Bernie Sanders is trying to Sarah Palin the head of the Democratic Party—throwing his support behind the DNC chairwoman’s primary opponent in the latest escalation of the intraparty fracas gripping the left.
“Well, clearly, I favor her opponent,” Sanders told CNN on Sunday. “His views are much closer to mine than as to Wasserman Schultz’s.” He added that if elected president he would not support Debbie Wasserman Schultz to keep her post as chair.
There is no love lost between DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Sanders—his campaign has alleged she has been on Hillary Clinton’s side for the duration of the primary—but his comments and subsequent fundraising ask for her primary opponent made the political argument suddenly personal for the Florida Democrat.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen party on party attacks this cycle. After Speaker Paul Ryan blindsided presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and his campaign by declining to endorse him following the exit of Sen. Ted Cruz from the race, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin hit the airwaves and called for conservatives to rally around his primary opponent.
While Sarah Palin’s call to action is unlikely to have much of an impact of Ryan’s fortunate given her track record, it remains to be seen whether Sanders has the heft to take out a well-funded incumbent Democrat in a solidly blue seat.
On Sunday it was clear that he was going to give it a shot. In a fundraising appeal asking his “sisters and brothers” to split a donation between Bernie’s presidential campaign and the congressional campaign of Tim Canova, Wasserman Schultz’s Democratic primary challenger.
“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 fundraising email read.
For much of this election cycle, Wasserman Schultz has been accused by Sanders and his supporters of running the Democratic primary process in a biased way: holding debates at times when viewership will be relatively low; and using unelected superdelegates—usually party establishment types—to weigh in on the eventual nominee.
In February, for example DNC vice chairwoman Tulsi Gabbard criticized the DNC for not scheduling enough debates, and accused Wasserman Schultz of revoking her invite to the first such faceoff.
Still, the odds are in Wasserman Schultz’s favor so far.
The chairwoman is also relatively popular in her own district. One indication of the likelihood of her success in the congressional primary is how badly Clinton beat Sanders in Florida. Wasserman Schultz’s district includes parts of Hollywood, Florida and Miami Beach. Miami-Dade County voted three-to-one for Clinton over Sanders back in March. Broward County, where Hollywood is located, voted for Clinton 73 to 26 percent.
Wasserman Schultz waved off Sanders’ endorsement, insisting that she remains neutral in the Democratic presidential primary.
“I look forward to working together with him for Democratic victories in the fall.,” she said in a statement Sunday. “I am so proud to serve the people of Florida’s 23rd district and I am confident that they know that I am an effective fighter and advocate on their behalf in Congress.
The Cook Political Report, essentially a bible for political reporters and observers, wrote in their summary of the race that Wasserman Schultz “remains formidable in her primary” and that it is “tough to imagine” Canova unseating her.
Canova and Sanders’ quixotic bids are both unlikely to succeed— but they do signify deep alienation from within the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. As the primary drags on and on, the split within the party appears to grow wider, rather than more narrow—something that will bruise the Democratic nominee come the summer and perhaps into fall, all to Donald Trump’s benefit.