From misleading voters about what Bernie Sanders would do to their healthcare to creating the perception that Sanders is dishonest about his involvement in the civil rights movement, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has developed a significant record of entirely disingenuous attacks.
It is not as if presidential candidates should not attack each others’ records or their positions on key issues. One expects such attacks in races for the presidency. However, when a candidate attacks their opponent in a presidential race, there should be some truth to what is claimed.
Why does this matter to anyone who is not a Sanders supporter?
Polls after the first few Democratic presidential primaries show Sanders beating Clinton among 18-29 year-olds by about sixty or seventy percentage points. His campaign, which promotes free college education, lowering interest rates on student loans, single-payer healthcare, raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, and a Wall Street speculation tax, resonates with young Americans. His campaign promotes the idea that we are all in this together while Clinton and her surrogates promote the idea that it is her time to be president.
Therefore, Clinton is potentially the Democratic Party establishment’s last stand against a rebellion within the base of the political party that has contributed to a sustained lack of enthusiasm for Democratic Party candidates over the past ten years.
While Sanders has a record of loyalty to the Democratic Party that might surprise those who tout him as a radical socialist, there is an energy and vision to his campaign, which Sanders may not be able to contain. The Democratic Party establishment, and the corporations which support Clinton’s campaign, look to Clinton to contain the grassroots insurrection before power has any chance to shift significantly.
Clinton recognizes she has a problem with Americans trusting her or believing she is honest. They have effectively worked to drag Sanders down by impugning his character and making it seem as though he cannot be trusted any more than her. The campaign has also sought to diminish his character in the eyes of non-white voters, particularly blacks and Latinos, who the establishment media crudely refer to as Clinton’s “firewall” because she needs them if she is going to defeat Sanders.
Now, with that preface, here are some of the attacks on Sanders and his supporters, which represent a pattern of sleaziness that has become a hallmark of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Sanders Misrepresents Role In the Civil Rights Movement
On February 11, ahead of the South Carolina Democratic primary, the Congressional Black Caucus’ political action committee endorsed Clinton. Civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis, called Sanders’ civil rights movement record into question.
“I never saw him. I never met him,” Lewis stated. “I was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved with the sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and directed [the] voter education project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President [Bill] Clinton.”
One might think, after hearing Lewis’ remarks, that he met both Hillary and Bill during the civil rights movement. According to Lewis’ book, “Conversations With Black America,” he did not hear of Bill Clinton until the 1970s. Lewis did not meet Bill Clinton until 1991, when an aide asked him to support Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Sanders’ history in the civil rights movement could be a real asset for him with people of color, especially because it might help prove his commitment to advancing struggles for racial justice. Clinton was not involved in the civil rights movement when Sanders was engaged in activism. She was campaigning for Barry Goldwater, a Republican who opposed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“When I was a young college student,” Sanders told the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in July, “I came to Washington, D.C., to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I heard this organization’s first president, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., deliver his famous speech, and he inspired me, just as he inspired a whole generation—black and white—to get involved in the civil rights movement.”
“In Chicago, I worked for housing desegregation and was arrested protesting public school segregation. During that time I was active in what was a sister-organization to the SCLC, the Congress of Racial Equality or CORE, which was headed up by the late James Farmer,” Sanders added.
For two days, the remarks from Lewis stirred animosity among Sanders supporters, which Clinton supporters seized upon to claim his supporters had no respect for a civil rights icon. Once the news cycle had run its course, Lewis clarified on Saturday that he never “doubted that Senator Sanders participated in the civil rights movement, neither was I attempting to disparage his activism.” But, by this time, Clinton had already created doubt about whether Sanders had exaggerated his civil rights movement record, and the damage was done.
Meanwhile, establishment media systematically accused Sanders of having faked a photo, which shows him speaking at a sit-in against off-campus segregated housing at the University of Chicago. CNN and MSNBC aired interviews and interrogated Sanders spokespeople. Time published what it claimed was an “exclusive” proving the photo was a fake (which turned out not to be true). But it was the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, an African-American columnist and Clinton supporter, who went all-in on the “fake” photo story even as proof surfaced that he was terribly wrong.
It was not until Kartemquin Films, a collaborative film group in Chicago, found footage of Sanders being arrested during the boycott against the University of Chicago in 1963 that the questions swirling around Sanders’ civil rights movement seemed to dissipate. Yet, this successfully transformed Sanders’ history into a point of contention, and at no point did the Clinton campaign have to take responsibility for the smearing of Sanders’ record because surrogates did the deed.
Bernie Has Attacked Obama as “Weak”
Around 90 percent of black Americans support President Barack Obama, according to Gallup. One way for Clinton to capitalize on this reality is to discourage black Americans from voting for Sanders by claiming he has attacked President Obama, which Clinton has done.
Her campaign sent out opposition memos during the Nevada town hall on February 18, which accused Sanders of describing Obama as “weak” and criticized him for suggesting Obama should have faced a primary challenger in 2012.
