Bernie Sanders's campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said on Fox News on Wednesday morning that Democrats aren't really trying to push the senator from Vermont out of the presidential race at all. That pressure to drop out and unite behind likely nominee Hillary Clinton, you see, is just a media creation.
HOST STEVE DOOCY: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much pressure are you getting from Democrats and party officials to drop out?
WEAVER: One being the low? So it would be a 1. There really has not—
WEAVER: I mean, there are a few people out in the media, but in terms of a kind of real effort, probably zero is more like it.
DOOCY: Wow. Not what you read in the papers.
WEAVER: Right. Exactly. Don't believe everything you read in the papers.
This is a ridiculous claim by Weaver. But it's worth exploring because a surface-level reading of many Democrats' statements on the subject would actually suggest that he has a point. And as Sanders's seemingly inevitable defeat approaches, his campaign is crafting a narrative that pins blame on the media, the debate schedule, the delegate-allocation rules — basically anything but the candidate and the mathematical reality of the race.
Let's begin by noting that some Democrats have been pretty explicit in calling for Sanders to step aside. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told the Associated Press this month that Sanders is hurting the party's chances against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in November.
"I don't think they think of the downside of this," Feinstein said of the Sanders campaign. "It's actually harmful because [Clinton] can't make that general-election pivot the way she should. Trump has made that pivot."
In the same article, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) added, "I would just hope that [Sanders] would understand that we need to begin consolidating our vote sooner rather than later." And Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Sanders's lingering presence "sort of slows the takeoff of [Clinton's] general-election campaign."
Those are the more forceful statements urging a Sanders exit. And with only the faintest effort to read between the lines, it is easy to detect the very similar sentiments of other Democrats — including President Obama — even as they say publicly that Sanders has every right to keep campaigning until the bitter end.
Citing three people who attended a private meeting of Democratic donors, the New York Times reported in March that Obama said Sanders "was nearing the point at which his campaign against Hillary Clinton would end and that the party must soon come together to back her."
Mr. Obama chose his words carefully, and did not explicitly call on Mr. Sanders to quit the race, according to those in the room. Still, those in attendance said in interviews that they took his comments as a signal to Mr. Sanders that perpetuating his campaign, which is now an uphill climb, could only help the Republicans recapture the White House.
That's pretty clear.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said on CNN last week that she is "not one of those people [to say], 'Tell Bernie to get out.'"
"But when the process is over, through either primary or caucus, then it's over," she added.
Translation: Stop this contested convention nonsense, Sen. Sanders. Have your fun for another couple of weeks, let people vote, and then get out.
On NPR last week, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) stopped well short of telling Sanders to leave. "I get it," she said. "I get it that he wants to stay in this race and make the points that he’s making between now and the end of the primaries."
But on CBS later the same day, McCaskill added this: "I have to know that when the math is final, Bernie has to look at a potential President Trump and go, 'Ruh-roh, we've got to get busy and make sure that we never let Donald Trump — the reality TV star that is reckless and risky and is anathema to the things we believe in — we can never let him set foot in the Oval Office.' And I'm just confident Bernie will be there when the time comes."
Again, the true directive was clear. McCaskill was telling Sanders in the politest way possible that he ought to run up the white flag as soon as the last vote is counted and forget about fighting all the way to the convention, as he has said repeatedly that he will.
Politicians choose their words very carefully. That's part of the job, and they don't want to antagonize Sanders, given his devoted and vocal base of support. But the media's job is to sift through the rhetoric to find the real message. In this case, it's an easy task. Democrats watching much of the GOP reluctantly rally around Trump are growing impatient, realizing their inevitable standard-bearer has some catching up to do.
That's no media creation. It's actually rather obvious.