Delicate dance

Sanders backers not guaranteed to Clinton

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigned for Hillary Clinton on the UNR campus last week.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigned for Hillary Clinton on the UNR campus last week.


Since the Democratic National Convention nominated Hillary Clinton for president, the Nevada supporters of Bernie Sanders have nursed their wounds, and many have stayed involved in activism. Some of those involved in the Bernie Sanders organization are now working for Clinton’s campaign.

Some of them have helped Black Lives Matter. Some even picketed President Obama’s Aug. 31 appearance at Lake Tahoe over his posture on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). They protested corporate welfare for Sheldon Adelson and the Oakland Raiders at the Nevada Legislature. They participated in the anti-Columbus Day protest in Reno.

“We have a lot of Sanders supporters here, from Carson City all the way down to Sacramento, and San Francisco has got a busload coming,” said Michelle Hartt at that protest. “It is a continuation, partly, of Bernie.”

Their issues often overlap with conservative issues, which is not unusual, as when liberals and conservatives battled the Oakland Raiders stadium subsidy. In the case of the TPP, both left and right worry about trade agreements overriding U.S. courts.

“It’ll give 12 countries power over America in making decisions, where corporations around the world can sue us,” Hartt said.

There are few states where the tension between Sanders supporters and the party regulars is as pronounced as Nevada, where Democratic officials muddied the reputation of the Sanders campaign by claiming chair-throwing and death threats were made by Sanders delegates at the Nevada Democratic Convention in May (“The riot that never was,” RN&R, May 26). But the regulars are likely to have to deal with the Sanders people for a long time to come. Hundreds of Sanders supporters across the country have run for office this year. At least 11 people who either worked for Sanders or endorsed him in Nevada ran for office.

Two U.S. House candidates—Lucy Flores and Rick Shepherd—lost their primaries. Six Democrats survived the primary and three Sanders-supporting independents running for various offices will also be on the general election ballot.

Shepherd says he’s not overly concerned about getting along with the party organization. The party, he said, is there to serve the people, not the other way around. “I don’t consider myself to be aligned with a particular party as much as I consider myself aligned with people and working to address problems,” he said. “If the party that I’m aligned with works with me on that behalf, then that’s great. If they don’t, that’s their fault and their failing.”

For Carol Cizauskas, a Sanders organizer who was a Nevada delegate to the Democratic National Convention, John Kennedy had it right when he said, “Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.”

A “Bernie or Buster,” she was turned off by the promotion of militarism by Clinton’s organization at the Philadelphia convention, and when she arrived back in Reno she learned the local chapter of Progressive Democrats of America had circulated a flyer saying she had registered Green, which was untrue. She had been doing some work for PDA locally but felt that the Reno group was not a reflection of PDA national, which she had worked with in Sanders’ campaign. “PDA nationally was one of the main groups that convinced Bernie to run,” she said. “The Reno group is more conservative than PDA national, which is truly progressive where PDA Reno seems just another arm of the Washoe Democrats, not progressive at all.”

She helped organize several events, including a Black Lives Matter protest in Tahoe City, picketing of the Washoe Democratic headquarters, and a protest at a Hillary Clinton visit. She is now resting up from what she calls PTSD caused by “verbal violence perpetrated on us by the Nevada Democratic organization and the national Hillary organization at the [national] convention.” She finally did switch to the Green Party but said she and her husband may leave the state and hope to switch back to the Democrats in a state where it is less hostile to reformers.

Free to be

In some ways, the implosion of Trump’s candidacy has hurt Clinton with the Sanders loyalists. They no longer feel their votes are needed to defeat Trump, so they are free agents. Moreover, they have been doing a slow burn on the most recent Wikileaks emails released.

Earlier this year, leaked emails indicated that Sanders campaign complaints about favoritism toward Clinton by party officials who are supposed to remain neutral were valid.

In emails released in October, Clinton was quoted lauding a plan that would call for Social Security cuts and praised international trade with no restrictions. In addition, an eight-year-old message from a Citicorp executive proposing several cabinet officers—some of whom were, in fact, appointed by President Obama—has raised the hackles of Sanders supporters. This is exactly the kind of coziness with Wall Street that fueled the Sanders campaign.

In fact, it has been more than just the rank and file volunteers who are concerned about the next Clinton cabinet. Prominent figures like Robert Reich and Elizabeth Warren have made it clear they want to make sure that such a thing does not happen again, and they will be ready after the election to police who gets appointed. Warren, who says “personnel is policy,” and senators like Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley and—if he is elected—Russ Feingold are expected to be at the forefront of an effort to scrutinize Clinton appointees.

“When we talk about personnel, we don’t mean advisers who just pay lip service to Hillary’s bold agenda, coupled with a sigh, a knowing glance, and a twiddling of thumbs until it’s time for the next swing through the revolving door—serving government, then going back to the very same industries they regulate,” Warren said at a Center for American Progress Action Fund event. “We don’t mean Citigroup or Morgan Stanley or BlackRock getting to choose who runs the economy in this country so they can capture our government. No. This is about people who understand the urgency of the need for rebuilding opportunity in America now and will fight for it with everything they’ve got.”

Even Sanders himself has spoken up: “Hillary Clinton is sincere in a number of areas,” he told the New Republic. “In other areas, I think she is gonna have to be pushed, and that’s fine. That’s called the democratic process.”

If any Clinton appointments prompt battles, the Sanders grass roots could be brought into play.

Moreover, the Clintons’ well-known proclivity for revenge has rubbed the Sanders supporters the wrong way. One of the leaked emails indicates that after U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard endorsed Sanders, she then received a message from former Clinton Foundation official and political fundraiser Darnell Strom telling her he would no longer “be raising money for your campaign.”