Soon after Clinton’s comments, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest seemed to defend Sanders and told reporters:
Y’know, Senator Sanders, stood not too far away from where I’m standing. [points] You can just peek out the window and sort of see the spot where he was standing. . . where he spoke to all of you after having spent an hour with the President of the United States in the Oval office, where he talked to all of you about how proud he was of the progress our country has made under President Obama’s leadership. And I think that’s a strong statement about how supportive and proud Senator Sanders of President Obama’s legacy.
Additionally, Sanders has taken the same positions as Obama ninety-three percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver.
This attack effectively distracts from Clinton’s record and her husband’s record on issues of racial justice. As Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,,” argued in an essay for The Nation, Hillary Clinton does not deserve the black vote because she supported a crime bill, welfare reform, and policies of mass incarceration, which decimated black America.
It deflects attention from how Clinton only recently added a “racial justice” tab to her campaign website. In contrast, Sanders announced a racial justice platform back in August 2015, after activists from the movement for black lives confronted Democratic presidential candidates at Netroots Nation. Apparently, Clinton needed six months to develop her positions on racial justice or she waited until she needed black voters to win a decisive victory in South Carolina and other Super Tuesday states.
Sanders’ Plan Would “Dismantle Obamacare”
In January, Clinton dishonestly stated, “His plan would take Medicare and Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Affordable Care Act health care insurance and private employer health insurance and he would take that all together and send health insurance to the states, turning over your and my health insurance to governors.” She added, “We had enough of a fight to get to the Affordable Care Act. So I don’t want to rip it up and start over.”
Her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, was more explicit in her attack. She argued Sanders wanted to “dismantle Obamacare” and said, “I worry if we give Republicans Democratic permission to do that, we’ll go back to an era, before we had the Affordable Care Act, that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.”
Clinton built on her daughter’s claim when she appeared on “Good Morning America.” She said Sanders would “take everything we currently know as health care, Medicare, Medicaid, the CHIP Program, private insurance, now of the Affordable Care Act, and roll it together.” But FactCheck.org described the campaigns series of attacks as “misleading.” Former Obama administration adviser David Axelrod appeared on CNN and slapped down this attack.
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“Bernie Sanders is proposing single-payer, universal healthcare. You can hardly say he is trying to take health care away from anyone or retreat from Obamacare. He’s trying to exceed it. And so it’s not really an honest attack,” Axelrod said.
When she ran against Obama in 2008, Clinton claimed Obama only wanted “children to have health insurance.” That was false. But this attack is different. It spreads disinformation intentionally to undermine a key campaign promise he has made to Americans while at the same time protecting the private health insurance industry.
On February 22, Clinton announced she would work with governors to use flexibility in Obamacare “to empower states to establish a public option choice.” Suddenly, it doesn’t seem like she is afraid of going to governors to have them expand health insurance for Americans anymore.
Finally, it is worth acknowledging this also works as an insinuation that Sanders would undo one of Obama’s landmark achievements. Undoing Obama’s achievement—if there was any truth to this claim—would likely be offensive to black voters.
Students for Sanders Planned To Commit Voter Fraud In Iowa
One rumor spread by the Clinton camp claimed Sanders was plotting to commit voter fraud by bringing in young, out-of-state supporters to participate in the Iowa caucus.
When Sanders was asked by Bloomberg Politics editor Al Hunt to address the allegation, he became livid.
“Really? Is that what they’re saying? Based on what did they say that? Based on David Brock’s long history of honesty and integrity? The man who tried to destroy Anita Hill? Is this where this is coming from?” Sanders replied. “Every one of you knows. You know it, that every day you’re being flooded with this negative stuff from the Secretary Hillary Clinton’s SuperPAC. So, that’s the first I’ve ever heard of it. I don’t want my integrity and dishonesty to be impugned. This is a lie, an absolute lie.”
What happened with the rumor is similar to how Clinton opposed Obama’s effort to encourage out-of-state students, who attended college in Iowa, to caucus in 2008. She argued the caucuses were only for people from the state. “This is a process for Iowans. This needs to be all about Iowa, and people who live here, people who pay taxes here,” Clinton declared.
“Bernie Bros”: Supporters of Bernie Spread “Vicious Lies and Sexism”
Sanders has a 100% rating from the American Association of University Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. However, the Clinton campaign has seized upon a tiny percentage of Sanders supporters, who are obnoxious bullies on social media, in order to neutralize any argument that Sanders is feminist.
“If you study what’s being said in social media, the media that millennials are consuming, it is filled with misinformation and vicious lies and sexism in terms that you can’t even repeat from his supporters, from other trolls,” David Brock told POLITICO in February. “And you wonder why there’s such a gap in the millennial preference for Sanders over Hillary. I think if people took a look at what they’re seeing, that would account for some of [the deficit] — the fact that they have a misimpression of her.”
Although Brock resigned on February 10, he was on the board of a Hillary Clinton Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, at the time he made the statement. It represented the campaign’s full support for casting the vast majority of criticism of Clinton as the product of sexism or misogyny.
