The frustrations Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) 2016 presidential campaign had with the tenure of former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) are well documented.
But in a new book written by the man who ran the insurgent senator’s 2016 run, it is revealed that Hillary Clinton’s team shared many of those frustrations, especially as the 2016 primary was drawing to a close.
In his book, How Bernie Won: Inside the Revolution That’s Taking Back Our Country—and Where We Go from Here, Jeff Weaver details a meeting the Sanders and Clinton teams held prior to the Democratic convention, in which aides to the former secretary of state detailed how “exasperated” they were with Wasserman Schultz.
“I knew that there was no love between the Clinton campaign and the chairwoman. Nor was there any in the White House. Or among large numbers of the DNC’s top leaders. When Bernie was on his way to meet President Obama on June 9, Senator Reid had made a point of calling Bernie during the car ride to remind him to ask the president to dump Wasserman Schultz,” Weaver writes, referencing a meeting Sanders had at the White House in the summer of 2016.
“Every time I had raised the issue of Wasserman Schultz with the Clinton campaign, they had blamed her continued tenure on the White House,” Weaver continues. “Whenever I raised the issue with the president’s people, they blamed the Clinton campaign. From my calls with them, I knew that the Clinton people were exasperated with Wasserman Schultz. But I could never tell whether it was because she had put her fingers on the scale in such an incompetent way. Regardless, it just always seemed the case that no one wanted to expend the political capital necessary to push her out, especially as her term would be ending soon anyway.”
Weaver’s recollections stand in contrast to the conventional wisdom of many Sanders’ supporters: that Wasserman Schultz’s presence at the DNC thrilled the Clinton campaign because she was, during the course of the primary, putting her thumb on the scales for Clinton. Weaver recounts that during a meeting between the two camps, Clinton ultimately elected not to force Wasserman Schultz’s exit but not out of a feeling of gratitude or patronage.
“At our meeting at the Hilton, Hillary Clinton balked at forcing her out,” Weaver writes. “My suspicion was that the Clinton campaign did not want to do anything that would impugn the legitimacy of her victory. Forcing out Debbie Wasserman Schultz would be an acknowledgment that the DNC chairwoman had stacked the deck in Clinton’s favor. That was not our point, however. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as chair of the Democratic Party during a vigorously contested primary, was supposed to be neutral. She clearly was not. This action item would resolve itself at the Democratic National Convention, when the chairwoman was pushed out after DNC emails were released proving how the organization had worked against our campaign.”
A request for comment was not returned from either Clinton’s campaign representatives or Wasserman Schultz’s office.
Weaver’s book is, fundamentally, an account of a journey on an underdog campaign and the triumphs and mistakes therein. But his time with Sanders saw him move from managing a long-shot presidential bid to one of the most successful grassroots movements in political history. In the text, he relitigates a lot of the hot-button issues of the primary season and the ups and downs of Sanders’ candidacy. Yet in some instances, even as the two candidates butted heads on policy, Weaver writes that Sanders always respected Clinton and “often expressed the fact that he personally liked her.”
“I can’t say that was the most popular applause line with his supporters, but it did reflect his true feelings,” Weaver adds.
The book is not entirely outward looking. Weaver also reflects on the framing of Sanders’ campaign and says that he and others may not have done a good enough job trying to position the Senator as the continuation of President Franklin Roosevelt’s legacy.
“Bernie as inheritor of the legacy of FDR is a topic that we revisited—most explicitly during the New York primary with our ad “Sons of New York,” which drew the connection between the two,” Weaver writes. “But it was a connection that we might have stressed more thematically throughout the campaign. Bernie Sanders represented a rediscovery of the values of the Democratic Party’s modern roots and an articulation of the unfinished business of the New Deal. By contrast, the neoliberals are a recent aberration.
“Hillary Clinton would often say that she was not running for either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama’s third term. That has been debated quite a bit. But what was not sufficiently articulated by us was that in many ways Bernie was running for FDR’s fifth term.”
As to whether Weaver thinks Sanders should give it another shot next time, he ends the book with “Run, Bernie, Run!”