by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Republican presidential race has often been seen as a clash between the party establishment and Tea Party conservatives. The Vermont senator has introduced a similar dynamic into the Democratic primaries as well.
Asked about Clinton’s formidable list of endorsements from Democratic elected officials, Sanders attempted to parlay it to his advantage by painting the former secretary of state as a tool of the Democratic Party establishment.
“[Y]es, Secretary Clinton does represent the establishment,” Sanders argued. “I represent, I hope, ordinary Americans, and by the way, who are not all that enamored with the establishment, but I am very proud to have people like Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva in the House, the co-chairmen of the House Progressive Caucus.”
Clinton, in his telling, is the establishment candidate while Sanders is the true progressive. This kind of discourse is ubiquitous among Republicans, who argue about whether Donald Trump is an authentic conservative or Marco Rubio is part of the establishment. But it’s far less common among Democrats, even in races where ideological disagreements exist.
Sanders has gotten Democrats talking this way in the primaries this year and it’s evident that Clinton doesn’t like it. “Sen. Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment,” she shot back. “And I’ve got to tell you that it is … it is really quite amusing to me.”
Just as the Republicans who are labeled part of the establishment frequently accuse their critics of being back-bencher Senate blowhards who give a good speech but have never accomplished anything, Clinton is trying a similar line of attack against Sanders. He may know how to make expensive taxpayer-funded promises, but she knows how to govern.