The Sanders Machine

There's been a lot of focus on Bernie Sanders and what he's doing in the Democratic presidential primary (he's losing, badly). But the real focus should be on reason why he's still running and what he's attempting to build by alienating the progressive left from Hillary Clinton (who has to run a centrist, corporate friendly campaign in order to, you know, have anything resembling a chance of winning because that's American politics 101).

Yesterday, I conducted an experiment of sorts on Balloon Juice. Normally, I don't comment on anything or engage at length because what good does it ever do, but I wanted to see the pushback on the idea that what Sanders is really doing in this race. I believe he's building a Sarah Palin-styled fundraising machine that will keep him soaked in money from now until he retires. This is also very similar to what Ron Paul built years ago, starting with newsletters and the like. Sanders probably believes the same things progressives believe, but with one exception--he has to strip the progressive left away from the Clinton campaign before it solidifies into a coalition going forward.

As this thread will show you, there was a lot of negative reaction to the idea that Sanders is going to run as a spoiler and a third party candidate. All he has to do is threaten this and the DNC and the Clinton campaign will be on the hook to buy him off. All he has to do is hang out his shingle and establish a firm web presence and use the mailing lists that he's developed and he can carve out a place on the far left that will raise money and release "impact" papers denouncing Clinton whenever she moves to the center and tries to establish herself as the sane alternative to the Republican Party.

It's a good grift--you send out a blast E-mail on Tuesday morning and see what rolls in by Friday night. You market your mailing list to far left causes and reach monetary agreements. You keep the Feel the Bern and Don't Blame Me I Voted For Bernie swag out there and the bucks come rolling in. Sanders doesn't actually have to run when all is said and done. He can claim a segment of the electorate as his own and elevate his brand while pretending he can impact the race by pushing Hillary to the left.

Who is really is behind this, and why does it sound like a marketing plan in action?

Then, his campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, defiantly said that even if Clinton went into the Democratic convention with a lead in both pledged delegates and the popular vote, Sanders would pressure the superdelegates to pick him over the former secretary of state.

Clinton's campaign, eager to move past Sanders and focus on the general election, is getting impatient and even angry at some of the attacks.

One in particular has Clinton worried. Sanders' campaign is raising the issue of whether the Clinton campaign is violating campaign finance rules with how it raises money jointly with the Democratic National Committee -- an argument that has the Clinton people "pissed," as one source told CNN.

The concern is that the theme could play into Donald Trump's recent moniker for her -- "Crooked Hillary" -- especially if he is the Republican nominee.

They worry about the impact of such attacks because they're not aimed just at Clinton but also at the DNC and could weaken the nominee in a general election fight.

Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton's communications director, told reporters Tuesday night that the Sanders campaign "has been destructive" to that point that he is "not productive to Democrats" and is "not productive for the country."

Decrying what she described as "false character attacks," Palmieri compared them to criticism Clinton gets from the GOP. "And any time you mimic Republican attacks, we think that is destructive."

Sanders is getting beaten in a fair fight. Sanders is in control of a large enough segment of the delegates to make him a power broker at the convention--and that's fine, in and of itself. But what Sanders is really doing goes to the heart of it all--he doesn't want to win. He doesn't want Hillary to win, either. He wants to engage in a scorched Earth policy of demonstrating that he, and only he, is the voice for the progressive left and he wants their support and their dollars going forward so that he can complain on the Internet for the next four years and give speeches and raise money for something-something that'll really knock your socks off in four years. Never mind that he'll be too old to run--he was right all along, you see, and that's why he needs your continued support.

This is not what a viable candidate does. He does not send out his campaign manager to de-legitimize his primary opponent. He does not file lawsuits that go after the ability of the party he claims to want to represent to raise money to win races in other parts of the country. He does not let the people working for him call his opponent a whore in public. He does not feed the Republican Party's anti-Clinton message machine. A viable candidate supports the party's efforts to win everywhere in November. That result does not lead to the creation of a fundraising machine for Bernie Sanders, so he's throwing sand in the gears in order to make himself the wise old sage of Vermont who could have saved America if everything wasn't so corrupt.

It's a sucker's game and way too many people are buying it right now.