Bernie Briefing: On the road and on the air again

(Editor’s note: “Bernie Briefing” is a periodic campaign-season look at how Vermont U.S. senator and onetime Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is playing in the national media.)

This Labor Day weekend — the traditional start of the U.S. presidential campaign season — Bernie Sanders has been talking on a Sunday news show and taking the stage in a battleground-state rally.

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders announces the launch of his Our Revolution political organization during an Aug. 24 live-stream broadcast.

No, the senator from Vermont isn’t confused: He knows he lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. But that didn’t stop him from speaking at the New Hampshire AFL-CIO Annual Labor Day Breakfast in Manchester before a Monday afternoon appearance at Lebanon High School — in both cases, to campaign for the first time for his onetime opponent.

“The lingering disappointment about Sanders’s loss was visible inside and outside the St. George Greek Orthodox Church, where the breakfast was organized,” The Washington Post reports. “The windows of a Jeep in the church’s parking lot were soaped with the slogan ‘STILL SANDERS.’”

Inside, Sanders echoed what he said at the Democratic National Convention in July, noting Clinton would “nominate Supreme Court justices who will overturn Citizens United,” “fight for real criminal justice reform, something that has never occurred to Donald Trump” and work to make public college affordable.

“I am proud to have worked with her on this issue,” he said of the latter point.

Representatives for Clinton and Sanders decided on such efforts during negotiations throughout the summer.

“This is not going to be an easy task and it’s going to take all of us rowing together,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver recently told party officials in a private conference call reported by Politico.

“I know that sometimes in primaries there can be sharp elbows, and I hope I haven’t bumped into too many of you,” Weaver continued. “But as we go forward into the general election, I’m very happy to be working with members of the Clinton team in trying to get the secretary elected.”

Sanders’ new political organization, Our Revolution, has faced its own turbulence, sparking such headlines as Politico’s “Bernie Sanders’ New Group Is Already in Turmoil” and The New York Times’ “Bernie Sanders’s New Political Group Is Met by Staff Revolt.”

“A principal concern among backers of Mr. Sanders, whose condemnation of the campaign finance system was a pillar of his presidential bid, is that the group can draw from the pool of ‘dark money’ that Mr. Sanders condemned for lacking transparency,” the Times story reports. “The announcement of the group also came as a majority of its staff resigned after the appointment of Jeff Weaver, Mr. Sanders’s former campaign manager, to lead the organization.”

Sanders faced questions about the friction Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Why did you have so much success getting your voters to support you,” host Chuck Todd began, “but you’ve had less success in seeing your voters, for instance, pull an upset over (Rep.) Debbie Wasserman Schultz down in Florida? Or we haven’t seen more progressive upsets in primaries, where your motivated base came out for you but not for others?”

Replied Sanders: “What the political revolution is about is transforming America, is getting millions of people involved in the political process, is understanding it’s not just the president, but it is people coming together and saying, ‘We need a government that represents all of us and not just the 1 percent.’ And that’s not going to happen overnight, Chuck, but I think it is happening.”

The senator also was asked about charges by Mike Figueredo, host of the progressive Humanist Report podcast, that he so far hasn’t traveled to campaign alongside progressive down-ballot candidates such as Tim Canova, who lost a Democratic primary to unseat Wasserman Schultz.

“There are a lot of things happening in this country, things happening in my own state, work that I have got to do,” Sanders told NBC. “I can’t do everything. But I would say that our supporters, as I understand it, contributed about $600,000 to Mr. Canova’s campaign. That is a very significant contribution.”

That figure happens to roughly equal the price of Sanders’ new four-bedroom Lake Champlain summer home, as noted in a slew of recent national articles such as Vanity Fair’s “The Perpetually Aggrieved Vermont Senator Helps Himself to a Modest Lakefront Property.”

But Sanders didn’t elaborate on any of his internal issues on “Meet the Press,” choosing instead to focus on the fall.

“I think what you are going to be seeing in the weeks and months to come,” he said, “is me playing an active role, not only trying to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States, but that, in fact, we create a movement for this campaign and for the future, which creates a government in which our government responds to the needs not of the Koch brothers and wealthy campaign contributors, but to ordinary people.”

Whether backers follow his lead is another story.

“Some of Sanders’ supporters are holding on, not yet ready to fully embrace Clinton’s candidacy — as Sanders has — and relinquish the ‘political revolution’ kick-started by the longtime U.S. senator from Vermont’s insurgent campaign,” the Boston Globe writes in a story that reports a Castleton Polling Institute survey showing 39 percent of Vermonters plan to vote for Clinton, 17 percent for Trump, and 26 percent for “someone else.”

Yet none of that may matter, adds The Washington Post, noting Clinton is already up by double digits over Trump in New Hampshire while nationally, 82 percent of liberals surveyed say she’s qualified to serve as president.

“It’s definitely better for Clinton to have Sanders on board than actively rooting against her,” the Post concludes. “But she doesn’t necessarily need his active support nearly as much as it might have seemed just a few months ago.”

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Kevin O'Connor

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  • I wonder if Bernie will ever go back to work to do the job he was elected to do and is being very well compensated for while he’s not doing it.

    • Bernie has been elected and re-elected in part to bring important issues to the national level, and that is what Bernie is doing. In other words … Bernie IS doing his job.