As Rachel Weaver, a 40-year-old woman and Sanders supporter, wrote in a column published by the Chicago Tribune, “The idea that bad behavior on the Internet would be something unique to men drawn to support Sanders, a candidate with an impeccable record on women’s issues, is of course absurd, but many in the media as well as many Clinton supporters have latched onto this convenient, if unsupported, narrative and treated it as gospel during this Democratic presidential campaign. But what this generalization of Sanders supporters does do especially well is this: It erases his millions of female supporters from the narrative. This is sexism at its most devious.”
When former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright repeated a favorite phrase of hers and said there is a “special place in hell for women who do not help each other,” Clinton stood by Albright’s shaming and downplayed it. She said Albright’s remark was “lighthearted and nothing new.”
Obviously, the most major aspect of Clinton’s presidential campaign is that she would be the first woman president if elected, but every criticism of her does not stem from sexist or misogynistic hatred for her. She is not just any woman. She is Hillary Clinton, and she has a specific record and history in U.S. politics. Yet, that has not stopped her campaign or supporters in the establishment media from pushing analysis, which degrades debate on issues and aims to transform Sanders’ campaign into a repugnant operation.
It also is a repeat of a tactic used by Clinton when she ran against Obama. In 2008, as Branko Marcetic of In These Times detailed, “Obama was regularly accused of running a sexist campaign, so much so that there was a notable contingent of Clinton supporters who threatened to vote for John McCain in the general election out of spite.”
“Then there was 2008’s version of the ‘Bernie Bros,’ a spate of stories from pro-Clinton pundits about Obama’s ‘creepy,’ ‘cult-like’ supporters,” Marcetic wrote. “As in 2016, Krugman joined the fray, complaining that Obama’s campaign was “dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality” and declaring that “most of the venom I see is coming from supporters of Mr. Obama.”
Sanders Sides With Right-Wing Republicans on Immigration
Clinton’s campaign has dishonestly made it seem like Sanders is opposed to immigration reform and sides with Republicans to make it difficult for him to win over Latino voters. Representative Luis Gutierrez, who supports Clinton and is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, wrote a column against Sanders for Univision in which he suggested Sanders broke with Democrats to stand with “the hard-line anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party.”
She raised the fact that Sanders voted against immigration reform legislation in 2007 during the Nevada town hall on MSNBC and Telemundo. Sanders was also asked to defend his vote by an undocumented immigrant and Clinton supporter. “You’ve stated in the past that the reason why you voted against immigration reform in 2007 was because it wasn’t perfect. As president, would you veto our shot at immigration reform if it wasn’t deemed perfect by you?”
Sanders mentioned he voted for immigration reform legislation in 2013 but not in 2007 because it included a “guest worker provision which organizations saw as almost akin to slavery. Guest workers came in, and if they didn’t do what their bosses wanted them to do, if they didn’t accept exploitation and cheating, then [they would] be thrown out of this country.”
“And many of those workers were terribly, terribly exploited. And that was the major reason that I voted against that. I don’t want to see workers in this country exploited,” Sanders added.
Sanders suggested he voted against the legislation because the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), one of the largest Latino advocacy organizations in the U.S., opposed the legislation. He also took note of the fact that the AFL-CIO was opposed.
LULAC determined a “punitive proposal” in the legislation would “separate families and institute draconian enforcement measures without offering a meaningful legal pathway for immigrants.” The organization also stated, “While the Senate compromise does provide a chance for undocumented workers to earn permanent residence and includes the DREAM Act and AgJOBS, the bill falls woefully short at reuniting families and fixing our broken immigration system with a legal pathway for future immigrant workers.”
Unlike Sanders, Clinton voted for this legislation. One of the genius aspects of Clinton’s attack on Sanders is it enables her to not have to defend voting for legislation, which contained toxic guest worker provisions. It allows her to underhandedly promote a narrative that Sanders might not deliver on immigration reform if he is elected president.
Sanders Supporters Shouted “English Only” at Farm Labor Activist Dolores Huerta
The Democratic Party failed to have translators assigned at the Nevada Caucuses, who could translate English for voters who speak Spanish. Longtime civil rights and farm labor activist Dolores Huerta, a Clinton surrogate, volunteered to translate after a moderator at the caucuses agreed to allow translation. The crowd erupted into chaos immediately, however, as Sanders supporters objected. Someone shouted, “She’s a surrogate!” multiple times.
After about a minute of chaos, as video shows, the moderator attempted to persuade the crowd, arguing if Huerta said anything pro-Hillary, it would be obvious. Sanders supporters insisted on a neutral translator. The moderator decided the caucus would proceed with “English only.”
Huerta claimed in a tweet that was shared by over 4,000 users that she “offered to translate and Bernie supporters chanted ‘English only.'” She added, “We fought too hard and long to be silenced. Si Se Puede!” This helped create the perception that an unruly mob of Sanders supporters were insensitive, if not racist toward a renowned activist. The problem is, there was no chanting, and the person who said, “English only,” was the moderator of the caucus.
It did not matter though. While it was probably not her intention, Huerta succeeded in spreading misinformation, which would make any Latino voter think twice about supporting a candidate who has supporters who chant “English only” at Spanish-speaking people. And, as of February 23, neither Huerta nor any spokesperson from Clinton’s campaign has clarified that the chaos was the result of the Democratic Party not having translators for the caucus.