It’s often interesting to follow the statements of a candidate’s unpaid and not formally affiliated supporters. You know, the ones who post on Facebook or yak in coffee shops. Those minions, if you will, are as dedicated as the candidate’s paid staffers and volunteers, probably more so, but they’re not subject to the candidate’s control. They make their own choices on campaign messaging.
In the case of the Ready for Hillary crowd on Facebook, the messaging is rather hilarious. They’re largely in attack mode right now against Sanders. The conventional wisdom is that going into attack mode against a persona like that of Sanders is unwise, but these folks are not subject to conventional rules.
They’re kind of the id of the Hillary campaign.
And what is the basis of the attack? Largely, they’re going after Sanders’ less than stellar record on military action. Two months ago, Alternet, not exactly a home for Hillary supporters, ran this post: Bernie Sanders’ Troubling History of Supporting US Military Violence Abroad. The author chronicles Sanders’ support of the 1999 bombing of Kosovo, and the resignation of one of Sanders’ aides in protest. That post is now surfacing on the Facebook posts of Hillary’s minions. Really, it is.
Similarly, they’ve gone after Sanders’ stance on Israel, including his rather abysmal performance at a Town Hall when he told young activists who pushed him on Israel’s aggression to shut up.
Their criticism of Sanders is basically accurate factually. Sanders’s record on military issues and Israel is spotty at best. I find it troublesome.
But the logic of the attack? The clear message is “Yeah, Hillary sucks, but Bernie sucks almost as bad.”
I just can’t imagine anyone troubled by Sanders’ record on military adventurism and Israel’s aggression would turning Hillary. Jill Stein, yes. Martin O’Malley, maybe. But Hillary? Why? That would be like choosing a deep-fried Twinkie over a bran muffin for health reasons. Yes, the muffin is a bit heavy in carbs, but would that drive you to commit metabolic suicide instead? After all, that bombing in Kosovo that Sanders supported was conducted by a President named Clinton.
What’s going on? Why the crazy, upside-down arguments? Here’s my take: The Sanders’ campaign is gaining traction at an astonishing pace. This piece at Common Dreams describes the turnout at Sanders rallies as “epic”: How Does Bernie Sanders’ Turnout in Maine Compare to Other Democratic Rallies? It Was Epic. And epic it is. That turnout in Maine would be the equivalent of a candidate packing Chase Field to capacity here. Six months before the first primary. Wow!
The minions out there for Hillary get this. They feel in their guts what the experts haven’t quite digested yet. Sanders is viable. He can win the nomination. Thus, dismissing him as an unserious candidate just won’t fly anymore in the Facebook wars. The minions know this, even if the knowledge only is subconscious.
Thus, they have to make new arguments. But campaign geniuses they’re not. So they find whatever perceived weaknesses they can. Even if the effect of doing so is to highlight their own candidate’s weaknesses.
Quite the conundrum for the Hillary campaign this is. The minions are doing affirmative damage to their own candidate. But try to tell them that.