Mark Schmitt, director of the ironically titled political reform program at the neoliberal New America think tank, offers what may be the most craven denial of Senator Bernie Sanders campaign’s legitimacy from the Democratic Party hack class yet.
In an op-ed in The New York Times, Schmitt claims that Senator Sanders had been “running the Windows 95 version of progressive politics,” and that “his policy proposals were consistently out of step with the ideas that have been emerging from progressive think tanks like Demos or the Center for American Progress or championed by his own congressional colleagues.”
The pairing of the Center for American Progress and Demos is rather interesting given some of the events of this cycle, but the larger point is fundamentally incorrect. The Sanders campaign platform has a strong number of backers within the think tank set.
One think tank Schmitt references to discredit Sanders, The Roosevelt Institute, was actually one of Sanders’ chief defenders on the very issue Schmitt cites: Wall Street reform. Roosevelt Institute fellow Mike Konczal wrote a lengthy defense of Sanders plan to break up the Too Big To Fail banks. Schmitt either has a reading comprehension problem or was knowingly misrepresenting the facts.
Then comes one of the most crass and opportunistic misrepresentations. Schmitt tries to claim that Senator Elizabeth Warren is more in line with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s politics than Senator Sanders’. This is, also, thoroughly incorrect.
Though Senator Warren has now endorsed former Secretary Clinton for president, she has been one of Clinton’s most significant policy critics from the left, perhaps most famously on Clinton’s vote for the 2001 bankruptcy bill. Warren all-but-said Clinton sold out to Wall Street, and has made a name for herself attacking Wall Street in terms that are diametrically opposed to Clinton’s (at least previously) stated views.
But what is arguably the most problematic part of the smear piece on Senator Sanders is its most basic premise: that Hillary Clinton has offered a substantially different progressive agenda than Senator Sanders. Hillary Clinton has changed her position on virtually every issue over the years and the course of this campaign cycle—on healthcare, Wall Street, TPP and trade, immigration, and a $15 minimum wage.
The only issues where former Secretary Clinton has stuck to her guns is her unrelenting support for waging aggressive wars abroad to pursue murkily defined goals. During the campaign, Clinton defended her belief in regime change and is set to adopt a George W. Bush-esque foreign policy vision for her presidency.
If a President Hillary Clinton were to adopt a progressive agenda, it would hardly be one of her own making and would most certainly be heavily influenced by the same people that propelled a independent senator from Vermont into striking distance of the party’s nomination.