Chris Cillizza called it a declaration of war: yesterday, Bernie Sanders endorsed DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s primary opponent in her race to retain her House seat. Today, he followed it up with a fundraising email asking supporters to donate to his campaign:
Splitting a $2.70 contribution between Bernie 2016 and Tim Canova for Congress will help elect progressives up and down the ballot while sending an UNMISTAKABLE message about our political revolution’s commitment to electing candidates who share our values.
The email — which arrived this morning over Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver’s signature — goes on to lay out plans to encourage Berners to support other favored candidates taking on the “establishment”:
A few weeks ago, we raised a tremendous amount of money for three progressive candidates for Congress. Your support changed their races overnight. In the days ahead, we’re going to add a dozen or more additional candidates to that list.
We’re doing this because it is too late for establishment politics and establishment economics. We need real change. We need U.S. Senators, members of Congress and state legislators who have the guts to take on the big money interests whose greed is destroying the American middle class.
Should the Clinton team issue a collective sigh of relief? I.e., if Bernie has a new endeavor to pour his heart into, will he lay off Clinton between now and the convention?
It seems unlikely: if anything, this development will amp up the emotion on all sides, clouding minds and distracting Democrats from the very real struggle of beating Trump and down-ballot Republicans in November. And condidering the kind of money Bernie’s supporters have been willing to give HIM, they could seriously change the dynamic in the races he’s targeting. Depending on the districts, that’s not necessarily to the benefit of Democrats as a whole: the eventual nominees for those seats could end up either fatally weakened or simply out of sync with general-election voters.
Bernie’s beef with Wasserman Schultz has been simmering for months, occasionally coming to a boil over items like the limited Democratic debate schedule and the party’s reaction to December’s data debacle. But actively campaigning for her primary opponent? That’s the political equivalent of introducing nuclear weapons into a conventional war. As Cillizza said,
I have talked to former pols — and even ones still in office — who still hold grudges against colleagues who endorsed against them in a tough primary fight. They never forget. And, almost to a person, they never forgive.
This time, it’s personal. And a true danger to Democratic unity.