Did Bernie Sanders Refuse To Endorse His Own Son To Spite Hillary Clinton?

In 2018, Levi Sanders, Bernie Sanders’s son, was running for Congress in New Hampshire. The younger Sanders was running on much the same platform as his father, including Medicare for All, free college, Green New Deal, and a $15 minimum wage. Bernie Sanders, having emerged a rich man out of his failed 2016 presidential campaign, however, was missing from Levi Sanders’s roster of endorsements.
When the elder Sanders was asked about that, he came up with what appeared to be a moral answer. His family doesn’t do “dynasty politics,” he said.
But does that really hold up?
Bernie Sanders has certainly not been shy about doling out endorsements to his political loyalists and political heirs. Bernie Sanders endorsed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez because she worked on his 2016 campaign. He endorsed - and he and Ocasio-Cortez barnstormed Democratic primary races where Sanders alumni ran. Most prominently, they rallied support for Sanders’s former campaign staffer Brent Welder in Kansas over trailblazer and now-Congresswoman Sharice Davids.
And of course, we have all watched as the fiasco over Bernie Sanders’s endorsement of Cenk Uygur unfolded over the last couple of days. Even though many grassroots activists were irate at Uygur’s run for the congressional seat vacated because right wing revenge porn against a Democratic woman, it took Sanders’s endorsement for Uygur’s history of mysogyny to garner the kind of headlines it should have gotten all along.
There was no reason for Bernie Sanders (and his national campaign chairs like Ro Khanna and Nina Turner) to endorse Cenk Uygur, of course, other than the fact that Uygur had campaigned for Sanders in 2016 along with giving him a ton of free airtime on The Young Turks. Labor unions like the SEIU and towering progressive figures like Speaker Pelosi, Sen. Kamala Harris, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and former DNC chair and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean - as well as former Rep. Katie Hill herself - had already endorsed Assemblymember Christy Smith, who represents much of the district in the California legislature. Uygur does not live in the district.
The only reason Bernie Sanders endorsed Uygur - and most anyone else he’s endorsed since 2015 - is mutual backscratching.
Here’s the kicker, though. Levi Sanders also worked on Sanders’s 2016 campaign as a senior policy analyst. So the question is, why is Levi Sanders exempt from this public policy of mutual backscratching, despite having worked on his father’s campaign, and despite having met all the policy checkboxes Bernie Sanders and his “movement” demands from other candidates?
Bernie Sanders’s wife Jane Sanders is a key adviser, surrogate, and financial gatekeeper for Sanders’s campaign - we heard forever about how Jane Sanders does the taxes and returns could only be released once she got a chance to find them all. And I just described above, he certainly had no qualms about having his son working for his campaign. There’s also the fact that Bernie and Jane Sanders founded a now-defunct non-profit that, employed both campaign backers and family members.
Does this sound like someone overly concerned about ‘dynasty’ politics? Certainly not to me.
Then what is the real motivation behind this refusal, especially given the fact that in hindsight, it was pretty clear that Levi Sanders was going to lose by a big margin (he ended up earning just 2% of the vote in the primary) anyway? What was behind this cheap moralizing?
Try a sexist snub of Hillary Clinton on for size. Hear me out.
Whenever ‘dynasties’ are invoked in modern politics, the frame always brings to mind two (and only two) families: the Bushes and the Clintons. Logically speaking, there is no comparison, of course. George W. Bush is the grandson of a US Senator and the son of another president, and it has been tremendously advantageous in his career. Bush avoided military service, went to an ivy league school based on his family name, and became president based on the same.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was not only a brilliant lawyer and self-made woman long before Bill Clinton’s political rise, her marriage to President Clinton has not always worked to her political advantage. She has had to face sexist criticism for supporting her husband when Congressional Republicans impeached him for lying about sex, associated with every real and perceived mistake Bill Clinton made in office, whether she had anything to do with it or not, and survive attacks on her family and her child because she was a strong and powerful First Lady who was interested in more than the White House china settings.
And in my opinion, that is exactly what Bernie Sanders was doing, again. He was launching a veiled, sexist attack on Hillary Clinton, implying that had it not been for her marriage to President Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton would not have amounted to anything. Bernie Sanders is insinuating that the woman who created the Children’s Health Insurace Program did not have any caliber of her own. He is suggesting that the woman who represented the state of New York in the United States Senate during the worst terrorist attacks on our country only had one qualification for office: her marriage bed. He is saying that the woman who earned more votes for president than any white man in history owes everything she achieved to marrying up.
Think about it. For someone as open to nepotism as Bernie Sanders as demonstrated here, there is no reason to invoke ‘dynastic politics’ as to why he wouldn’t endorse his own son, well on his way to being an asterisk in the election in which he ran. There’s no reason, other than to use it to air his own grievance that he would have won 2016 primary, were it not for who Hillary Clinton was married to.
Bernie Sanders can have all the seats in the stadium for that.

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