Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series based on an interview with Jeff Weaver, Campaign Manager for Bernie Sanders, on LN’s podcast, The Uprising.
The screaming headlines about the 2016 presidential election centered around Donald Trump and his victory that shocked the world. But if there was no Trump, the lead story of the campaign would have been the almost equally miraculous success of Bernie Sanders.
If not for the Democratic establishment and its backing of Hillary Clinton during the primaries, Bernie may well have won the Democratic nomination, after entering the campaign as the longest of long shots. He was a blip on the radar screen that turned into a revolution among the grassroots that seriously threatened to topple the party establishment.
Bernie’s Campaign Manager, Jeff Weaver, joined us on Liberty Nation’s podcast, The Uprising, to discuss that unforgettable political season and how the aging senator from Vermont unleashed radical change on the Democratic Party and, he says, the nation. It’s all outlined in his new book How Bernie Won: Inside the Revolution That’s Taking Back Our Country – and Where We Go from Here.
Tim Donner: Bernie and Donald Trump actually sounded quite similar in the 2016 presidential campaign. They articulated a similar theme about the problems facing the country, their persistent talk of how the system is rigged, and they attracted disenfranchised voters in the same way. Their diagnosis, if you will, was similar, but of course, the prescriptions were very different. We know the obvious differences between Bernie and Trump, but we also know that over 200 counties which Barack Obama won twice, voted for Trump in 2016. Are there not a number of similarities between Trump voters and Bernie voters?
Jeff Weaver: Well I don’t know that I would say there are similarities between them. I will say this, that there are people hurting all across this country, the massive deindustrialization that we’ve seen, the neglect of communities across this country, an economy that is increasingly stratified with more and more wealth being accumulated at that top while most people are either struggling to keep their heads above water or can’t keep their heads above water. It’s not surprising that voters were responsive to people who did identify that as a problem.
As you point out, the prescriptions are very, very different. Unfortunately for the American people, the Trump administration has shown itself to be unreliable and frankly from my point of view, has really betrayed the voters who rolled the dice and voted for him.
Tim Donner: Try to be more specific in defining what you mean by Trump betraying the voters. What has he done specifically that would constitute a betrayal?Jeff Weaver
Jeff Weaver: Let’s start with the tax bill, a tax bill that is going to gut funding for local schools and other important services that middle income and working people rely on in order to get ahead and for their kids to get ahead. He said he would not give tax breaks to the rich. In fact, almost all of that bill went to the rich or to large corporations. He said during the campaign that he wanted to expand health care to everybody. One of his first initiatives was to try to take the health insurance away from tens of millions of people in this country. If you look at the people who received health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act, many of those people are working people, lower income people who are working, who work full-time but whose jobs don’t provide them with health insurance. He tried to rip that away. He said he would drain the swamp, and in fact, he has installed the most pro-corporate anti-working family administration in the history of the country.
Tim Donner: Let’s go back to the 2016 presidential election. Now I was a candidate for Senate a few years back, Jeff. I can tell you if I found out that the process was rigged as you certainly found out about what the Democratic National Committee was doing to prop up Hillary, I would have raised my voice to the sky in protest. But Bernie was a good soldier. He supported Hillary after she won the nomination and said almost nothing. Tell us how you and Bernie and Bernie supporters really reacted to the revelations that the DNC was putting its finger on the scales to favor Hillary. What did the Bernie faithful really think of Hillary?
Jeff Weaver: Well, I’ll say this. During the primary campaign, we certainly did raise our voices very loud. People who were following remember a press conference actually that I gave at a point in December of 2015 when Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the DNC, had shut off the access to the data that our volunteers had collected across the country. We certainly raised our voices about what we thought were unfair joint fundraising agreements that were going on that were benefiting Hillary Clinton and depriving state priorities of the money that was supposed to go to them. We were quite vocal about it during the primary.
The finger was clearly on the scale by Debbie Wasserman Schultz…Following the revelations that came out, it really exposed the full extent of the rigging for lack of a better word.
The important thing is to ensure that this never happens again. There was a commission formed at the Democratic Convention that I serve on that is attempting to make reforms to the Democratic Party to ensure that the process next time doesn’t have the same infirmities that it had in 2016.
In the final part of this series tomorrow, Jeff Weaver answers a fascinating question: Would Bernie Sanders have defeated Donald Trump?