The Corner

Politics & Policy

Sanders’s New Political Group Already Collapsing over Ideological Purity

Bernie Sanders started the political group Our Revolution to fight for the “issues that drove his campaign,” but it has already run into trouble. Immediately before its launch yesterday, most of the core staff quit in protest that their leader is betraying his own principles.

Those who stuck by Sanders after he endorsed Hillary Clinton wanted Our Revolution to be different from other political groups that run TV ads and take large donations. And so, when Sanders committed to a different model by bringing in former campaign manager Jeff Weaver, eight of the group’s 15 staffers left.

Former campaign staffer Claire Sandberg told the New York Times that she and others have problems with Our Revolution’s 501(c)(4) status, which would allow large donations to be taken, and that the arrival of Weaver was a bridge too far. She said Weaver would “betray its core purpose by accepting money from billionaires and not remaining grassroots funded and plowing that billionaire cash into TV instead of investing it in building a genuine movement.”

For Sandberg and others, ways to reach young people like Internet-advertising create a “genuine movement,” but speaking to older people who have more money (and TV’s) does not. The younger and more ideologically committed set had told Sanders that Weaver was unacceptable, but both Sanders and his wife Jane wanted the more traditional management for the group. Ceci Hall so distrusted Weaver – who has planned meetings with billionaire donors – that she said to NBC that she told Sanders she was “trying not to cry as I write this” but had to follow her conscience and leave with Weaver at the helm.

The group’s official unveiling came last night, and Sanders’s boilerplate speech was notable mainly in that he did not mention Tim Canova, the most explicitly anti-establishment candidate Sanders endorsed. Canova is trying to unseat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Sanders backing off support for him has raised concerns with some progressives that Sanders is selling out.

Staffers also expressed regret that white men held the top three spots in the group, which is not representative of the way they see the movement. NBC also reports that the few remaining staffers all sent letters to Sanders expressing concern.

This exodus further confirms that Sanders’s most-committed followers have bought into the purity of the revolution idea more completely than he did. Amidst the tears and cries of betrayal, the populist progressive movement is splintering. 

Sanders never really lived up to his own rhetoric. He preached financial transparency but during his campaign didn’t even disclose his finances in compliance with federal law. His grandstanding on matters of funding were critical to his image as a crusader for integrity, and so compromises with the establishment may be necessary but they are not going over well. The idea of a scaled-back “revolution” is an oxymoron that is proving difficult to sell.

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