No, Sanders Wasn’t Crazy Enough to Primary Obama in ’12 (But Mrs. Clinton on the Other Hand…)

Just before Super Tuesday sweeps the predominantly-Black South they drop this one?

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Image by DonkeyHotey-CC BY-SA 2.0

On Wednesday Edward-Isaac Dovere published a bizarre story with The Atlantic claiming Sen. Bernie Sanders plotted to primary President Barack Obama in 2012.

We’re calling bull.

Say what you will about Obama’s regressive policies and conservative inclinations, the man still has a wellspring of popularity in the BIPOC communities across America. However you spin it, the old white dude from Vermont would have looked like an egotistical racist cartoon trying to usurp the first African American chief executive. Sanders is prone to PR gaffes and tone-deaf jabs at multiculturalism that can fall flat on their face but he isn’t that stupid. (Indeed, he had the decency to skip Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2015 Congressional address seeking to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal, one of the most overtly white supremacist stunts pulled by the GOP, which, incidentally, Sen. Charles Schumer not only attended but sought to rally Democratic colleagues to.)

Sanders has only come into his rock star status in the past five years. Back in ’12, the Vermont Senator was little more than a marginal meme on Facebook, establishing a public profile for the Occupy Wall Street generation with a highly-esteemed 2010 filibuster speech. Any sane politician in either party would know primarying an incumbent president when your own seat is up for reelection is an act of suicide.

Another layer of irony is added by recalling a 2011 email, disclosed during the ServerGate/Benghazi fiasco, demonstrating then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was seriously contemplating such a primary run.

While her aides vociferously denied this when the email surfaced in 2015, it would not be out of character for the author of the Birther conspiracy theory who originally circulated images of Obama in a turban during the 2008 South Carolina primary.

Recall furthermore that Sanders aggressively campaigned for Clinton after the 2016 Democratic convention rather than staging an independent presidential run despite being robbed of the nomination. Whether you call it pragmatism or dearth of bravery, his loyalty to the Democrats has become so entrenched that Ralph Nader publicly rebuked him way back in 1996, the year the consumer advocate staged his first third-party presidential campaign. Kevin J. Kelly reported for the Vermont alternative news outlet Seven Days:

Nader accused Sanders of putting “personal political survival” ahead of the principles the Independent socialist has always espoused. Nader theorizes that “Clinton’s people told Bernie he had to support Clinton or else they would help the Democrat [Jack Long] in the congressional race.” The Democrats’ promise to bestow a subcommittee chairmanship on Sanders if they captured control of the House may also have encouraged him to cuddle up with Clinton, Nader suggests.

Ergo Sanders’ loyalty to the Democrats, no matter how far starboard they tilt, is granite-hard.

History is almost always written with one foot in the past and another in the present, recounting events in a way intended to provide a sort of contemporary parable or lesson. It’s not accidental that this is being published right before Super Tuesday, a pivotal moment in the Democratic primaries defined by BIPOC votes.

Super Tuesday 2020 is on March 3rd./Map by Amkutzko (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The corporate wing of the Democrats have been deploying every possible formulation of a libel that Bernie Sanders is a racist, an audacious claim considering the presence of retrograde candidates like Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg. Jim Messina, a major source for Dovere’s story, is a gutter-sniping homophobic political operative-turned-Obama campaign staffer who went on to support Tory David Cameron’s 2015 race for British prime minister.

While his supporters can sometimes be unbearably grating, trotting out 50 year old pictures of Sanders that scream “SEE! BERNIE HAS BLACK FRIENDS!,” this sort of thing is red-baiting nonsense. (That the central stand-off in Dovere’s story is Sanders’ opposition to Obama’s proposal to cut Social Security, a move that would disproportionately harm working class BIPOC retirees who were excluded from the classic “three-legged stool” of retirement savings by institutional racism, is a further sick irony.) Liberals have a long history of accusing white political figures to their left of racism, sexism, and other bad behavior, something that dates back more than a century at this point.

This is just pure sophistry, regardless of one’s opinions of Sanders, intended to help right wing Democrats who don’t deserve one inch of further buttress.

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