Bernie Sanders’s diehard supporters and his former presidential campaign staff have some choice words for the Democratic Party and Team Hillary: We told you this would happen, but you wouldn’t listen.
Whether the democratic-socialist senator from Vermont would have actually been able to defeat Trump in a general election this year is something we will never know. But it was something Sanders himself said all along, citing data and hypothetical match-ups during the primaries that showed him polling better against the now president-elect than Clinton did.
“This is a campaign that has the momentum not only in the Democratic Party primary process but if you want a candidate who is going to defeat Donald Trump, you’re looking at him,” Sanders said in late February.
“A ham sandwich could beat Donald Trump,” Melissa Arab, a Michigan delegate for Sanders, told The Daily Beast outside the Democratic National Convention in July. “And Hillary cannot beat Donald Trump.”
Turns out, they were at least half right. This turned out to be true no matter how many times Katy Perry sang for her, or how enthusiastically LeBron James endorsed her. And this week, Team Bernie is feeling, if not schadenfreude, then certainly absolute vindication.
“The ‘establishment’ didn’t listen, [and] wasn’t vigilant, and got cocky,” a former Sanders campaign senior aide emailed The Daily Beast on Wednesday morning. “Also, the party and relationships were really damaged by the WikiLeaks. The electorate did not trust [them], and young folks were not elevated in a meaningful way. [It was a] lack of investment, [and] Clinton folks thought they could replace black voters with Latinos… It’s just a mess.”
“Trump is going to be the next president of the United States,” another aide said. “This is all on Hillary Clinton and her team. There’s nothing more I have to say on this.”
When asked about the news of Trump’s win, a top advisor to Sanders told CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny on Wednesday morning that “we have nothing polite to say right now.”
In the closing months of the 2016 race, Sanders hit the campaign trail for Clinton and urged his hardcore followers to come out in droves for Clinton on election day.
“I’ve got seven grandchildren and I do not want them growing up under a Trump presidency,” Sanders said in September. “He has made bigotry the cornerstone of his campaign… I do not want to see this country recede and go back to where one group is scapegoating another group. That is not where we can go. And I’m going to do everything I can to prevent that from happening.”
Despite his best efforts, Sanders’s endorsement couldn’t put Clinton over the top in November. But come January, Sanders loyalists know exactly who to blame.
“What the Trump upset shows us is that the electorate was yearning for something different,” former Sanders national organizer Corbin Trent told The Daily Beast. “American voters demanded radical change and had the party elites been able to see this coming, we’d be talking about [a] Sanders victory. I have no doubt that we could’ve beaten Trump with Sanders.”