Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Establishment Wrestling With His Candidacy

The Wild Word magazine
6 min readFeb 27, 2020

By Maria Behan — SPOTLIGHT

Bernie Sanders is taking on the forces that make people cynical about politics. And that makes the forces that make people cynical about politics-billionaires who feel they’ve bought and paid for politicians, and the politicians who’ve been bought and paid for-nervous and furious.

That nervous fury was on full display at the February 25 debate in South Carolina. The seven contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination-two of them billionaires, most of the rest politicians who have taken large sums from billionaires-squared off for a cockfight.

We can probably all agree that cockfights are best conducted in dim back alleys, but this one was in a well-lit and well-mic-ed auditorium, a setup that laid bare some uncomfortable truths. Some were trivial, like the way politicians talking over one another and frantically waving their hands to be called on are considerably less adorable than first-graders. Other exposed truths were damning and consequential, none more so than when billionaire former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg took credit for the wave of freshman Democrats who stormed the House in 2018 by announcing, “I bough-…I, I got them.”

Bloomberg also seemed to have bough-…er…got himself a crowd at that debate, which was notable for audience members booing and cheering with more volume and zeal than we’ve seen at previous Democratic matchups. Odder still was the fact that they were booing some of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s sickest Bloomberg burns (ones that had killed at the last debate) and cheering Bloomberg’s limp “zingers” about Fidel Castro (he’s dead and the Cold War is over) and the Naked Cowboy (an obscure Times Square performer and Tea Party candidate for president in 2012-perhaps Bloomberg contributed to his campaign, since he has contributed to those of many other repellant Republicans, including South Carolina’s homegrown Gollum, Senator Lindsey Graham).

The debate crowd’s rapt enthusiasm for a candidate with the charisma of a piece of gristle in an expensive suit only became explicable when we learned that a chunk of the audience was well-heeled donors who’d bough-…er…got seats to the debate by paying between $1,750 and $3,200. Apparently, Bloomberg…