As someone who follows politics quite closely, I'm often fascinated when a potent piece of opposition research against a major candidate for office percolates below the radar for years, yet never quite breaks through. Have you ever heard of 'Sierra Blanca,' as it relates to Bernie Sanders? Neither had I. Neither had hardly any voters, I'd wager. Well, expect that to change, sooner or later. Tim Miller, a hardcore anti-Trump conservative, is adamantly opposed to Democrats nominating Sanders. He's written a piece outlining a somewhat obscure episode that he anticipates would be used as a powerful cudgel to clobber Bernie in a general election. Out of pure curiosity, I clicked the link in one of his tweets, and...wow:
(1) In 1998, then-Rep. Sanders cosponsored a bill that would allow Vermont and Maine to dump their nuclear waste in a poor and largely Latino town in Texas called Sierra Blanca.
(2) A Texas Observer article in 1998 covered protestors from Sierra Blanca confronting Rep. Sanders and being given the stiff arm. The story’s headline was “Sanders to Sierra Blanca: Drop Dead.” Sanders even rebuffed an offer to visit Sierra Blanca, telling its residents, “Absolutely not. I’m gonna be running for re-election in the state of Vermont.”
(3) Liberal hero Paul Wellstone—an actual progressive Democrat—gave a speech on the Senate floor calling this dump “environmental racism.” Former Texas Democratic Rep. Silvestre Reyes called Sanders actions “insanely callous.”
(4) After Congress approved the proposal, environmental regulators rejected the Sierra Blanca site. But a different site in Andrews County, Texas gained approval a few years later and Vermont/Texas maintain an interstate waste agreement.
(5) In 2016, Sanders’ tax returns revealed that as of 2014 Jane Sanders was still drawing a small salary as an alternate commissioner for the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission as part of the agreement with Vermont that her husband pushed.
This story is, well, toxic. Bernie drew up an environmentally-controversial proposal to dump nuclear waste in a Latino community, then refused to meet with the people it impacted. Oh, and he managed to secure a little sweetheart deal to enrich his wife in the process. Funneling public and campaign money to his spouse (no stranger to financial scandal) has been something of a pastime for this socialist, who was a jobless deadbeat before becoming a career politician who is now a millionaire with three homes. This episode is problematic for Bernie on the subjects ranging from environment, to race, to his "man of the people" persona, to graft. And as Miller notes, it makes for a hell of an ad -- and this 15-second spot barely hits the basics:
Miller also points out the a left-leaning 'fact checking' organization reviewed an attack from a conservative group on this front four years ago: "Turning Point USA meme’d Sierra Blanca back in 2016 and got enough traction on Facebook that Snopes fact-checked it. Their verdict? Mostly True. It goes without saying that Snopes isn’t really in the business of giving TPUSA their seal of approval." This hit on Sanders is backed up by evidence. Team Hillary dabbled with it in 2016, but Sanders' competitors have let him slide on it thus far, even though it goes to the core of his persona -- and could undercut his strong support among Hispanic Democrats. It's malpractice. Team Trump won't make the same mistake. Speaking of major vulnerabilities, I agree with this assessment:
A fracking ban proposal isn't just something that hurts in western PA. Trump will be able to say -- accurately -- that Bernie wants to do something that will make gas prices higher and more volatile, making the U.S. more economically vulnerable to Mideast problems.— Josh Barro (@jbarro) February 26, 2020
Absolute poison in several key states. I'll leave you with the sort of ranting radicalism that risks sending moderates running for the hills:
“...we need a powerful socialist movement to end all capitalist oppression and exploitation.”— Lindy Li (@lindyli) February 27, 2020
- Radical Socialist & #BernieSanders surrogate, Kshama Sawant#BernieBruh #yikes ??pic.twitter.com/GsSdGHSk8w
By the way, this feels like a nightmare scenario for the Democratic Party.