Fighting Back: What Vanity Fair and Vox Get Wrong About The Clinton-Sanders Divide

With recent articles by both Vanity Fair and Vox disparaging us over the last two weeks, it's time for Hillary Clinton supporters to be given an opportunity to defend their views on Bernie Sanders.

As a former field organizer for Hillary's campaign in Florida, I can offer my own unique perspective on the whole ordeal. After Hillary Clinton clinched the nomination, Sanders and his supporters did nothing to change the picture of her he and his supporters had painted during the primary starting with his refusal to endorse her for five weeks after the California primary. Even after having their ideas be included in the Democratic Party platform, making it the most progressive major party platform in American history, Sanders' supporters openly disrupted the Democratic National Convention at a time when the Republican Party was fully united behind then nominee Donald Trump. The campaign strategy when I joined the campaign in June of 2016 was to firm up support of the base, add in as many new members as possible including new Latino voters, and try to pick off Republican supporters who found their nominee repulsive.

Yet the field team I was a part of quickly found there was a fourth group we had to worry about: former Bernie Sanders supporters. There were innumerable conversations I had with Florida voters on the campaign who refused to support Hillary Clinton due to the actions of Bernie Sanders. Whether it was the whole "she's owned by Wall Street" or the whole "she's part of the Establishment" or even the whole "she's no better than Trump", there is no doubt in my mind that these voters did not vote for Hillary Clinton because of these fraudulent arguments that Bernie Sanders perpetuated throughout the campaign. Many of them reached a point where they were unable to distinguish Hillary Clinton from Donald Trump, despite the former's lifelong advocacy for public service. This in itself was a testament to the massive disinformation campaign that Bernie Sanders willingly chose to be a part of to advance his own agenda. It speaks volumes that even today, despite the fact that Hillary Clinton won more voters in 2016 that anybody in history not named Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders refuses to engage Hillary Clinton and her expertise.

The truth is that we Hillary Clinton supporters are vetting Bernie Sanders because we know of what he is capable of doing. He admittedly used the Democratic Party to advance his own personal agenda. His staff stole Hillary Clinton's voter data and proceeded to claim that the DNC was "undermining" his campaign by refusing him access and filed a lawsuit that was ultimately dropped in April of 2016. He refused to fundraise for Democratic candidates until he was called out and even then he chose to fundraise for 3 congressional candidates who had personally endorsed him, two of whom that resided in reliably blue districts. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton ended up raising over $523 million with her Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee she set up with the DNC to support down ballot candidates. Rather than support Clinton in this essential endeavor, Sanders' supporters chose to attack her, including throwing dollars bills at her after she left a Los Angeles fundraising event with George Clooney in April of 2016. Most recently, Sanders has once against registered as a candidate for president for the Democratic Party while simultaneously registering as an independent senate candidate in his home state of Vermont, showing that he has no loyalty to the party that gave him a home in 2016.

But through all this, the most damaging thing Bernie Sanders did was reinforce the narrative that Hillary Clinton was untrustworthy. What's ironic in the Vox article is that it cites a study by Harvard's Shorenstein Center claiming that initially Bernie Sanders had much less media coverage than Hillary Clinton. However, the same Vox article completely dismisses the conclusion of the study, which states just how damaging the negative media coverage of Clinton was. The study stated:

Whereas media coverage helped build up Trump, it helped tear down Clinton. Trump's positive coverage was the equivalent of millions of dollars in ad-buys in his favor, whereas Clinton's negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end. 
At the beginning of her campaign, Hillary Clinton had a favorability rating of 50% with nearly 90% of Americans having an opinion of her. Prior to the election, Clinton had the second lowest favorability rating of any major party nominee for president over the past 50 years, second only to her opponent, Donald Trump. This negative opinion of her was due in large part to the media's obsession of Clinton's private email server, an issue that Bernie Sanders would frequently reference on the campaign trail despite initially refusing to do so. Sanders would also criticize Clinton for her public speaking fees, a smear originally generated by Glenn Greenwald and his team at The Intercept. These arguments culminated in April of 2016 when Sanders went on record by saying that Hillary Clinton was "unqualified" to be president of the United States. In May, after having been officially eliminated from contention, Sanders proclaimed that voters saw Hillary Clinton as "the lesser of two evils" and proceeded to try and undermine her eventual nomination by attempting to debate Donald Trump in what would have been an unprecedented act. It was this type of messaging from Sanders that eventually led to 1 out of 10 of his original supporters being so disenchanted with Hillary Clinton that they actually voted for Donald Trump in November of 2016. Truth be told, Sanders benefited greatly from all this negative media coverage as it allowed him to remain competitive while simultaneously avoiding the media closely examining his own background and record, something that was aided by Hillary Clinton of all people, whose campaign did not air a single attack ad against Bernie Sanders throughout the entire primary campaign.

And that's now why so many former Clinton staffers feel the need to speak out. We played nice with Sanders in 2016 and we were rewarded by him trashing the Democratic Party's policies, leadership, candidates, and eventual nominee. Since the election, we've seen Sanders continue to attack Clinton for his own failings. Immediately after the election, he blamed Hillary Clinton for losing a number of battleground states including Wisconsin, despite Sanders being a prominent surrogate in that state. When it was revealed that Sanders' campaigned benefited greatly from Russian interference, he blamed Clinton for not doing more to stop the attack. Despite being a superdelegate himself, Sanders went to war on the superdelegate system that he felt unfairly hindered his campaign and recently celebrated reforms to the system. Most recently, Sanders bombed an interview on The Breakfast Club where he couldn't name a single piece of legislation he's written that has benefited people of color and then used his time at a breakfast honoring Hillary Clinton in Selma to speak the praises of Jesse Jackson rather than Clinton herself. In the nearly three years since Hillary Clinton became the first female Democratic Party nominee for president of the United States, Bernie Sanders has yet to offer her any recognition for this monumental achievement.

In the end, news outlets like Vox and Vanity Fair will continue to attempt to portray Hillary Clinton supporters in a variety of ways. Some, like Vanity Fair, may even refer to us as "snippy". But the truth is that our animosity toward Bernie Sanders is rooted in an even more powerful love for the Democratic Party. We worked our hearts out for months, and some for years, to do everything in our power to elect a strong, intelligent, powerful woman who was the most qualified major party candidate for president in a half-century and to prevent the election of a hateful, bigoted, racist, misogynistic conman. But what we saw was that it was actually Hillary Clinton who was seen in a way that was not truthful and she was seen in that way due, in large part, to the narrative that Russia, the American media, and Bernie Sanders created. Despite Clinton overwhelmingly defeating Sanders in the primary and Trump in the general election, there were just enough seeds of doubt about her to make the difference to 78,000 voters in 3 separate states. There is no doubt in our minds that Bernie Sanders' efforts contributed to this massive misinformation campaign. For that, for being our generation's Ralph Nader who willingly puts his ego ahead of the betterment of the country, a whole team of Hillary Clinton staffers will never, ever forgive Bernie Sanders.

And we sure as hell won't let him do it again in 2020.