I’ve long admired Bernie Sanders and strongly supported and (modestly) donated to his 2016 presidential campaign. And (unlike most but not all Counterpunchers who have been extremely hard on him) I have given him credit where it is due: here and here. In recent weeks and months (as the handwriting of Bernie’s runner-up status began appearing on the wall) I was also among those strenuously urging him NOT to endorse Hillary Clinton. And perhaps because I couldn’t bring myself to watch or listen to him abase himself by endorsing Hillary on Tuesday, I still love Bernie.
Call this critique “tough love” then: BUT it’s Disgraceful (with a capital D) that Sanders unjustly enriched traditional Democratic Party campaign consultants. This well-researched Slate article by Eli Clifton and Joshua Holland found that “an eight-figure payday [was] shared by two firms: Old Towne Media and Devine Mulvey Longabaugh.” WTF?!? (Pardon my French.)
Following anti-establishment Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean’s similar meteoric rise and flameout in 2004 (albeit Bernie’s was more successful) I wrote about this strange compensation arrangement whereby such consultant firms are paid by a percentage of the cost of the media ads they purchase instead of on a salaried or hourly basis. (The LA Times declined to publish it but I later read that Joe Trippi did refund some of his outsize compensation, the total sum of which was “chickenfeed” compared to the larcenous sums made by Sanders’ consultants).
This is troubling when you reflect on the fact that Bernie had to have become familiar with his fellow Vermont pol Dean’s 2004 candidacy, knew of the way in which Dean and his donors had been ripped-off by consultants and yet allowed the exact same thing to happen but on a MUCH larger (“8-figure”!!) scale. (You do the math. Even at the low-end it’s unconscionable considering the context — an insurgent progressive presidential campaign the core message of which is that “the 1% can’t have it all!” Not exactly I guess, eh Bernie?)
When you look “under the hood” and see such unjust enrichment to a few opportunistic political consultants (whether they were and are cronies of the candidate or just glommed onto him early on and laughed all the way to the bank at his naivete in failing to negotiate an appropriate compensation arrangement I don’t know) it is hard to resist the conclusion that Bernie, as chief executive of his own campaign, was (at least) indifferent to crucial contractual details that caused him to get a lot less “bang” for his campaign donors’ “bucks” than he should have. Whether this means he similarly lacked “what it takes” to be the nation’s chief executive is a question worth asking.
Although I can think of plausible explanations for his poor judgment in this regard, it may be also be a case of “Bernie, we hardly knew ye” (at least in some important respects). History will have to judge all that as his 2016 campaign is now in the category of “water under the bridge” following his unmerited and premature concession of the Democratic nomination to his rival. For me, together with the manner in which he “got rolled” by slick soulless Democratic Party campaign consultant operatives, it’s starting to look all “of a piece”. In (brilliant humanist, fatalist and skeptic) Kurt Vonnegut famous phrase: “And so it goes…”