So, just as surely, Sanders would arrive short.
“Joe is a friend of mine,” he would offer as a warning, “and a decent guy,” before continuing to complain about Biden’s record high or prospects in the general election.
Almost two months after the actual end of the primaries, the Biden campaign and Sanders’ senior leadership have successfully produced a ceasefire in the ideological warfare that has dominated the Democratic Party and its left-wing blinded for the past five years. Deep and lasting divisions on important issues make peace a tenuous matter, but the personal link between Sanders and Biden, compared to the evolving dynamics of power of the party and a country that goes from one crisis to another under President Donald Trump laid the groundwork for taking part in this fall’s general election with a unity of purpose that was missing in 2016.
The détente is quietly managed by campaign manager Sanders Faiz Shakir and the best helpers of Biden Anita Dunn and Ron Klain. Shakir and Dunn, who rippled Bernieworld when he compared Sanders’ performance to that of a “protester” after the final debate between him and Biden, speak regularly. And in an interview last week, Shakir praised her for setting a “tone and tenor” in private conversations that encouraged the relationship.
“They are working with the best of intentions. Now this does not necessarily mean that you will get all the results you want,” said Shakir. “Obviously we have to see where the results are in terms of these task forces (created by the campaigns), but we are working with reality, understanding that we will not get everything we want.”
“It was encouraging”
In May, the campaigns announced the creation of six “unitary” policy-focused task forces and accused them of advising Biden and the part to consider and potentially add to the platform. The meetings started remotely this month via tools such as Zoom, and the groups are expected to present their work in Biden by the end of June, Shakir said.
Attendees were mostly attentive to the details of the conversations, but Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise movement and member of the climate task force co-chaired by New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, tweeted a video for the past week that calls itself “cautiously optimistic” after two meetings.
“I have also seen the people of Biden bring a lot,” said Prakash, after praising Ocasio-Cortez and environmental justice activist Catherine Flowers. “Rep. (Donald) McEachin of Virginia brought a lot of ideas on how to make bottom-up policies that we listen to first and elaborate the policy from what communities need. (The former EPA administrator ) Gina McCarthy stressed the importance of timing and urgency – that the benefits of this transition must come to people today and tomorrow, not by 2050. So it has been encouraging. “
The fact that progressive leaders, some more accustomed to occupying the offices of legislators rather than sitting in front of them at a virtual conference table, have chosen private negotiations over public audiences is both an indicator of the success of the movement and a testament to political talent unique to Biden.
A number of Sanders’ aides quickly noticed, as they did in the past, that Biden was one of the few Democratic establishment figures to connect with Sanders when the Vermont Democrat Socialist was still perceived as a curiosity about Capitol Hill, an eccentric the margins of the mainstream.
“Very few people in the Senate have gone out of their way to say,” Hey Bernie, how’s it going? “I’m not saying they went out for beers every Friday, but Biden made an effort to build a relationship with Bernie, to contact him, which impacted Bernie,” said Sanders campaign pollster Ben Tulchin.
Tulchin described himself as a “leading lawyer” during the Sanders primaries to “make the contrast” more aggressively with Biden on the track and in the debates.
“Bernie was constantly reluctant to do it,” he said. “Partly because he had a relationship with Biden. He would have done it, but he never liked doing it. He didn’t want to do it.”
Another ex Sanders’ aide, who worked closely with him in both campaigns, recalled that the relationship extended beyond the Senate, where they only overlapped briefly, during the Biden years in the White House. This included conversations during the 2016 primary, when the two occasionally spoke on the phone at a time when most of the establishment figures were fading away.
But other Sanders allies believe that the couple’s personal affinity stories are exaggerated or overstated in the current context. What has changed, they claim, is simple: Sanders has a solid political foundation and his signature policies, such as “Medicare for All”, are popular.
“I think a lot of people could turn to talk about who these two people are, what kind of relationship they have, all that kind of thing. I think none of this matters,” said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Assistants. flight. “It’s kind of a nuance, sure, but it doesn’t matter. The significant difference here is that Bernie Sanders has a lot more power in 2020 than in 2016.”
From 2016 to 2020
Returning to 2015, during Sanders’ first presidential offer, his best advisors saw Biden a potential competitor – if he had decided to run – whose “strong link with the working-class voters”, as director of the 2016 campaign and former Senior adviser Jeff Weaver wrote in his 2018 book, “he could have created a competition for grade job grades.”
