As Hillary vs. Bernie Rivalry Hardens, Hollywood Democrats Voice Concerns Over Divisions

Hillary Clinton Bernie Sanders
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Seth MacFarlane, who introduced Bernie Sanders at a packed rally of supporters in Hollywood last year, sent out a tweet on Thursday that reflected the current concerns over the state of the race.

“No matter who your presidential candidate is, an angry mob is an angry mob,” he wrote. “Don’t be a mob. It is human nature at its lowest.”

As the Republican race played out in an often raucous and ribald nature, the Sanders and Hillary Clinton rivalry was genteel in comparison. But that seems to have changed in the past week, following a chaotic convention in Nevada last weekend.

What followed have been days of media focus on fissures between Democratic party leaders and Sanders and his campaign, as party stalwarts worry of the discord spilling over into the July convention and Sanders and his supporters chiding the party establishment over the process.

The acrimony has raised questions of just how unified the Democrats will be by the time of their party’s convention in July, as well as concerns that Clinton, expected to clinch the nomination by the time of the California primary on June 7, has not been able to fully shift her focus to defeating GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

“Senator Sanders is free to make his case for reform, but it’s time to stop attacking our party’s nominee,” said Andy Spahn, president of Gonring, Spahn & Associates, which represents clients such as Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg, who have thrown their support behind Clinton.

Earlier this week, Sanders said that he condemned “any and all forms of violence,” while also pointing out that shots were fired into his Nevada campaign office in the prelude to the caucus there in February.

His supporters also push back against the idea that he is jeopardizing chances of defeating Trump in November.

“I don’t see why people are calling for extreme unity at this moment,” said producer Jamie McGurk, a Sanders supporter. “The Bernie Sanders campaign, like the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2008, always maintained that they would take it to the end.”

She said that she does hear complaints coming from Clinton supporters, but she thinks that it is “misplaced and misguided.”

“He has always maintained that if he doesn’t get the nomination, he will do everything he can to make sure the nominee is elected,” she said.

At this point in 2008, Clinton and Obama were in an often bitter battle for the nomination, and questions were raised then over whether the party could unify. McGurk noted that polls at one point showed that “51% of Hillary supporters would not support Obama if he got the nomination, and they did.”

Clinton supporters, however, note that Sanders trails her by a wider margin than she did Obama in 2008, making his ability to capture the nomination the longest of long shots. Clinton herself told CNN on Thursday that “I will be the nominee for my party…That is already done, in effect.”

“I don’t know what he wants,” said one frustrated Clinton bundler in Los Angeles.

But McGurk and other Sanders supporters have pointed to a bevy of issues, including states that hold closed primaries at a time when independent voter registration is rising, to the confusion of the caucus process even if Sanders has won many of them.

Sanders took aim at the Democratic Party leadership on Tuesday in a rally in Carson, Calif., telling the crowd that the party could “open the doors, let the people in,” or “remain dependent on big money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy.”

Clinton has enjoyed big support from entertainment, drawing on the industry in fundraising and also for campaign surrogates, like Lena Dunham and Katy Perry.

But Sanders enjoyed lopsided support among young voters, enlisting such musicians as Vampire Weekend at campaign events as well as a list of progressive activists like Mark Ruffalo and Susan Sarandon, who have been a constant presence on Twitter.

Sarandon, in fact, has been like a rapid response unit of her own. She has pushed back at characterizations of what happened in Nevada, and responded to Cher, who tweeted her dismay at the Nevada convention chaos and wrote it “looked more like a Trump rally.”

Another concern among some Clinton supporters is that Sanders and his staffers, by hardening their attacks, will prove to benefit Trump, who has made some strides in unifying Republicans.

“Most Democrats understood and even saw benefits from the Sanders campaign and the issues he raised,” said political consultant Donna Bojarsky. “And it is usually better to have some kind of primary to keep you sharp. On the other hand, there is a question of at this time and circumstance, should unity be more in focus?”

Clinton has turned her focus to Trump, calling him “unqualified” to be president in the CNN interview, while her campaign sent out a fundraising email earlier this week in which she wrote that this was “one of the toughest parts of our campaign so far” as they were fighting two campaigns.

“Women are great multi-taskers. She can do both,” McGurk said.

David Wolf, who has been fundraising for the Clinton campaign, said that “obviously the stuff that happened in Nevada doesn’t help at all. But I kind of feel like the world we live in, with 24-hour news and social media, the focus is on the heat of battle. But the election is a long way away.”

He, too, pointed to the ability of Democrats to unite in 2008, in part because of the nature of the current divisions.

“I think it is a hiccup. This isn’t a civil war,” he said. “It is not like there is one enormous issue that separates them. There isn’t one. It is temperament, personality, experience, philosophy, all those things.”

Both candidates are expected to make multiple visits to California in the two weeks leading to the June 7 primary.

Clinton will return on Monday, when her agenda includes a fundraiser at the home of Bryan Lourd and Bruce Bozzi, and co-hosted by Anna Wintour. Bill Clinton is scheduled for a series of stops over the weekend, including a fundraiser on Sunday at the Beverly Hills home of Marilyn Ziering.

Sanders will have a rally on Saturday in National City, Calif., and on Sunday in Vista, Calif.

Ken Solomon, president of the Tennis Channel and DNC national finance co-chair, said that he is taking a “macro view” of the situation. He notes that it was not until the 2008 Democratic National Convention, when Clinton spoke and finally released her delegates, that there was true unity.

He noted that Sanders is espousing the view that his message gets heard and considered. “Favorites aside, isn’t that what it is supposed to be?”

“It might be convenient to wrap this up right now, but I am not sure that it is that much better than allowing the process to play out as it was intended,” he says.