Clinton-Sanders tensions linger for Democrats

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A year after the 2016 presidential election, lingering tensions between the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders wings continue to nag at the Democratic Party.

The two sides have battled throughout the year, including in the fight over who should chair the Democratic National Committee. Sanders and his supporters backed the losing candidate, Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.), while establishment Democrats were seen as supporting the winner, former Obama administration Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

A resolution calling on Vermont’s Independent senator to join the Democratic Party was defeated during DNC meetings last week in another sign of the tensions between Sanders acolytes hoping to change the party and Clinton people resentful that Sanders is not even a member of their party.

{mosads}Clinton supporters were also upset to see Sanders land a high-profile speaking appearance at a women’s conference in Detroit organized by people behind the Women’s March on Jan. 21. Sanders supporters, for their part, were annoyed at the complaints from Clinton backers.

Democrats acknowledge that emotions are still raw more than a year after Clinton’s primary win and nearly a year after President Trump’s victory on Election Day. Many also admit that the infighting puts the focus off Trump.

“Democrats felt passionately about their candidates. And for the most part, they still do. It’s pretty hard to just turn that off like a faucet,” said Tracy Sefl, a Democratic consultant who served as a surrogate to Clinton during her 2016 run. “But look at what is happening to this country. Trump is wreaking havoc while Democrats grapple with a messaging crisis and tumult in party structure.”

Bill Press, the radio host who served as a Sanders surrogate, acknowledged the ongoing backbiting, suggesting it is one reason why the party is “in disarray.”

“The Democratic Party is coming out of a disaster, losing an election they should never have lost and losing control of the Senate and White House,” said Press, who is also a columnist for The Hill.

One member of the Democratic National Committee who attended the Las Vegas meeting described it as a “shit show.”

“I don’t think anyone thinks the party is in a good place right now and if they do their kidding themselves,” the member said. “There’s still very much the Clinton faction and the Bernie faction, and I think it hurts us.”

Clinton sparked a new wave of friction when she wrote in her new book that Sanders’s attacks “caused lasting damage” to the party.

In an email to The Hill, Brent Budowsky, a Democratic consultant and columnist for The Hill, said that a discussion of whether Bernie Sanders and Angus King should run as Democrats was a “ridiculous distraction” and he called the demotion of “respected liberals” who supported Ellison in the DNC leadership race a “divisive disgrace.”

Much of the Democrats’ angst is aimed at the DNC, where fundraising has flatlined. The Republican National Committee outraised the DNC by more than $6 million dollars last month, federal filings show.

“There’s a lack of excitement,” said Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons. “I don’t feel any excitement for the Democratic Party among activists from small dollar to big dollar donors. I think a good part of that is inspiration. No one feels inspired by the party.”

There are some bright spots.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee outpaced the National Republican Congressional Committee by $8.9 million in September. The money helped bring the DCCC’s third-quarter fundraising to a total of $21.4 million. By comparison, the DNC raised $4.9 million in September bringing their third quarter total to $12.5 million, according to McClatchy.

Since January, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has outraised its Republican counterpart by a margin of roughly $4 million.

Still, the tensions from 2016 hang in the air — and Republicans on Tuesday took steps to keep Clinton in the spotlight.

Both the House Judiciary and Oversight committees announced a joint investigation into the FBI’s handing of the Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of State.

Some Democrats say party infighting is nothing new.

“Anytime you lose a presidential race, and by extension anytime you don’t have a president from your own party in office, this is what happens,” said Jon Selib, a Democratic strategist who served as chief of staff to former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

And while there are ongoing frustrations in the Democratic Party, Press said it’s nothing compared to the Republican Party.

“Compared to the infighting, back-biting and name-calling among Republicans, Democrats look like they’re marching in lockstep,” he said.

Tags Angus King Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton Keith Ellison Max Baucus Tom Perez

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