Biden’s choice to stay out of the race was no surprise, Weaver wrote, recalling seeing the vice president make that decision official in a speech at Rose Garden, with President Barack Obama at his side, in October 2015. Listening to Biden’s remarks during lunch in a Washington bar that day with Tad Devine, one of Sanders’ best consultants in 2016, Weaver was struck by Biden’s messaging.
“He denounced income inequality, asked for free university lectures, criticized the political establishment and so on,” Weaver wrote. “Tad looked at me and said, ‘Good heavens! This is our message. This is what we’re running on.’ Indeed it was. ”
Almost five years later, after Sanders showed up for the second time, Weaver and other former helpers announced in April the formation of a new super PAC dedicated to growing support for Biden with Sanders’ young and diverse progressive voter base.
“In 2016, I think those of us who thought Trump could win still thought he would lose. This obviously didn’t happen,” Weaver told CNN on Friday, adding that he expected the 2020 race to be decided on the margins. It also offered a shared assessment of much of Bernieworld: that Biden was more malleable in terms of politics than many appreciated on the left.
Weaver’s successor as campaign director, Shakir, argued the same thing: Biden, almost an ideologue, had room for maneuver as he worked to grow his coalition.
“Biden, in the way he campaigned and who he is, has left a lot of room for policy development. He hasn’t campaigned on a solid political platform,” said Shakir. “That’s not how he won.”
Before Weaver left Sanders’ campaign to launch his new group, he and Shakir were sent by Sanders – who was still in the race – as emissaries to Biden’s camp.
“When Bernie was talking about stopping the campaign, he hadn’t made his decision, at the time he asked me and Jeff to go start conversations with Biden’s crew to find out how much progress we could make,” said Shakir. “And I said (to Sanders):” OK, what are your main goals here? “He said:” It’s very simple, we need progressive policies and staff adopted by Joe Biden. “
The conversations that followed eventually produced the task forces and the type of employment relationship that Sanders and Clinton, despite some successful efforts to find compromise positions on issues such as higher education, never reached.
“This is all against 2016, where I think Hillary’s campaign wasn’t interested in Bernie’s contribution and that she had a chip on her shoulder,” said a Sanders aide. “In this case, there was never an attitude at any point or conjuncture.”
A 2016 former Clinton aide admitted that Biden was more successful in bringing Sanders and his allies, indicating the public launch of the working groups, but said that there had been “real efforts” by Clinton “to do everything in our power to crush the dynamics that had grown during the primary. “
“The people of Biden dealt with the issue in a really smart way. But we tried to do these things in 2016 and their total resistance to the ball game has raised more and more resentment on both sides,” said the former aide. Clinton. “And at some point, the feeling (among some in the Clinton campaign) was: ‘You can’t set all the terms. People voted for his agenda and not for your agenda.'”
In a statement, Biden spokesman Andrew Bates touted the ex-rivals’ report and praised Sanders and his campaign for their work.
“Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are friends and firmly share the belief that we need a government that guarantees working families,” said Bates. “Senator Sanders and his team have been extraordinary partners in offering advice and support on the greatest challenges of our day, such as overcoming climate change and rebuilding the American middle class – especially after the COVID-19 epidemic.” .
Sanders’ aides and allies are still reluctant to concede any role in Clinton’s defeat. But in interviews for this story, they cited almost unanimously, in a list alongside the candidates’ personal ties and the coronavirus crisis, “the lessons of 2016” – as Tulchin said – as a key factor in modeling relationships. time around.
The fruits of the task forces, and if Biden and his team decide to embrace them, will do everything to establish an expiration date in this era of good feelings. Sanders and his inner circle are clearly busy seeing him, at least through the election. But activist leaders now at the table with the Biden campaign have more complicated questions to answer: their efforts could potentially be at the expense of credibility within their movements.
Nelson, the union leader, is a co-president of the economic task force, said his decision to participate was simple: Sanders asked and “never said not to be at the table”.
“Look at the people who have been appointed to these committees,” he said. “What you see is the gathering of the most diverse group of Democrats you’ve seen in any other space. And that’s Bernie’s coalition. He talked about building a new democratic coalition and I think the task forces, whether you look at Bernie or named Biden, reflect that. ”
Karthik Ganapathy, a progressive strategist and Sanders’ helper in 2016, credited the Biden campaign for having the humility to engage openly and try to conquer a block of voters – young progressives – with whom they fought during the primaries.
However, he warned, there are cloudy waters ahead.
“Will Biden’s team hire key progressive staff? Will they make key commitments to the Sunrise Movement, the AOC and other people in that task force?” Ganapathy said. “These decisions will show me if I’m seriously interested in building a ramp for Bernie’s people to get on the train.”