Tr🍩ll Smear #3: “Bernie is insufferably self-righteous, with nothing to back it up”
This argument is dual pronged, and meant to depict Bernie as someone whose “holier-than-thou” attitude has alienated him from other members and made him completely ineffective in passing legislation.
First, let’s tackle the cynical claim that Bernie is too self-righteous. This attack is actually an analogue to the general argument being levelled against Progressives by establishment Democrats, namely that insisting on “purity” is counterproductive, alienates “potential allies”” and will lead to legislative losses.
Let’s be clear: this argument about “purity” is really about corruption. Bernie and his Progressive base oppose taking money from Wall Street, Corporate America and billionaires. People like Delfino maintain that this is part of the game, and by adopting a “holier than thou” attitude towards this systemic corruption we are putting Democrats at a disadvantage, or as Tom Perez said, “you don’t bring a spoon to a knife fight.”
Obviously people like Delfino and Perez fail to realise that when you have two sides fighting with knives, the only real winner is the guy who sells them the knives.
I would also mention that this argument was completely debunked when Hillary Clinton outspent Trump literally 2 to 1 and still lost.
But let us look at the examples they give of Bernie’s “fellow Congressmen” claiming that he was unable to get anything done because people didn’t like his purist attitude.
Many Sanders detractors like to point to Congressman Barney Frank, who was a rabid Hillary supporter in 2016 and a major critic of Bernie’s anti-corruption stance.
Said Rep. Barney Frank, in ’91: “Bernie alienates his natural allies. His holier-than-thou attitude — saying in a very loud voice he is smarter than everyone else and purer than everyone else — really undercuts his effectiveness.”
From Frank’s 2016 interview with Slate:
“Bernie Sanders has been in Congress for 25 years with little to show for it in terms of his accomplishments and that’s because of the role he stakes out.”
But the idea that Bernie is disliked among his colleagues is pure bunk and is belied by the fact that Bernie was indeed a highly effective legislator and one who was able to work not just with Democrats but also Republicans.
I will “back up” this claim in the following section.
Tr🍩ll Smear #4: “Bernie was not an effective legislator and he never accomplished anything in Congress.”
People who do not understand how Congress works may tend to downplay the importance of Amendments. This is wrong. Just ask any abortion rights activist what they think about The Hyde Amendment.
Moreover, what the AlterNet article makes clear is that Sanders managed to pass very progressive Amendments that helped working families and the poor, and he did so in a Republican controlled Congress.
This last fact is also important, because one of the biggest attack lines against Bernie is that he cannot work “across the aisle” to garner GOP support for his issues. As both the AlterNet and PolitiFact articles point out, Bernie was extremely effective at rallying bipartisan support for progressive legislation.
Sanders did something particularly original, which was that he passed amendments that were exclusively progressive, advancing goals such as reducing poverty and helping the environment, and he was able to get bipartisan coalitions of Republicans who wanted to shrink government or hold it accountable and progressives who wanted to use it to empower Americans.
So where does this “holier-than-thou” smear come from? Well, let’s take a closer look at Barney Frank, the powerful Chair of the House Banking Committee, who was instrumental in designing the Dodd-Frank financial regulations bill that bears his name. He is also one of the most vocal proponents of the “Bernie was isolated and ineffective” smear campaign.
Here is a 2012 quote from Barney Frank that you will NOT find in an article in which he attacks Bernie for insisting on so-called “purity”:
“People say, ‘Oh, it doesn’t have any effect on me,’” [Frank] says. “Well if that were the case, we’d be the only human beings in the history of the world who on a regular basis took significant amounts of money from perfect strangers and made sure that it had no effect on our behavior.” — Barney Frank to NPR
Immediately upon retirement from Congress, Barney Frank was given a cushy job on the Board of Directors of a $24 billion Wall Street Bank. This seems strange, when we are always told how strict and “tough” Dodd-Frank supposedly was on the banks, and what a great piece of “progressive” legislation it was.
In reality, Dodd-Frank was a watered-down bill that did nothing to reduce the size of the banks or keep them from posing a renewed danger to the world economy. Passing such faux-reforms is what gets a Congressman a seat on a Board of Directors once they leave what they cynically refer to as “public service.”
Suffice it to say, when people like Barney Frank criticise Bernie Sanders for being “holier-than-thou” about money in politics, there is a very good reason for them to do so.