Long a lonely voice of the left in the Senate, Bernie Sanders is poised to return to his day job as a potential kingmaker after a presidential campaign that made him a household name and hero of the progressive movement.
But the Vermont senator risks frittering away that newfound clout, Democratic senators said Wednesday, if he doesn’t move soon to unite the party and train his fire on Donald Trump.
The lawmakers said they’re disturbed that Sanders hasn’t more forcefully repudiated the behavior of his supporters in Nevada last weekend. Sanders backers threw chairs, shouted down Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and threatened a state party chairwoman — raising the specter of similar ugliness at the Democratic National Convention in July. While Sanders has not suffered permanent damage in the eyes of his colleagues, his reputation among Democratic Party stalwarts is hanging in the balance.
“It depends on how he handles the national convention in Philadelphia and how he handles the next months,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who says she was heckled for the first time in her life by Sanders supporters during the New Hampshire primary. “I appreciate that he’s going to continue to stay defiant, but the fact is Hillary Clinton’s going to win the nomination. Is he going to support her and campaign for her, or is he going to help elect Donald Trump?”
A number of other Democrats in the Senate expressed frustration that Sanders' response to the violence and threats in Nevada was weak, and are becoming frustrated that his campaign is now only serving as a distraction from the important job of focusing on the general election.
It’s a painful moment for Democrats in the Senate, who have marveled at Sanders’ success and celebrated the placid nature of the primary contest in contrast with the GOP’s insult-filled proceedings. But now the Republican Party is reluctantly coming around to Trump, who is now going after Clinton full time, while the Democratic primary is generating headlines about intraparty warfare.
That’s starting to grate on senators. Democrats say they want to give Sanders a hearty welcome when he returns as a high-profile leader of the party’s progressive arm, but that it will be difficult the way the campaign is unfolding.
Of course Senate Democrats are by now means the only folks who are becoming fed up.
Every day it seems there are more stories of former supporters who are now becoming embarrassed at what they see happening in the campaign.
Currently #bernielostme is trending on Twitter and I have the feeling that it is only the beginning as more an more people come to realize that the campaign of idealism and hope has now devolved into one of acrimony and denial.
P.S. Oh and before anybody starts throwing around conspiracy theories Politifact has already labeled allegations of fraud and misconduct by the Democratic party in the Nevada convention as false.
But hey Bros, nice try.