Warren’s supporters, although they took a less aggressive tone, however revived questions about whether many of Sanders’ supporters are sexist and whether he contributed to the disastrous loss of the game in 2016 with a show of self-centered petulance.
The clash intensified when CNN released the audio on Wednesday night of a strong exchange between the two that took place after Tuesday’s Democratic debate. “I think you called me a liar on national television,” Warren can be heard saying. Sanders replies: “You know, let’s not do it now. If you want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion.”
Warren then says: “Anytime.” That led Sanders to answer: “You called me a liar. You told me, that’s fine, let’s not do it now.”
Liberal leaders, increasingly alarmed, fought to make peace. “Many of the voices in the progressive community warn that we can’t have a knife fight in a phone booth, or a circular firing squad,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
That message, he said, is being sent to the Sanders and Warren camps “in private and in public.”
The two senators have been circling cautiously for more than a year, each seeking to woo rather than alienate the other’s voters, as many in the party remain traumatized by the 2016 enmity between Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
This time, Democratic presidential contenders have maintained peace largely, so far, with less than three weeks to the Iowa caucus on February 3.
Warren, during Tuesday’s Democratic debate, repeated his claim that in a 2018 private conversation, Sanders told him that a woman could not win the White House; He denied it again strongly. But while the two were cordial during the event, Warren then avoided shaking hands with Sanders, and seemed to have an irritating exchange, which provided more guts for Wednesday’s round-trip exchange.
It was clear that the exchange was heated, but what was implied was not known until CNN, which sponsored the debate, released the audio at night.
All day, Republicans, seeing an opportunity, tried to stoke the Democratic hostility. President Trump intervened on the side of Sanders, in the same way he had encouraged Sanders supporters in 2016.
“I don’t know him, I don’t particularly like him, he’s an unpleasant guy, but I don’t think he said this,” Trump said at a rally Tuesday night.
Even relatively centrist Democrats worried about the potential of vitriol to disrupt the party’s ability to defeat a president they consider toxic. “We can’t have it,” said former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe. “People want to beat Trump, and I think it’s a motivating factor for us all to join.”
He added, referring to the disputed Democratic primary competition: “I hope it won’t last too long.”
Both campaigns had telegraphed the desire to reduce tensions in the hours before Tuesday’s debate, making the exchange between Sanders and Warren even more surprising.
When asked earlier on Wednesday what they were talking about, Sanders joked to an MSNBC reporter, “the weather.”
Warren campaign representatives declined to comment.
After the two candidates separated on Tuesday night, they both shook hands with other candidates: Warren with former South Bend mayor, Ind., Pete Buttigieg and Sanders with billionaire businessman Tom Steyer.
Steyer, who found himself between Warren and Sanders while they talked, told Chris Matthews of MSNBC that he didn’t know what they had said to each other.
“All I was trying to tell you, both Senator Warren and Senator Sanders, was: ‘It’s great to see you, thank you for participating in this.’ And whatever was happening between them, I was trying to get out of the way. as quickly as possible, “said Steyer.
After the content of the Warren and Sanders exchange was made public and began to bounce on social networks, Sanders’s assistants turned to Twitter to urge their followers not to divert their attention from the problems the senator has defended throughout the bell.
“Tonight, half a million people will sleep on the streets of the richest country in the world,” wrote Bill Neidhart, one of Iowa’s main employees for the Sanders campaign. “Stay focused”.
Throughout the day, the gap between the two liberal candidates widened in social networks, where a surge of anti-Warren sentiment fueled fears of a 2016 replay, when divisions within the party were exploited by Russian actors with the objective of promoting the then candidate Trump.
Snake emoji flooded the comment sections in Warren’s recent tweets and Instagram posts. The privacy settings of comment accounts often obscured their identity, which made it clear who they were and if they even had their headquarters in the United States.
No similar online crusade seemed to take shape against Sanders, even when his supporters denounced his treatment by the moderators of Tuesday’s debate in Des Moines and his subsequent reception in the cable news.
On Twitter, #NeverWarren and #WarrenIsASnake began to be a trend, repeating the labels that have been used since at least July. (A trend hashtag does not indicate that users strongly agree with it, but that it is being widely discussed, even by some who may strongly oppose the label.)
The epithets against Warren also gained strength among pro-Trump activists organized around the shout of protest from President “Make America Great Again.” “#NeverWarren,” wrote a user with “Cult 45” in his biography. “Never any democrat!”
Conservatives with many followers, such as representatives of Turning Point USA, which trains students to undertake conservative activism, also joined to promote attacks on Warren.
The speed with which conservatives took advantage of the crack alarmed liberal activists, who warned Democrats not to play in Republican hands.
“I think people who support Sanders or Warren should refrain from fighting each other,” said Charles Lenchner, co-founder of the “People for Bernie” campaign. “This should be true even if staff, directors or substitutes make the mistake of fueling that conflict.”
Some supporters of the two candidates tried to put out the flames. “We saw what was happening yesterday and the day before yesterday and the day before yesterday,” said Nina Turner, national co-president of the Sanders campaign. “You don’t need me to list it. All I say is that sometimes good people do bad things. We have to make sure we don’t fall into these traps.”
That echoed Sanders himself, who in Tuesday’s debate said: “I don’t want to waste much time on this because this is what Donald Trump wants and maybe some of the media.”
Turner joined an event in Iowa on Wednesday for Cornel West, another of Sanders’ substitutes. “It’s about solidarity and integrity,” he said as he left the event.
Adam Green, an ally of Warren and co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, tried to minimize the tense moment on stage, saying that “most real voters” don’t care if there is a personal crack between senators.
“Some experts, bored of the problems that concern voters, are focusing on leaving the stage that affects the daily lives of zero people,” Green said.
But in Iowa on Wednesday, voters continued to analyze the events of recent days and seemed eager to share their opinions.
Trevor Golnick, a sophomore at Iowa State University who plans to be part of Sanders, said it was not sold on Warren’s account at the 2018 meeting. “I think it was really false, personally,” he said.
“Seeing the posture of his body and the way he reacted, he didn’t seem very honest, in my opinion,” he said. But Golnick said he would vote for Warren if she is the nominee.
However, the people of Iowa who watched television after the debate saw night host Stephen Colbert approach Sanders enthusiasts and suggest they are sexist.
“If you want to see Bernie say good things about presidential candidates, go to YouTube,” Colbert said during his opening monologue on CBS’s “Late Show” on Tuesday night. “If you want to see your followers say terrible things about them, go to the comments section.”
In Washington, some Democratic lawmakers and strategists worried privately about the dispute on Wednesday, worried that it would divide the party and create new fissures on the left.
A prominent Democrat who knows both candidates said that Warren and Sanders have more in common than any other pair of prominent contenders, presenting advantages and disadvantages for the respective roles in the race.
Others explained the crude moment as an unwritten view of the emotions of the candidates, which are intensifying as the campaign approaches a moment of truth when voting begins.
“It is difficult to project an image of unity a couple of weeks before the Iowa assemblies and the New Hampshire primary,” said Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), Who is preparing to support Warren.
“Obviously it was a tense moment,” Raskin said. “Today I have spoken with several members of Congress who want to make sure that the rivalry is robust and uninhibited, but it does not lead to the kind of bruised and burned feelings that took place in 2016.”