The Strange Establishment Backlash Against Bernie Sanders

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by Thomas L. Knapp…….

“I have friends and supporters in the Human Rights [Campaign], in Planned Parenthood,” Democratic presidential aspirant Bernie Sanders told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on January 19. “But you know what, Hillary Clinton has been around there for a very, very long time and some of these groups are part of the establishment.”

The comment in reply to Maddow’s query as to his feelings about those groups endorsing Clinton’s campaign rather than his own, produced an immediate and bizarre backlash from both Clinton and the groups in question. “Really Senator Sanders?” tweeted Clinton. “How can you say that groups like @PPact and @HRC are part of the ‘establishment’ you’re taking on?”

Well, let us count the ways.

Planned Parenthood is a “non-profit” business with a history going back nearly a century, which has for decades kept its lips firmly latched on the US government’s corporate welfare teat to the tune of half a billion dollars a year. It keeps that money flowing with intensive, ongoing lobbying and litigation to ensure that a plurality of American politicians support its goals and guarantee its revenues. It’s as much a part of the American political establishment as any investment bank or old-money K Street lobbying shop.

The Human Rights Campaign is a more interesting case — and more obviously “establishment” than even Planned Parenthood. It’s younger (founded in 1980) and poorer (only about $40 million in annual revenues), but historically, it’s been purely a partisan establishment political project. HRC’s job, for 30-odd years, was to cajole LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) voters into pulling the lever for Democrats instead of for Libertarians, Greens and other political candidates who actually supported LGBT rights. And it did a pretty good job as PR flack. The Democrats nearly monopolized the LGBT vote without ever having to actually earn that vote.

Here’s a good indicator of just how “establishment” the Human Rights Campaign is: Bernie Sanders publicly supported gay rights at least as early as 1983. Hillary Clinton finally stopped publicly opposing same-sex marriage three years ago, once the end of the fight was clearly in view. HRC isn’t supporting its better ally in its stated cause. It’s supporting the Democrat it expects to win — the “establishment” Democrat — because only winners get to dispense the favors HRC feels it has earned.

The notion that Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign are anything but “establishment” through and through doesn’t pass the laugh test.


Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.

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4 thoughts on “The Strange Establishment Backlash Against Bernie Sanders

  1. Thomas, I agree, PP and HRW are well connected in powerful places. But that does not make them bad things. PP does some very worthwhile things and it relies on the largesse of certain sources. I’m not against that, if the mission is worthwhile. Same for HRC, though I’m not so sure how righteous this group is. They never define the sham of our democracy as anything going against human rights. I’m all for taxpayer funding of certain artistic endeavors as well. And if HRC or anyone else backs a political candidate it thinks can win, rather than someone who is with them but can’t win, I see nothing wrong with that. I am a Bernie fan and would rather have these groups be with him, but if they do good things and think their interests lie somewhere else, it’s their choice. And comparing the self interest of our corporate masters with that of PP and HRC is quite a stretch. I enjoy your stuff Thomas and find it intellectually well thought out. You are worth sparring with, even if I don’t always share your conclusions.

  2. I pretty much agree with both Thomas and Jerome. Facts:

    Both PP and HRC are indeed well established.

    Both accomplish great things for their groups.

    Both often back the Dems when a smaller party may better support their goals, for the practical reason of avoiding another disastrous Ralph Nader moment.

    What Bernie said was indubitably true. He wasn’t even complaining, much less accusatory.

    Opinion: I think this is another example of PC, gotcha’ political discourse. One is not allowed to say anything which someone else might possibly take as offensive, whether true or not.

    I have been on the fence here, and I must say the prickly reaction of Hillary, PP, and HRC does not sit well with me.

  3. Margaret Sanger
    Founder of Planned Parenthood
    In Her Own Words

    “The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”
    Margaret Sanger, Women and the New Race
    (Eugenics Publ. Co., 1920, 1923)

    Margaret Sanger (1883-1966)

    On blacks, immigrants and indigents:
    “…human weeds,’ ‘reckless breeders,’ ‘spawning… human beings who never should have been born.” Margaret Sanger, Pivot of Civilization, referring to immigrants and poor people

    On sterilization & racial purification:
    Sanger believed that, for the purpose of racial “purification,” couples should be rewarded who chose sterilization. Birth Control in America, The Career of Margaret Sanger, by David Kennedy, p. 117, quoting a 1923 Sanger speech.

    On the right of married couples to bear children:
    Couples should be required to submit applications to have a child, she wrote in her “Plan for Peace.” Birth Control Review, April 1932

    On the purpose of birth control:
    The purpose in promoting birth control was “to create a race of thoroughbreds,” she wrote in the Birth Control Review, Nov. 1921 (p. 2)

    On the rights of the handicapped and mentally ill, and racial minorities:
    “More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief aim of birth control.” Birth Control Review, May 1919, p. 12

  4. And the Human Rights Campaign? Must be run by the chosen as they consider themselves to be the only human, all others are considered animals in their ideology. So yea, they’re doing good work for their campaign, while everyone else suffers.

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