Sen. Bernie Sanders has long bathed in the antipathy of his political enemies. Now, he’s using their unkind words to bolster his progressive credentials in the heat of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
The Sanders campaign on Wednesday unveiled a new page of “anti-endorsements” on its website — a list of a dozen wealthy businessmen and one centrist think tank — who have publicly criticized him and his agenda.
In a speech last month, Sanders quoted President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who once said of his industrialist rivals, “They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.” Throughout the campaign, Sanders has channeled that sentiment, highlighting attacks from wealthy adversaries and establishment figures in fundraising pitches and stump speeches. Their opposition, Sanders argues, is evidence that he can be trusted to fight against their interests, whether it means taxing Wall Street or agitating for higher wages at companies like Walmart.
“It should come as no surprise that corporate CEOs and billionaires have united against our movement. These people have a vested interest in preserving the status quo so they can keep their grip on power and continue to exploit working people across America,” Sanders said in a statement following the rollout. “We welcome their hatred.”
Not included on the initial launch page was billionaire media mogul Haim Saban, who flayed Sanders in a profile published earlier Wednesday by The Hollywood Reporter, calling the Vermont independent a “disaster zone.”
“I profoundly dislike Bernie Sanders, and you can write it,” Saban, who got his wish, told the magazine. “I don’t give a hoot. He’s a communist under the cover of being a socialist. He thinks that every billionaire is a crook. He calls us ‘the billionaire class.’ And he attacks us indiscriminately.”
The Sanders campaign, as promised, welcomed Saban’s opinion, with a number of staffers happily amplifying his statement on social media. By later in the afternoon, the website was updated — and Saban’s face was at the top of the list.
Quoting Roosevelt again, Sanders on the new page asks “you to judge me by the enemies I have made.” The roster promoted by the campaign includes billionaire Home Depot co-founders Kenneth Langone and Bernie Marcus; Bob Iger, the Disney CEO Sanders clashed with over worker pay; and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, whom Sanders zeroed in on last month as among the prime beneficiaries of “corporate socialism.”
The roster also names former Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein, former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and Third Way, a centrist group whose leaders have denounced Sanders’ platform, dismissing it as outside the mainstream and warning against his potential nomination to lead the Democratic party into the 2020 general election.
Responding to a recent broadside from Third Way — which isn’t backing a candidate yet — Sanders declared in a tweet: “The cat is out of the bag. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party is publicly ‘anybody but Bernie.’ They know our progressive agenda of Medicare for All, breaking up big banks, taking on drug companies and raising wages is the real threat to the billionaire class.”
Sanders has been consistent over the years in his desire to name and shame powerful interests, particularly those he views to be seeking outsized or undo influence on the political process. When the candidates at an October 2015 primary debate were asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper to name the enemy they were “most proud of,” Sanders offered up a familiar slate.
“As someone who has taken on probably every special interest that there is in Washington,” he said, “I would lump Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry at the top of my list of people who do not like me.”