OPINION: The Original Bernie Bro
Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, is an openly gay Columbia graduate from Vermont. Over the course of his political career he has worked for the Vermont Democratic Party, the DNC, the DCCC, Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and numerous other campaigns associated with the Democratic party, helping get Democrats elected in many different offices, including everyone from Martin O’Malley to Howard Dean to John Kerry.
Unquestionably, that is a stellar record, making him more than qualified to be a national campaign manager. So who is the Sanders campaign’s manager?
Enter Jeff Weaver, a comic book store owner with a history of self-imposed righteousness whose only political experience I can find is working on Bernie Sanders’ campaigns over the years, including his original stint as Sanders’ driver.
As a student at Boston University, Weaver was arrested for disorderly conduct in an incident involving free speech that led to his suspension (though he later was on the winning side of the court case).
After graduating college, he began his political career as Sanders’ driver during his failed gubernatorial campaign. At this point, Sanders was openly a socialist. Weaver then tried to run a campaign of his own, as an independent, for a position as alderman against the city’s incumbent mayor. When Weaver lost, he is ominously quoted as saying “People haven’t seen the last of Jeff Weaver, or the hundreds of other people in this city who are seeking an alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties.”
For the time following, Weaver worked on Sanders’ many campaigns, in this case successful, for the House and Senate, working his way up to chief of staff. However, a few years into Sanders Senate tenure, Weaver needed to “recharge his batteries,” so he left politics and opened a comic book shop.
And that’s where he stayed for the last six years, selling comics, until Bernie Sanders asked him to run his presidential campaign.
Now obviously, Sanders saw something in him that I wasn’t able to find in my research, because he has done a great job in this campaign. It had to be no easy task marketing a socialist as a Democratic candidate. Weaver was smart to market Sanders to a group of people who, the majority of, knew very little about the Democratic party: first time voters. These young people, most of them Democrats for about the same length of time as Sanders (less than a year), were more pliable to the narrative of turning a life-long politician into a sweet grandpa superhero wanting to give them, amongst other things, a free college education.
Indeed Weaver does seem to look at this race almost like a comic book. Black and white. Good versus evil. No middle ground of agreement. There is almost always a holier than thou attitude as he speaks, treating anyone who stands against Sanders as not talking about the issues or arguing that he went to law school so he can read between the lines, when in reality Weaver’s either trying to dodge the question or attempting to justify off-putting decisions by his candidate.
However, just because Weaver is good at selling superhero origin stories doesn’t mean he fully understands politics, and there have been many occasions where Weaver’s naivety has shown. For example, arguing the false narrative that Clinton said Sanders’ wasn’t qualified to be president, a claim widely and easily proven false by most respectable news organizations.
Weaver also has a tendency to make statements that go against what our country and system stand for. For instance, Weaver told ABC News that if Sanders loses the popular vote and pledged delegate count to Clinton, but she doesn’t receive enough to win the nomination outright, the Sanders campaign will fight to overturn the decision of the voters at the Democratic convention. He’s willing to push the Sanders team to go for the nomination even if he loses, which is a dangerous game when you look to the right and see who’s waiting to take office.
From the beginning of the campaign, Weaver’s accusations about what exactly went down with compromised campaign data was sketchy. When the Sanders campaign accessed Hillary’s data, Weaver said “this sensitive and important data was compromised because the DNC and its vendor failed to protect it.” Isn’t that like saying to a woman that she should carry pepper spray so she doesn’t get raped?
Now, are statements like these all Weaver’s creation? Possibly, but let’s not forget Weaver’s only experience in politics is Sanders, and Weaver’s thoughts have to have been shaped somewhere. Is it coincidence that Sanders’ and Weaver’s statements often echo and compliment each other? Sanders says Clinton isn’t qualified to be president, while Weaver comes out with a sexist argument that Clinton’s ambition is in fact, a personalty flaw of hers. Where do these glass-ceiling, misogynistic insinuations originate in the Sanders camp?
“Don’t destroy the Democratic Party to satisfy the Secretary’s ambitions to become president of the United States.”
Given Sanders very vocal distain for establishment politics from Republicans and Democrats alike, it is not surprising that he would want to pick someone whom he could personally groom, someone who has remained pure for his vision of a revolution. But here’s another question: are faces like Weaver’s who we should expect to see in Sanders’ administration? Would Sanders rather fill his cabinet with inexperienced outsiders over well-qualified Democrats? How can you change Washington if you don’t know how it works?
We have a single-issue candidate’s campaign being run by a single-candidate campaign manager, so does Weaver have any right to criticize politicians with the kind of overwhelming experience Clinton and Mook have? With absolutely zero experience working with Democrats at any point in office as far as I can find, how is Weaver qualified to run the campaign of someone who now identifies as a Democrat? Somehow Weaver has done all of the above, despite never running a campaign outside of Vermont.
So is this a resounding success story of a nobody turned successful national campaign manager, or another fearful tale of how someone with an unchallenged mindset gained the opportunity to influence voters on a national scale? Someone who has taken stabs on multiple occasions that, if successful, could cripple the Democratic party during the general election? Your answer will likely vary depending on who you support, but regardless, you should give Jeff Weaver some thought.
Because I’d argue he’s the original Bernie Bro.