In a break from tradition, the New York Times Sunday endorsed two of the Democrats running for the presidency, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. Ms. Warren is the newspaper’s choice to lead the progressives, Ms. Klobuchar to lead the moderates. The newspaper, with an established politically liberal reputation, chose not to influence the debate as to which path is the preferred.

The editorial board’s choices were noteworthy as much for whom it dismissed, namely Vermont’s Sen. Bernard Sanders as the progressive’s leader, and former Vice President Joe Biden for the moderates, as for whom it preferred. The board’s decision reflected a concern about age, temperament and nimbleness. In Mr. Biden’s case, the newspaper said it was “time for him to pass the torch to a new generation of political leaders.” For Mr. Sanders, age and health were factors, but his approach to politics concerned the board even more, saying: “Only his prescriptions can be the right ones, even though most are overly rigid, untested and divisive. Further, “…we see little advantage to exchanging one over-promising, divisive figure in Washington for another.”

No pulled punchs there.

As the Times’ endorsement made the national news, a Vermont Digger story came out titled “Two former Vermont governors attack Sanders over scuffle with Warren.” Former governors Madeleine Kunin and Peter Shumlin said they believed Ms. Warren and not Mr. Sanders regarding the private meeting in December 2018 in which Mr. Sanders allegedly told Ms. Warren that he didn’t think a woman could win the presidency in 2020.

Mr. Sanders denies the allegation. Ms. Warren says her memory serves her well. Ms. Kunin and Mr. Shumlin believe Ms. Warren.

It’s something that cannot be proved either way, but that’s not the point. The point is that Ms. Kunin and Mr. Shumlin chose to make their thoughts public; Ms. Kunin through an interview with Seven Days, Mr. Shumin with Politico. The same theme echoed through both interviews, and through the Times’ wariness of Mr. Sanders, which is that of a ideologue frozen in his own self-centeredness.

Here’s a quote from Mr. Shumlin’s interview with Politico: “What I’ve seen in Bernie’s politics is he and his team feel they’re holier than the rest. In the end, they will play dirty because they think that they pass a purity test that Republicans and most Democrats don’t pass. What you’re seeing now is, in the end, even if he considers you a friend, like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie will come first. That’s the pattern we’ve seen over the years in Vermont, and that’s what we are seeing now nationally.”

In other words, as the Times’ editorial implied, it’s Mr. Sanders’ way or the highway. He, as the Times notes, “boasts that compromise is anathema to him.”

In Ms. Kunin’s interview with Seven Days, she recounted how Mr. Sanders made the claim that he would be “a better feminist than I was … It shocked me at the time.” Mr. Sanders claim came in the midst of the 1986 gubernatorial campaign, pitting Ms. Kunin against Mr. Sanders and Rep. Peter Smith. [Ms. Kunin won handily.]

The Seven Days article included the quote from Mr. Sanders: “If you ask her [Ms. Kunin] where she stands she’d say, in the middle of the Democratic Party. She’s never said she’d do anything. The confusion lies in the fact that many people are excited because she’s the first woman governor. But after that there ain’t much.” The quote, recounting the gubernatorial campaign, was part of Burlington journalist Greg Guma’s book, The People’s Republic.

When you bring together the Times’ concern about his aversion to compromise, and Mr. Shumlin’s quote about the “purity test” and Ms. Kunin’s recollection about Mr. Sanders thinking he would be the better advocate for women, the collage produced portrays someone who puts himself above all others understanding that for his “revolution” to succeed requires all others to stand down, something not appealing to his peers, or the Times’ editorial board. It’s an easily argued, well-worn path by Mr. Sanders because he need only to deal in absolutes.

As Mr. Shumin, Ms. Kunin and the Times’ editorial board suggest, it’s one thing to be an overly rigid ideologue representing Vermont and quite another to have those same qualities and be president.

by Emerson Lynn

Recommended for you