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NYT: Sanders Wanting To Keep Visit With Rabbi A Secret Highlights His Tepid Campaign

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Sen. Bernie Sanders had a tough time delivering a compliment towards his left-wing counterpart Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). He was asked if there was anything that he admired about the Boston Democrat. CNN’s Poppy Harlow pitched the question since the two will be duking it out in the upcoming Democratic debates next week. Sanders just said that he considers her a friend and worked on some stuff with her in the Senate. He didn’t elaborate further when pressed, which showed the reported difficulties inherent within his reported 2020 campaign strategy. Supposedly, the self-avowed democratic socialist is not really gunning to clip Warren. In early July, he made a stop at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which he wanted to remain a secret from the press. The New York Times noted that this move was part of his overall ethos concerning his second presidential bid. One of them is not openly attacking his fellow Democrats on the trail, despite his aides’ urging. That goes double concerning how to tackle Warren, though many see Joe Biden as the bigger threat to his working-class base (via NYT):


While Ms. Warren is making incursions with some of Mr. Sanders’s progressive backers, campaign aides insist that they view Mr. Biden as a far more significant threat because of his support from some of the working-class voters who voted for Mr. Sanders in 2016.

Yet Mr. Sanders’s campaign faces a conundrum in how to run against Ms. Warren. Though aides grumble that she has claimed some of Mr. Sanders’s long-held, anti-big business stances, they all but rule out the prospect of aggressively confronting someone their candidate considers a personal friend.

“I do not see a situation at all where Bernie Sanders allows the campaign to do that,” Ari Rabin-Havt, the campaign’s chief of staff, said about attacking Ms. Warren. “That’s not who he is and that’s not how he feels about Elizabeth Warren.”

It is a different story with Mr. Biden. Mr. Sanders’s advisers had hoped he would challenge the former vice president at last month’s debate, according to multiple Democrats familiar with their conversations. After choosing not to, Mr. Sanders found himself largely left out of the post-debate conversation, which was dominated by Senator Kamala Harris’s criticism of Mr. Biden’s past opposition to busing. 


…even Mr. Sanders’s aides acknowledge that they would like to see him talk more about his post-World War II childhood in Brooklyn, where he was surrounded by Jewish immigrants who bore the tattoos Nazis had branded them with. In a campaign in which issues of race and discrimination have been central, and in which the inhumane treatment of migrants has become a partisan flash point, the senator’s advisers believe he has something to contribute to that discussion and that many voters today are open to a Jewish president.

Mr. Sanders highlighted his biography at the outset of this campaign, but since has done so only sporadically. While he can be persuaded to share small details of his story in interviews or prepared speeches, on the stump he invariably reverts to what is essentially a compilation of his greatest hits: jeremiads against the greed of plutocrats and paeans for universal health care.

In a primary with so many candidates making their personal stories central — Ms. Harris’s recounting her childhood experiences with busing; Pete Buttigieg talking about his sexuality; Ms. Warren citing her modest roots — it is even more striking that Mr. Sanders is reluctant to use autobiography as another tool to stand out in the field.


…unlike during the 2016 campaign, when Democratic voters had only to choose between him and the establishment-aligned Hillary Clinton, progressives now can select from a wealth of candidates singing from the same populist hymnal.

“In some ways, I think that he has been so extremely successful that his platform has become the norm,” said Brent Welder, a Sanders supporter who ran for Congress in Kansas last year.

Which is to say he is at risk of being a victim of his own success. And that, perhaps, highlights the fundamental tension of Mr. Sanders’s candidacy: It may prove difficult for him to expand his support without broadening his message, yet what draws many of his fervent supporters in the first place is the constancy of his appeals.


Yet, that reluctance to get into non-policy centric stories, his personal life, explains why he didn’t want the Pittsburgh synagogue stop to be known. He didn’t want it to be seen as a “publicity grab.” Or maybe it was part of their reported nonaggression pact that was reported in New York Magazine in June; don’t attack much and don’t say much:

When Elizabeth Warren hosted Bernie Sanders at her place in Washington for a private meeting late on the second Wednesday of December, both senators finally came clean with what was, by that point, obvious but unspoken. They were almost certainly going to run for president. Neither tried dissuading the other — they’d long been allies on Capitol Hill, a political friendship more than a deep personal one, though little like the rivalry that many on the outside assumed. But they did make one agreement, multiple senior Democrats briefed on the conversation confirmed to New York: Warren and Sanders would not go after each other directly on the campaign trail. That’s not what they wanted 2020 to be about.

The publication added that Sanders needs to attack Lie-a-Watha Warren to put some distance between them. Well, so far, that’s not happening—and with his war chest still healthy, don’t’ expect a bayonet charge anytime soon, or outpourings of admiration. 


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