Hillary Clinton’s campaign strategist Joel Beneson took a swing at Bernie Sanders during a conference call with reporters today. But unlike Jackie Robinson, Beneson failed to connect. It’s almost like he was in the batters’ box facing Sandy Koufax (these are two of the most famous Brooklyn Dodgers).
“He’s going to campaign like a Brooklynite, and she’s going to campaign like a senator who represented the state for eight years and lived here for 16,” Benenson said, in a severely misguided attempt to portray Sanders and his Brooklyn roots as somehow below the standard of the U.S. Senate.
Beneson’s comments have even inspired the trending Twitter hashtag #ToneDownForWhat.
This follows a trend of the Clinton camp talking down to voters who lack the same resources as her (see: Clinton’s infamous "Why don't you go run for something, then?" comments in Minnesota).
Even the Mayor of New York City and Brooklyn native Bill de Blasio had a quip about these comments, telling an unrelated press conference “I assume the phrase ‘campaigning like a Brooklynite’ is a compliment …”
It seems Beneson is crowding the plate, and not in the way “The Duke of Flatbush” Dodgers’ power-hitter Duke Snider would.
The Clinton campaign has been pushing back against a New York debate challenge issued by Sanders this past weekend.
Sanders told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press the debate could be in “New York City, upstate, wherever,” as long as it focused “on the important issues facing New York and, in fact, the country.”
Following up, Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver sent a letter on Sunday to Robby Mook, his counterpart in the Clinton campaign.
“New York will play a critical role in determining the Democratic nominee. However, your campaign has consistently chosen to deny the people of New York the opportunity to see Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton debate in the Empire State,” wrote Weaver.
“It is difficult to understand your motivation,” he added “Can you please explain why New York should not host the April debate? Is the Secretary concerned about debating before the people who twice elected her to the U.S. Senate? Perhaps there is some tactical advantage you are seeking by avoiding a debate in New York but I would remind you that Sen. Sanders agreed to debate the secretary in New Hampshire when he was well ahead in the polls.”
Sanders beat Clinton in New Hampshire in his first of many wins against the former Secretary of State.
Understanding Clinton’s motivation for declining a New York debate is difficult, especially considering Clinton auspiciously opened her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn Heights.
Seeking to tap into that faux “authenticity” that is a gentrified Brooklyn, the campaign took up two floors last year at the Pierrepont Plaza, which is described on its website as “Modern Offices. Brooklyn Cool”. Was this not an attempt to “campaign as a Brooklynite”? Or was she only interested in a certain segment of the Brooklyn population?
As a two-term New York Senator she did get friendly with one New York City institution: Wall Street. Senator Clinton did little to regulate the runaway banking industry while taking enormous political contributions for the duration of her term.
Keeping in mind her failure to truly represent New Yorkers, her hesitancy to debate becomes obvious: her opponent has the Ebbots Field—i.e. home field—advantage.
Sanders’ Brooklyn is one of immigrants, people of color and the working class. Clinton’s is an upwardly mobile, overly developed and gentrified Brooklyn.
What part of New York is Mrs. Clinton afraid of?
She wants the liberal-condo-vote but not the vote of the working people of New York who have lived here long enough to understand the social and political realities of this city.
If Clinton can’t handle an authentic debate in New York that respects the breadth of this diverse city, she may risk looking as authentically New York as a Sbarro in Times Square. Or the Dodgers in Los Angeles.