted for Sanders because I wanted to push the party economically to the left. Mission Accomplished. There’s no way in hell I’d vote for him now; I’m going to vote for a Democrat instead.

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  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    Moderators: please de-moderate me.

  6. Kathy says:

    @Neil J Hudelson:

    Would he accept the Democratic nomination for President in 2020 if he won it? 😀

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  7. Stormy Dragon says:

    Don’t forget that Tad Devine, Bernie’s chief strategist, has been showing up in Mueller indictments with disturbing regularity.

  8. Todd says:

    I supported Sanders in the primary, mainly due to my belief that Clinton was a flawed candidate (which she turned out to be). That said, due to the behavior of many petulant progressives during the summer and fall of 2016 after Clinton became the nominee, I vowed at the time that I will NEVER support a primary candidate favored by that crowd ever again. As I type this I do have to admit that I might be willing to make an exception if Tulsi Gabbard gains enough traction to possibly be a viable candidate leading up to 2020).

    I’m really not sure that I have a favorite for 2020 at this point. But I can say with confidence that if either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders run again and get past Iowa, the Democrats will have a good chance of losing again in 2020 … to a lesser extent this might also apply to Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren (one or both should have jumped into the 2016 primary, they already missed their best chance).

    On a somewhat related note, I just read an interesting article on Politico about Nikki Haley, which I found myself nodding in agreement with. Right now today, if I was forced to put money on who the most likely person to be elected President in 2020 is, it would be Nikki Haley.

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  9. JohnMcC says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Just to make things somewhat more clear, Mr Devine is mentioned because he was working the same fields as Mr Manafort but entirely independent of him. He’s not to be honored for working with questionable politicians in Ukraine. But he’s apparently co-0perated with Mr Mueller and has not been mentioned in the same breath with a crime.
    @Todd: I had kind of the same thought. And wouldn’t it be amazing if her running mate was Sen Tim Scott? (Altho–unconstitutional because from the same state.)

  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    entirely independent of him

    So entirely independent that Devine and Manafort were regularly e-mailing each other. But whatever, the fact that Bernie has the same sort of ties to Russia as Trump means absolutely nothing. He’s a pure as the wind-driven Vermont snow.

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  11. An Interested Party says:

    Right now today, if I was forced to put money on who the most likely person to be elected President in 2020 is, it would be Nikki Haley.

    Hmm…and how would she get out of the Republican primaries in one piece? I’m sure many of her opponents as well as many more of their surrogates will be all too quick to remind voters that she is somehow “alien” or the “other” because of her ethnic background…it’s one thing to have someone like her or Tim Scott as a governor or senator, but as head of the whole party? Hmm…

  12. Todd says:

    @An Interested Party: I’m not saying it’s likely that she’ll be President. But two years out, with a whole lot of uncertainty still ahead of us, I don’t think she’s a bad long-shot bet.

    As for the Republican primary, I think Haley’s only potential path requires a Republican bloodbath in the election a few weeks away. If Republicans do well, it’s Trump’s party for as long as he wants it (no matter what comes out of the Mueller report).

  13. Todd says:

    On the Democratic side, I think a lot still depends on how these mid-terms play out. But I really don’t see much chance that left’s civil war doesn’t heat back up in the 2020 primaries … especially if Bernie and/or Hillary run again. But even if they don’t, their factions will still likely choose sides and get nasty with each other. Note: this war could go hot even sooner if Dems under-perform in the mid-terms.

  14. mike shupp says:

    I’ve been looking over my California voting materials and virtually every other Democratic candidate for office in the state — that’s virtually every other candidate period — claims to be endorsed by Senator Kamala Harris. Which is middling interesting, since only has a couple of years experience on the national stage. Nobody was bragging about endorsements from Dianne Feinstein or Nancy Pelosi.

    I’m sure this was entirely coincidental, of course. Anybody here from outside California run across a Harris endorsement yet?

  15. Ben Wolf says:

    Because of that, it seems likely that Sanders 2020 won’t be nearly as successful as Sanders 2016 was.

    That’s right. A lot more of us won’t be voting for any Democrat again.

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  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    Congratulations. Your descent from “serious guy talking serious issues he seriously cares about,” to “petulant, entitled white college boy” is complete.

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  17. JohnMcC says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I must have an amazing gift of poetry to have put so much meaning into a simple phrase. You actually should be thrilled to have so many layers of meaning spread before you.

    Or you could actually use the plain meaning of words.

    Your choice.

    Edit: There is a seldom mentioned connection between Sen Sanders and Russia. He honeymooned there and has some long-ago remarks praising elements of Communism. Of course these would be exhaustively weaponized and (IMHO) are a large part of the reason his loss was a GOOD THING for the D-party.

    But you weren’t interested in — well — facts, were you?

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  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Todd: If you’re hoping the Mueller report is going to do something among Republicans, well there an adage about wishing in one hand and shpitting in the other that applies here.

  19. Todd says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Since none of us really know what other shoes are yet to drop in the Mueller investigation, it’s pretty much impossible to say definitively what the future effects will or won’t be.

    However, if the Republicans hold the House (so basically pay no real electoral price for their actions, yet again) then we may never see the Mueller report, as the firings at Justice may start as soon as the next day. On the flip side, if things go so (admittedly unexpectedly) good for the Democrats that they get the Senate and the House, I think you will be amazed at how quickly support for Mueller becomes bipartisan.

  20. Mister Bluster says:

    @One American:..God Bless that Beautiful State

    So you think you can tell god what to do…

  21. An Interested Party says:

    That’s right. A lot more of us won’t be voting for any Democrat again.

    What’s the alternative? To vote for a Republican? Third party (which might as well be a vote for a Republican)? Purity can often be very self-defeating…

  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Todd: If the support becomes bipartisan, you’re right, I’ll be surprised. That would undo roughly 25 years of political evolution in the country.

    I’d like to be surprised. Here’s hoping the wish hand fills first for a change!

  23. Tyrell says:

    Sanders was also a victim of the Democratic party leaders rigging the primary system (Debbie Schultz). They were not about to let Sanders dust up the coronation road.
    I think Sanders is a good, honest person. He has some good ideas which now seem centrist compared to the extreme views I see with most of the Democratic candidates: “No Borders no nations”
    “Sanders wins primary, falls further behind” headline 2016