BURLINGTON, VERMONT — An operative from the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign was quietly putting away a notepad she had been furiously scribbling notes on during the preceding half-hour. The operative — who chose to speak to reporters on the condition of anonymity, was in attendance of the Bernie Sanders 2016 kick-off speech that the self-described “Democratic Socialist” gave this week while starting his campaign officially and in earnest. The speech was around 30-minutes long, extremely impassioned, and laid out several specific, new ideas that Sanders has for the country’s economy. Many on the Hill, while not giving the Vermont Senator much of a chance to topple Clinton in the primary, agree that this was the kind of speech that American progressives could rally around and that, as it turns out, is precisely why the Hillary operative was in the crowd.
“Yeah, I was pretty much writing down everything Bernie said up there,” the unnamed aide told us. “That way, we can get it back to H-HQ, break it down, analyze it for the parts we can use that won’t completely scare off our corporate benefactors, and then regurgitate those parts as if they were our own fresh, clean rhetoric.”
Reporters in attendance asked the Hillary 2016 staffer if her boss believes in the progressive agenda, or if she’s more interested in appearing that she is while telling donors and other high-powered politicos that she’ll be the same moderate, center-left-if-not-right chief executive that the last two Democratic presidents have turned out to be. “Yes,” answered the staffer, leaving it at that.
“Here’s the thing, we know that Hillary his crazy qualified for the position,” the staffer told reporters. “She had a distinguished career as an attorney before her husband’s career in politics took off. She’s been a Senator and the Secretary of State. So her CV is quite impressive. But let’s face it, she’s also very hawkish. She’s very much so tied-in with the Wall Street bankers and financiers that Bernie’s going to raise hell over. She wants to look like Bernie, but act like Obama or Bill did.”
Reporters asked Bernie supporters in the crowd about Sanders, Clinton, and the messaging of both campaigns. “I like Hillary okay,” said Harold Greenmeyer, a longtime Burlington resident. “She’d be a fine president, and if the Democratic Party’s machine chooses her instead of an actual Democrat, then so be it. I’ll vote for her. But Bernie’s got that weird thing — integrity — and something about that intrigues me.”
Carol Humpton, a 35-year-old single mother of two, told reporters that “If it comes down to Hillary or a Republican, I’m not stupid, I know who to vote for. But everything that Bernie is saying right now is inspiring. It cuts against the grain of the traditional narrative. It’s bold. It’s brave. It’s new ideas. I like that.” Then, a pause. “But I guess if Hillary starts saying the same stuff too, I’ll vote for her in the general election and hope she’s even ten percent serious about the stuff she lifts from Sanders.”
“The bottom line,” said the Hillary staffer, “is that Hillary really does admire the stances that Bernie is taking right now. She agrees with a whole lot of what he says about the issues. It’s just that she’s more from the school of politics where you say whatever it is that makes you seem less scary and more palatable, not from the school of politics where you’re honest about your vision for the country. She wants to be progressive, in other words, but she also really wants to win the election. So we’re here to crib the very best stuff from Bernie, and then process it into much less dynamic, much less fresh, much less honest iterations of those things he says.”
The first Democratic Party debates have yet to be scheduled, and so far Mr. Sanders and Ms. Clinton are the only two officially declared candidates for the party’s nomination.