The tension that surfaced in the Democratic Party during the 2016 presidential campaigns between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and their respective supporters appears to be continuing in the early race for the party’s nomination for the 2020 election.
The New York Times reported that Sanders sent a letter on Saturday to the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank founded by John Podesta, funded by corporate donors, and linked to the traditional Democratic Party establishment. In the letter, Sanders expressed “deep concern and disappointment with the destructive role” he says the center and its sister group, the CAP Action Fund, have played in the effort to oust Donald Trump in 2020.
As examples, Sanders cited content published by the site ThinkProgress:
Last week, you published an article on ThinkProgress criticizing me for my appearance and for the income I earned from writing a book. Then, a day later, you published a video that dishonestly attacked me for hypocrisy in my effort to address income inequality in America – a video that was excitedly discussed on many conservative websites.
Sanders was referring to an April 10 story by ThinkProgress, among others, that noted that the Vermont senator is a millionaire, which the site called “very off-brand and embarrassing.”
In a statement to the Times, ThinkProgress Editor-in-Chief Jodi Enda said CAP “had nothing to do with the article or video about Senator Sanders or articles related to any other political leader.”
At the core of Sanders’ allegation is that CAP is attempting to stifle a shift within the Democratic Party to more progressive candidates and leaders.
“Center for American Progress leader Neera Tanden repeatedly calls for unity while simultaneously maligning my staff and supporters and belittling progressive ideas,” Sanders wrote. “I worry that the corporate money CAP is receiving is inordinately and inappropriately influencing the role it is playing in the progressive movement.”
Past funders of CAP, according to the Times, include health insurance companies, Walmart, banks, and defense contractors.
Tanden was an adviser to Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and Podesta was the campaign’s chairman. In the past, Tanden has called criticism of other Democrats by Sanders supporters “dangerous.”
“We know Trump is in the White House and attacking Dems is doing Trump’s bidding,” she wrote in a December 2018 tweet.
“I and other Democratic candidates are running campaigns based on principles and ideas and not engaging in mudslinging or personal attacks on each other,” Sanders wrote in Saturday’s letter. “Meanwhile, the Center for American Progress is using its resources to smear Senator Booker, Senator Warren, and myself, among others. This is hardly the way to build unity, or to win the general election.”
In the statement to the Times, ThinkProgress’ Enda suggested Sanders’ letter is a response to content he does not like. “Political leaders should not be able to muzzle or stop coverage that they consider critical,” Enda said, according to the newspaper.
Update, Sunday, 6:50 p.m. ET: Here’s an important thread to read in response to Sanders’ letter: