As Bernie Sanders delivered a livestream address to his supporters on Thursday about the future of his movement, he signaled an eventual end to the campaign. Encouraging his supporters to get involved, Sanders vowed to help Hillary Clinton defeat Trump conditional upon the Democratic Party adopting a “real progressive agenda.” However, earlier in the day news broke about a different story that undercut the Vermont Senator’s calls for eventual party unity.
On the same website that published the DNC’s 200-page Donald Trump oppo file, the hacktivist known as “Guccifer 2.0” released what appears to be an internal email from the DNC discussing strategy, which served to confirm what many of Sanders’ supporters have felt all along: The Democratic Party leadership has had its thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton in the primary. The email, dated May 26, 2015, about a month after Sanders announced his candidacy, revealed that at least some in the DNC were planning for a Clinton nomination:
In something right out of the Cold War, the DNC has claimed that these releases are part of a “Russian disinformation campaign,” but, according to FAIR, has provided no supporting evidence.
But whatever the reason behind it, this leak has further incensed Sanders' supporters, and that is telling. It has been a long road to this point, but the fact that the 'Bernie Or Bust' Movement has grown to somewhere in the range of 3 to 4 million people (roughly a quarter to a third of Sanders' supporters) is as much a criticism of Hillary Clinton as a candidate as it is a condemnation of how the party has handled the primary.
From the outset, there has been a perception of favoritism by the DNC leadership. Some of those concerns were due to the very fact that the DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz was also Hillary Clinton's co-campaign chair in 2008.
When Wasserman Schultz scheduled just six sanctioned debates at odd times when viewership would be predictably low, and after crucial deadlines to change one's voter registration in states like New York, and then threatened to ban candidates from those if they participated in unsanctioned ones, any hopes she'd had of appearing impartial were dashed.
The idea that Wasserman Schultz was actively helping Clinton was then further reinforced when she barred the Sanders campaign's access to the Democratic Party's voter files over the actions of one of his staffers. As it turned out, both campaigns had had access to the other's voter lists. The sanction was not lifted until Sanders and his campaign filed a lawsuit against the DNC.
Further complicating matters was the DNC Chair's explanation of the superdelegate system — that it was designed to insulate party leaders from “grassroots activists” — was fuel to the fire for the Sanders' movement, considering the fact that it was thanks to these unelected party leaders that Clinton was 'inevitable' before any votes were cast. By the time the DNC rolled back Obama's restrictions against lobbyist donations, giving Clinton even more sway with those superdelegates, Sanders supporters were calling for Wasserman Schultz' resignation.
But it wasn't just Debbie Wasserman Schultz who soured Sanders supporters on the DNC. When news broke of a joint fundraising agreement between Clinton's campaign and the Democratic Party, many eyebrows were raised. Lee Fang of The Intercept then reported via Twitter that the DNC was funneling money into pro-Clinton super PACs. So close is the apparent relationship between the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party, it could hardly be seen as shocking when Vice reported that the Democratic Party even shared a headquarters in Carson City, NV with the Clinton campaign.
Adding insult to injury, throughout the primary, Sanders supporters also had to deal with condescension and chastisement from many establishment Democrats like Barbara Boxer and Howard Dean, who accused them of being naive, aggressive, and even violent.
Their resentment and anger was only nurtured by accounts of voting irregularities like the 126,000 people who were purged from voter rolls in New York, and similar disenfranchisement in Arizona.
Still, while these feelings of anger have not abated, the shift in focus onto Donald Trump and gun reform in the media had provided a short respite from the enmity. But Guccifer 2.0’s DNC files will undoubtedly serve as a reminder — a reopening of wounds, and, in the eyes of ‘Bernie Or Bust,’ another nail in the coffin that is Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Democrats are already preparing for protests outside the convention in Philadelphia.
Thus far Guccifer 2.0’s leak is seen as vindication that the process was skewed and manipulated. As far as Clinton is concerned, she, her supporters, and the DNC can all argue that Bernie Sanders lost because of votes, but at the end of the day, it won’t matter. Nothing anyone, including Sanders, can say will change the fact that his voters feel they weren’t treated fairly by the party, and to a large extent, they’re right.