The 2016 presidential election never ends. Hillary Clinton wrote a book about it. So did James Comey. Reporters and political scientists have written a shelf full of them, and there's more coming. Historians will have their turn soon enough.
Now add to the list Jeff Weaver, Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, whose 2016 tell-all was obtained early by VICE News before its release next month.
While those legacy-focused books aim at reputation management while sharing campaign gossip and airing grievances — this book has those, too — this one is written with the future in mind. Namely, a possible 2020 presidential campaign.
“Run, Bernie, Run!” are the final words of Weaver’s book, "How Bernie Won: Inside the Revolution That’s Taking Back Our Country—and Where We Go From Here," a title that suggests Bernieworld doesn’t think the revolution is over.
Indeed, Weaver thinks Sanders has the “neoliberal,” “corporatist” Democrats on the run. There’s reason to think he may be right, as many 2020 contenders are now embracing liberal positions that Sanders has held for decades, like Medicare for all, tuition-free college, and even public option banking at post offices.
But Weaver thinks Bernie’s still the one to take on Trump.
“I also believe he is the strongest candidate to reclaim the White House in 2020 in this moment in history,” Weaver writes — adding the standard caveat that Sanders hasn’t yet decided to run.
Before the 2020 race officially starts in about six months, however, Weaver wants to talk 2016 and what he thinks people either got wrong or missed. Most notably, he wants to rewrite some of the conventional wisdom about Hillary Clinton, race, the media, and, of course, Bernie Bros.
Here are some of the highlights of the book, which is officially out May 15. (You can buy it here.)
“We caught her cheating”
Weaver isn’t quite over the rough primary fight (neither is Clinton, for that matter) and rehashes instances when he felt the Clinton campaign played cheaper and dirtier than politics-as-usual. From flouting debate rules to colluding with the DNC to spreading disinformation online, Weaver argues that Clinton didn't win the nomination fair and square.
Weaver’s recollections are further informed by emails that WikiLeaks published during the election from the DNC and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
“[G]etting the questions in advance was cheating,” Weaver writes about how CNN commentator Donna Brazile leaked debate questions to the Clinton camp beforehand (a revelation from the Podesta emails).
He recounts another instance when “we caught her cheating” at a debate by huddling with her campaign staff during a break. “We had photographic evidence that during a critical debate following a surprise loss in Michigan, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination was cheating,” he writes. The mainstream media’s response, he complains, was “radio silence.”
He's also especially critical of Clinton ally David Brock, who ran the Correct the Record super PAC (Weaver says campaign aides called it “Distort the Record”). The super PAC regularly spent at least a $1 million to flood comment sections on sites like Facebook and Reddit and regularly shopped around opposition research on Sanders while allowing the Clinton campaign to maintain deniability.
Weaver recounts Bernie’s quip to Time magazine about Brock in 2016: “I don’t think you hire scum of the Earth to be on your team just because the other side does it.”
Let’s not and say we did
The primary race was so tense at one point that the traditional congratulatory call after the South Carolina primary was handled by him and top Clinton aide Huma Abedin instead of the candidates themselves.
Weaver recounts that he called Abedin to find out the best way to call Clinton after the election results came in. Abedin said Clinton would likely be traveling, and when Weaver insisted, she replied, “If it’s OK with you, let’s just count the call we're having right now as the congratulatory call.” She said. “And if anyone asks, we will certainly say that Bernie called.”
FDR’s fifth term?
Forget Obama’s third term. Weaver says one of his biggest regrets regarding strategy was not trying harder to cast Sanders as the heir to Franklin Roosevelt’s Democratic Party in contrast to the more moderate Clinton version.
“What was not sufficiently articulated by us was that in many ways Bernie was running for FDR’s fifth term,” he writes. “Bernie Sanders represented a rediscovery of the values of the Democratic Party’s modern roots and an articulation of the unfinished business of the New Deal. By contrast, the neoliberals are a recent aberration.”
Perhaps the FDR angle will be more pronounced in a 2020 campaign.
Bernie Bros are fake news
Not surprisingly, Weaver says the most persistent caricature of the Bernie supporter is a myth. He takes on what he calls the “Berniebros meme advanced by the media and echoed by the Clinton campaign.”
“There is no doubt that there were some supporters who posted offensive and hateful content,” Weaver concedes, adding the campaign tried “to tamp it down.”
What’s irks Weaver more, however, is that this meme devalued the real support Bernie had from minority communities and fed the narrative that Sanders could only win white dudes.
“Soon it was being said that all Bernie supporters were racist, misogynistic, 21-year-old men. There were no women, no people of color. Just Berniebros,” he wrote.
Perhaps with an eye on 2020, Weaver attempts to debunk this narrative, emphasizing Sanders’ interactions with black and Latino activists on the campaign trail, including “dedicated cadres of African-American surrogates” in the South Carolina primary, including Dr. Cornel West, former NAACP head Ben Jealous, and actor Danny Glover.
He also recounts a moment when campaign aides watched a four-minute ad for Sanders featuring Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner, the black man choked to death by police on the street in New York City for allegedly selling loose cigarettes, whose "I can't breathe" plea became a rallying cry against police violence.
“He’s not scared to go up against the criminal justice system. He’s not scared,” Garner says of Sanders in the ad while recounting the death of her father. Weaver recalls when he first watched the ad with campaign colleagues: “As I looked around at the rest of the staff, I understood what the expression ‘not a dry eye in the house’ really meant.”
Weaver even publishes internal campaign poll data from the Nevada caucus showing Sanders beating Clinton among Latino voters (a claim the Clinton campaign called “bullshit” at the time). “This reality went to the heart of their false narrative that Bernie had no support from voters of color,” Weaver writes.
There was some truth to the narrative that black voters largely preferred Clinton during the primary race, but Weaver argues it had more to do with Clinton’s decades of experience in Democratic politics rather than a racial tone-deafness from Bernie.
Weaver goes on to accuse the Clinton campaign of pushing this race narrative for their own benefit. “This fact, that Bernie was winning with young people of all races, was ignored by most of the media,” he says after recalling Sanders' surprise win in the Michigan primary when he tied Clinton with black voters under 40. “It ran counter to the Clinton campaign’s self-serving message.”
And of course, Bernie would have …
Weaver also ends the book with a message echoed as an anthem by many Sanders supporters after Trump took the election: “Finally, let me be upfront about what I am sure is painfully obvious,” Weaver writes.
“Bernie would have won. Period.”
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