POLITICS

Sanders Asks Campaign Surrogates To 'Engage Respectfully' With Democratic Rivals

The Vermont senator faced criticism for the rhetoric some supporters used during his 2016 White House run.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced his second presidential run last week.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced his second presidential run last week.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called on surrogates representing his 2020 presidential campaign in the media to “respectfully engage” his opponents in the Democratic presidential primary, encouraging them to focus on policies rather than personalities. 

In the Saturday email to over 100 campaign surrogates obtained by HuffPost, Sanders also preemptively admonished supporters against “bullying and harassment of any kind.”

“As we engage with our opponents in the Democratic primary, we will forcefully present our views and defend ourselves against misrepresentations,” he wrote. “But, let us do our very best to engage respectfully with our Democratic opponents ― talking about the issues we are fighting for, not about personalities or past grievances. I want to be clear that I condemn bullying and harassment of any kind and in any space.”

Sanders’ missive is an early effort to short-circuit ad hominem attacks or bullying that is undertaken in his name.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Sanders and his supporters endured criticism from backers of Hillary Clinton for the online vitriol they alleged was directed at them by some of his partisans. Some of Sanders critics renewed calls for him to exercise greater control over his supporters since he kicked off his 2020 bid last Tuesday.

Sanders in his Saturday email said employing divisive rhetoric would be particularly counter-productive given his campaign’s bottom-line goal of unseating President Donald Trump, who is notorious for his bullying and bigotry. 

“The President we are running against is a pathological liar, a racist, a xenophobe, a sexist, a bully and a religious bigot. His goal is to win political points by dividing up the American people,” he wrote. “That is why we need to do exactly the opposite ― brings our people together. Men and women, black and white, Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight, young and old, native-born and immigrant.”

Sanders argued that personalizing the already crowded Democratic primary would undermine his progressive message, making it harder to unite the party against Trump in the general election.

“Our number one priority is defeating Donald Trump. To do so, we will ultimately have to unite with those who today are our opponents for the Democratic nomination,” he added.

Here is the complete text of the email:

Friends,

Our campaign has had an incredible first week. In just five days we are closing in on our goal of one million Americans signing on to be part of our campaign and our fundraising has continued at record pace.

I spoke with many of you on Tuesday night after our launch but I wanted to write now not only to thank you for your work this week, but to lay out for you my vision of how we will win this campaign and what our focus of attention must be.

As we fight for Medicare for all, free tuition at public colleges and universities, a $15 dollar minimum wage, combatting climate change, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, a woman’s right to choose, progressive taxation and so many other critical issues, we must never forget that powerful special interests will be opposing us every step of the way.

Four years ago we were told that all of these ideas were concepts that the American people would never accept― that they were too “radical.” Now that they are widely accepted by the American people Wall Street, health insurance companies, drug companies, the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial-complex defense and other corporate interests will oppose us with all their resources. We are threatening their financial interests. They will fight back.

We also must remember the President we are running against is a pathological liar, a racist, a xenophobe, a sexist, a bully and a religious bigot. His goal is to win political points by dividing up the American people. That is why we need to do exactly the opposite - brings our people together. Men and women, black and white, Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight, young and old, native born and immigrant.

As surrogates who will be speaking on behalf of our campaign on television, radio, in newspapers and on social media we must never forget what this campaign is about and who our real opponents are. They are the most dangerous president in modern American history and the powerful special interests who back his agenda.

As we engage with our opponents in the Democratic primary, we will forcefully present our views and defend ourselves against misrepresentations. But, let us do our very best to engage respectfully with our Democratic opponents - talking about the issues we are fighting for, not about personalities or past grievances. I want to be clear that I condemn bullying and harassment of any kind and in any space.

Remember that our struggle is bigger than a Tweet or a Facebook comment. And remember that our primary opponents are decent people – many have been friends and allies of mine in the Senate.

Our number one priority is defeating Donald Trump. To do so, we will ultimately have to unite with those who today are our opponents for the Democratic nomination. We won’t always agree with them, but I expect those who speak on behalf of my campaign to always engage respectfully.

I am committed to making this nominating process a fair, issues-focused campaign and am asking you for the same.

That’s the way we gain the respect of the American people. That’s the way we will win.

In solidarity,

Bernie

HuffPost

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