Since Donald Trump assumed office, the most enthusiasm coming from the left has revolved around Sen. Bernie Sanders, the most popular politician in the country. Though the Democratic Party has resisted embracing him, his supporters and his popular policies, the Republican Party has gaged him as a viable threat.
Several media outlets have run with the story that the FBI is investigating the role of Sanders’ wife, Jane, in regards to bank loans Burlington College received while she was the dean. Bernie Sanders was implicated in a smear campaign that claimed he used his political office to pressure the bank to sign off on the loan, though there is no evidence to corroborate this claim, and the investigation was incited by Trump’s campaign manager in Vermont, Brady Toesning. A recent report revealed the claim was predicated solely on hearsay from Republican State Rep. Don Turner. Despite this revelation, the investigation has dominated coverage of Sanders for the past few weeks, especially since Politico reported that Jane Sanders “lawyered up.” Disgruntled Clinton supporters have joined Republicans in perpetuating the smear campaign. Clearly, his political opponents are grasping at straws.
Toesning has filed frivolous complaints against Sanders before, and his consulting firm has a reputation for mud slinging. Part of his accusation was that Jane Sanders’ oversight financially damaged the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, but this claim was debunked by Vermont’s Bishop of the Catholic Church.
Smear campaigns against Sanders have extended beyond this investigation. On July 5, the Free Beacon erroneously claimed CNN’s Jake Tapper went after him for failing to make good on his promise to propose a single-payer health care bill in the Senate, but Sanders fired back that he is waiting until the Republican health care debate subsides. This attack is framed around failure to keep a political promise, even though Trump has violated a long list of his campaign promises, including abstaining from interventionist foreign policy and “draining the swamp.” Like other smear campaigns against Sanders, it’s a weak argument.
Sanders’ reported income in 2016 of just over $1 million before taxes. Combined with the fact that he owns three homes, his opponents use this fact to try to discredit his democratic socialism. In regards to his income, the majority of it stems from his book deal, which pales in comparison to similar deals made by Obama and Clinton. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made nearly the same amount from his book deal, and it only sold 3,200 copies.
Every congressman has a home in their district and Washington, D.C. In D.C, Sanders owns a condo, a fact never cited in the “three houses” smear campaign. His most recent financial disclosure revealed he still has two mortgages. The third home, a lake house, was the result of Jane Sanders inheriting a lake house in Maine, which they sold and replaced with a more local one in Vermont for his retirement. Sanders’ is one of the poorest senators. The attacks on his net worth are driven by a partisan agenda that hypocritically ignores the wealth and greed enabled by both political parties.
The increasingly prolific hit pieces on Bernie Sanders and his followers are a testament to the threat he poses for the political establishment. His policies are becoming increasingly popular, and more people are looking to him for leadership. While the Democratic Party tries to appease their wealthy donors, they try to recoup their loses by embracing moderate policies and moderate voters. The Democratic establishment undermines Sanders’ credibility in order to re-establish its own, and the Republican Party is weary that Sanders’ populism will rival Trump’s. As his popularity expands and election season grows closer, his opponents’ desperation to damage his image will intensify.