The Ideology of Arrogance: Why Bernie Sanders Cannot Stand Being Vetted
"We didn't realize they had planned to release the transcripts", was Jane Sanders' best response to her husband's disastrous interview with the New York Daily News. Word. For. Word.
This quote should be featured in the dictionary next to the word 'irony.' What, praytell, did Mrs. Sanders think was going to happen when a candidate for president does an on-the-record interview with people whose business is to publish things?
What's so terrible about releasing the transcript of a candidate interviewing with a publication? Flavor. Apparently to Mrs. Sanders, it wasn't so important that Bernie Sanders seemed to be completely out of his depth in the interview, what really matters is that he did it with gusto. Or something. It's not important that he said "I don't know" when asked about how he'd accomplish the things he was promising, what's important is his inflections on how he said "I don't know." Ah.
All joking aside, it should warrant to anyone who genuinely cares about the state of our democracy a great deal of pause when a candidate's wife and campaign surrogate refers to an hourlong interview that did not go their way as an "inquisition" while fumbling to explain the vaguest answers.
In the immediate aftermath of the interview (ahem, transcript here), I penned a column headlined "Thoroughly Unprepared", referring to Sen. Sanders' absolute inability to furnish the details of how to achieve any of his policy goals, especially on his signature issues of trade and Wall Street to such a degree that his opponent can explain it better.
It turns out that "thoroughly unprepared" is a pretty good descriptions of the Sanders campaign when it comes to being vetted or scrutinized in general. In fact, they may well be thoroughly unprepared for any type of coverage other than the swooning, adoring kind that marvels at "how far he has come" and how "his message is resonating and all the kids are flocking to him."
Think about it. Bernie Sanders' campaign has been one of the least transparent. We still do not have a single year of full tax returns. His wife holds all the couple's assets. We still do not know where a mysterious $10 million Washington, DC campaign contribution came from. The campaign still cannot keep its books in order to avoid potentially illegal, foreign donations. The Sanders campaign stole proprietary Clinton campaign data, and is now suing the DNC to keep from suffering the consequences. They repeatedly lied about endorsements, and looks to have sent out shadow campaign affiliates to disrupt Clinton rallies.
Bernie Sanders likes to tout his civil rights arrest record from a half century ago, yet when he faced anti-war protests as a Congressman, he had the protesters arrested.
When organizations like Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign endorsed Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and his campaign dismissed those as "establishment" voices simply unworthy of his great revolutionary aura.
These are all instances of vetting. When civil rights organizations vet his record against his opponents and decide to choose his opponent, they are trashed. When protesters (or Vermont's black leaders) want a voice, they are shown the door. When people ask to see his tax returns so that he can be properly vetted on the critical matter of trust, they are told there's "nothing exciting". When questions are asked about his campaign finances, it's dismissed because Bernie would never do anything untoward. When his devastating, pro-gun lobby record is called out, the very premise, though entirely factual, is summarily dismissed. When he sends Vermont's toxic nuclear waste to be dumped near a poor Latino community, he doesn't have to explain. When he loses the African American vote by Republican-like margins, it's "the confederacy".
And when a newspaper actually does what they are supposed to do - release the transcript of the interview in full and with audio - that is termed an "inquisition."
Bernie Sanders, his wife, and his campaign simply do not believe that he should be scrutinized, vetted or questioned. They do not believe that Bernie Sanders should ever have to explain himself or his plans. This resistance is either true believerism - they simply believe Bernie will be able to do everything he says by the sheer will of "revolution" and the specifics are therefore unimportant, or political superiority complex: they believe Bernie Sanders is superior and therefore above questioning, and anyone questioning him or asking him to explain himself is simply a vindictive sellout.
Either way, the belief comes down to this: Bernie Sanders is ideologically pure, and therefore his motivations - or even his actual plans for office - cannot be questioned. That is not an ideology of politics. That is not an ideology of progress. That is certainly not an ideology of democracy.
That, my friends, is the ideology of arrogance.
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