Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
Last month, Sanders supporters were passing around a photo of Bernie Sanders asleep in coach. Such depictions of their candidate struggling with the same inconveniences as ordinary passengers had boosted his image as a fighter for the average guy. But there was one problem. The photo wasn’t of him. It was instead some ordinary man trying to catch a few winks in the middle of a crowded plane.
Bernie Sanders wasn’t in coach. He wasn’t even in business class or stretching out both legs in first class. With tens of millions of dollars in donations coming in every month, he wasn’t flying commercial.
Long before that meme, Sanders had already blown through six figures on private jets during the previous year. While he was touting his average $27 donation, those donations were being spent on a lifestyle that was anything but coach. But still while Hillary Clinton insisted on nothing less than a Gulfstream 450, Bernie Sanders was settling for a more modest Gulfstream 200. His Israel-hating supporters might have been more disappointed to learn that Air Sanders was flying around in a plane designed by Israel Aerospace Industries which when it isn’t designing business jets to ferry around senescent Socialists on hopeless campaigns is manufacturing drones to take out Islamic terrorists.
But in April, Bernie Sanders took 50 staffers and reporters on a chartered Delta 767 for a trip to the Vatican where he briefly met Pope Francis and pressed the flesh with notorious left-wing thug Evo Morales, a pal of Iran’s Ahmadinejad, who had been blamed for a rise in anti-Semitism in Bolivia.
Not only wasn’t Bernie flying coach, but he was chartering mostly empty passenger planes on left-wing political jaunts. The menu on board Air Sanders included lobster sliders, crab salad, red lentil soup, herb crusted lamb loin, chocolate ganache, fine cheeses and white wine. It was a long way from coach.
The March disbursement showed $1.6 million going to Air Charter Team. That was Hillary money. But by then it had become quite obvious that Bernie Sanders couldn’t win and that he wasn’t even trying to.
In New York, his campaign did everything possible to alienate Jews, a significant voting group, from constantly bashing Israel to appointing anti-Israel activist Simone Zimmerman to head up Jewish outreach. Instead of courting voters in New York, he took an entire 767 to the Vatican.
But Bernie Sanders wasn’t trying to win. He was fundraising. The more unwinnable his campaign became the further left its candidate went. The Bernie Sanders bubble was a cult. It was no longer even trying to recruit non-supporters, but striving to maintain the enthusiasm of its core left-wing supporters.
The easy answer begins with that Delta 767 and its menu of lobster, crab, white wine and fine cheeses.
But it doesn’t end there.
In April, Bernie Sanders only managed to raise $25.8 million. But in March, he had taken in $46 million. Those average $27 donations had added up to quite a lot. Though March, Sanders had blown through $166 million in campaign cash. And much of that money went into the pockets of major Democratic industry firms that excelled at parting foolish leftists from their money.
The Sanders campaign wasn’t the hippie grassroots operation it pretended to be. Instead it was a huge business whose CEO went on flying private jets even while laying off campaign workers left and right. Or as his campaign dubbed it, in terms that Wall Street would have approved of, “right-sizing”.
While Bernie prattled on about revolution, that mass of $27 donations was finding its way into the pockets of senior Gore, Kerry and Obama strategists from the Democratic Party. Behind the Bernie brand, the money was going to the usual suspects in the Democratic Party’s campaign establishment.
And despite all its angry flailing about Wall Street bonuses, the Sanders campaign did not cap the commissions of its consultants.
Even Hillary Clinton, whose campaign was one big conflict of interest, had done that.
What that meant was that Sanders 2016 was a giant treasure chest for its political insiders. Those $27 donations were being gorged on by the same dirty Democratic establishment that Bernie donors hated. While his gullible donors were passing around Bernie bird memes, they were the ones being fleeced.
Now that the campaign is more unwinnable than ever, Bernie is still campaigning. Why? Because as long as the money keeps coming in, he doesn’t have to go back to flying coach.
Bernie’s campaign manager and former chief of staff, Jeff Weaver, is taking in $10K a month. That’s probably a step up from his previous job at a comic book store. His campaign spokesman is earning around $9K and Symone Sanders, his Black Lives Matter press secretary isn’t doing too badly either. There are obvious reasons for them to keep going and no reason to actually stop. Not if they can keep Air Sanders flying until June on enough donations with enough lobster sliders for everyone.
Bernie Sanders is touting that he has more individual contributions that any other candidate. It’s been part of Bernie’s strategy to conflate the number of contributions with growing involvement in the political process. It’s a Pavlovian trigger that has taught his supporters to associate giving him money with making a political difference. And yet its premise subverts his message that politics isn’t supposed to be about money. Unless it’s about democratically giving him money so he can bring back democracy.
Obama recently praised Bernie’s fundraising, saying, “You’ve got to give Bernie Sanders, for example, credit — building off some of the work I did; I, in turn, built off the work that Howard Dean did — for smaller donations, grassroots donors.” That’s literally true since Bernie’s digital fundraising comes from Revolution Messaging run by Obama campaign veterans. And it’s cashing on Bernie in a big way.
When Revolution came on board, it was with boasts of raising $3 million in four days. Its founder declared, “We were looking for a candidate with a track record of doing the right thing - even if it meant taking on Wall Street billionaires and other powerful interests.”
And they had been looking for that candidate anywhere they could. Before Bernie, Revolution had been trying to get Elizabeth Warren to run with the Run Warren Run campaign.
What we think of now as the Bernie Sanders campaign needed a candidate who would open up left-wing wallets. Hillary Clinton was the perfect foil against which to run a doomed, but very profitable, progressive campaign. When Elizabeth Warren proved too savvy to be roped in, Bernie Sanders was the next best thing. And Bernie, with no commission cap and hipster appeal, brought in the big bucks.
That’s how the Great Bernie Sanders scam was pulled off. And it’s still going on. As long as lefties keep opening their wallets, the private jets will keep flying. And when it’s over, everyone involved in the Great Bernie Sanders scam will walk away all the wealthier and more famous for it. They will be admired for having fought for a nobly profitable cause against the big greedy banks and the evil corporations.
Meanwhile Bernie will make no serious effort to win an increasingly impossible campaign. Instead his handlers will push him into going even further to the left to squeeze the last millions from his marks. He will end his campaign as the most left-wing candidate to perform this well in a Democratic primary. And the people around him will get another month of big checks and private jets and lavish meals.
The Great Bernie Sanders scam is almost over. But it will return. As long as the left chooses to believe that the right cause is immune from human greed and corruption, the same lies will be told again. But whether it’s government or a political campaign, rhetoric does not raise men above human nature. We have learned that lesson the hard way in Russia and China. Those who donated to Bernie Sanders have been given a lighter and gentler sample to remind them that the kind of government that they think they want would be just as much of a scam as the kind of political campaign they thought they wanted.