POLL: Get Ready for a Third Party Run from Bernie Sanders?
Countless gallons of ink and a nearly infinite universe of pixels have been used to describe the civil war within the Republican Party in the 2016 presidential primary cycle. Donald Trump supporters have demanded fealty from self-described NeverTrumpers. Elected GOP officials have chosen sides between the two. The national media covered a meeting between Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan as though it would amount to a political Appomattox.
Conservative activists have grown increasingly desperate to find a figure with national standing to agree to a quixotic independent run for the White House in November as an alternative to Hillary Clinton and Trump as the bitter divide on the Right continues.
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Don’t look now, but Democrats find themselves in similar circumstances. And unlike on the Right, there is – at least theoretically – an opening for a crack-up on the Left.
Populist anger has driven wedges in both the Republican and Democratic parties in this cycle. It succeeded in seizing the GOP’s presidential nomination with Donald Trump, but appears to have fallen short among Democrats as Bernie Sanders has no mathematical path to the nomination. Clinton will likely clinch in the June 7 primaries – later than anyone would have imagined a year ago, but still getting a first-ballot victory at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.
That has not mellowed the progressive-populist uprising that made Sanders an unlikely obstacle to the Clinton Restoration, however. Instead, the close call appears to have sharpened its intensity. Saturday’s Democratic caucus in Nevada went out of control when Senator Barbara Boxer tried to speak in support of Hillary Clinton, who had won the contest. Sanders’ delegates booed her initial appearance, and then got even more irate when Boxer scolded them for being “bullies.” Other speakers got shouted down and objects were thrown at others, including at least one bottle that hit an elderly woman. The situation became so unruly that the casino hosting the convention demanded it be shut down – and police were called to restore order.
Nevada’s Democratic Party blamed the Sanders campaign for inciting “violence,” and also for threats made against party leaders in the wake of the caucus disaster. Sanders himself issued a statement denouncing the violence, but added a long list of his own grievances against the state Democratic Party. “The chair of the convention announced that the convention rules passed on voice vote, when the vote was a clear no-vote,” Sanders complained in the statement. “At the very least, the Chair should have allowed for a headcount.”
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That attempt at rationalization spurred the ire of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “The fact that the Sanders campaign has issued a ‘but’ in between condemnation of violence and frustration with the process,” she told MSNBC on Tuesday night, “seems to excuse their supporters’ actions, which is unacceptable.” That was the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a fire.
Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver went on the same cable network to accuse Wasserman Schultz of a “personal” vendetta against Sanders, and cited this as just the latest example of a process that the DNC chair herself had rigged against his candidate, and in favor of Hillary Clinton. “It’s been clear there’s a pattern of conduct from the beginning of this campaign that has been hostile to Bernie Sanders and his supporters,” Weaver told Steve Kornacki on Wednesday morning, “and she’s really become a divisive figure in the party.”
This eruption has party figures worried about the convention in Philadelphia. Senator Dianne Feinstein told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that she thought Sanders’ statement was inadequate too. “You know,” Feinstein said, “I don’t want to go back to the ’68 convention.”