Did Sanders Play a Role in Hillary’s 2016 Defeat?

Hillary Clinton has once again stirred the pot. In an appearance on the Howard Stern show on December 4, 2019, she claimed – without any substantiation – that Bernie Sanders hurt her chances of being elected in 2016. In effect, Hillary regurgitated the flawed talking point of the Democratic establishment that Bernie somehow contributed to her defeat because he did not endorse her right after she won the primaries.

Let’s look at the facts. After Hillary won, Bernie negotiated with the Clinton campaign to make its platform more progressive. Unlike most primaries, where there are minor differences between opposing candidates of the same party, there was a wide gulf between the positions held by Hillary and Bernie. Like any prudent politician, Bernie wanted to make his support contingent on Hillary making her platform more progressive.

Bernie was successful in making Hillary amend her platform on two key issues. One was the expansion of her health care proposals, bringing them closer to his Medicare for All plan. The other was her pledge to make all public colleges and universities tuition-free for students from families with incomes of up to $85,000 initially, rising to $125,000 by 2021.

On July 12, 2016, a little more than a month after Hillary clinched the Democratic nomination, Bernie endorsed her campaign and began stumping for her in earnest. He went around the country and held dozens of rallies in her support.

Bernie fervently wanted to see Donald Trump defeated, and he left no stone unturned in support of Hillary. The commitment Bernie showed to the Clinton campaign was publicly acknowledged by Hillary on July 28, 2016 at the Democratic National Convention.

A large slice of Bernie supporters despised Hillary and were loath to support her. However, by getting Hillary to accept some of his progressive positions, Bernie was able to make her platform more palatable to his supporters. Unfortunately, despite Bernie’s best efforts, Hillary lost to Trump, notwithstanding the fact that Trump had many issues of his own.

At a time when the nation was clamoring for change, Hillary ran on a centrist platform. She stood for the status coup, a stance that went against the grain of what the vast majority of Americans wanted. She stuck to her neoliberal positions, failing to inject any creative solutions to address the problems besetting the country. She openly claimed to be a moderate and thought that it would somehow serve as her strength.

In the election, Hillary lost many states by a narrow margin, not particularly because the voters liked her, but because they disliked Trump. However, there were two factors beyond her control that potentially contributed to tilting the election in favor of Trump. One was the disclosure by James Comey – just 11 days before the election – that the FBI was reviewing more Hillary emails. The other was the Russian interference in the elections which clearly occurred.

Nevertheless, it cannot be overlooked that Hillary did not run a clean campaign, a fact that was not lost on Bernie supporters. No wonder, many of them did not vote for Hillary. Some of them even voted for Trump.

On several occasions, Hillary and her cohorts tried to hit Bernie below the belt. Examples include: misrepresenting his positions (such as on crime bill), taking his words out of context (“shouting” on gun control), hurling false accusations (DNC data breach), and cheating (CNN debate question ). Moreover, there were irregularities in several states headed by Democratic governors who played favorites and tried to tip the balance in Hillary’s favor.

One of Hillary’s unscrupulous acts that was discovered after the elections was a surreptitious agreement with the DNC in August 2015 that bestowed her campaign with control of the Democratic party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. DNC, which is supposed to be neutral, essentially became an arm of the Clinton campaign.

While there was a panoply of reasons why Hillary lost to Trump, Bernie’s delay in endorsing her was not one of them. On the contrary, despite Hillary’s shenanigans, Bernie supported her to the hilt. To blame Bernie for Hillary’s loss is an illustration of the deceitfulness that embodies the Clinton machine.