Bernie San­ders vs. the Democrats

Dana Milbank

Cecil Whig - - OPINION -

— Let’s ex­am­ine what Bernie San­ders sup­port­ers did in his name this past week­end.

As the Ne­vada Demo­cratic con­ven­tion voted to award a ma­jor­ity of del­e­gates to Hil­lary Clin­ton — an ac­cu­rate re­flec­tion of her vic­tory in the state’s Fe­bru­ary cau­cuses — San­ders back­ers charged the stage, threw chairs and shouted vul­gar ep­i­thets at speak­ers. Se­cu­rity agents had to pro­tect the dais and ul­ti­mately clear the room.

San­ders sup­port­ers pub­li­cized the cell­phone num­ber of the party chair­woman, Roberta Lange, re­sult­ing in thou­sands of abu­sive text mes­sages and threats:

“Pray­ing to God some­one shoots you in the FACE and blows your democ­racy-steal­ing head off!”

“Hey bitch. ... We know where you live. Where you work. Where you eat. Where your kids go to school/ grand­kids... Pre­pare for hell.”

Vet­eran Ne­vada re­porter Jon Ral­ston tran­scribed some of the choice voice­mail mes­sages for the chair­woman, some with vul­gar la­bels for women and their



“I think peo­ple like you should be hung in a pub­lic ex­e­cu­tion. ... You are a sick, twisted piece of s—- and I hope you burn for this!”

“You f—-ing stupid bitch! What the hell are you do­ing? You’re a f—-ing cor­rupt bitch!”

The day af­ter the con­ven­tion, San­ders sup­port­ers van­dal­ized party head­quar­ters with mes­sages say­ing, among other things, “you are scum.”

And the can­di­date’s re­sponse to the vi­o­lent and misog­y­nis­tic be­hav­ior of his back­ers? Mostly de­fi­ance. Asked by re­porters Tues­day about the con­ven­tion chaos — in which op­er­a­tives from his na­tional cam­paign par­tic­i­pated — San­ders walked away in the mid­dle of the ques­tion.

Fi­nally, mid-af­ter­noon Tues­day, San­ders re­leased a state­ment say­ing, “I con­demn any and all forms of vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing the per­sonal ha­rass­ment of in­di­vid­u­als.” But he blamed the Ne­vada party for pre­vent­ing a “fair and trans­par­ent process,” and he threat­ened Democrats: “If the Demo­cratic Party is to be suc­cess­ful in Novem­ber, it is im­per­a­tive that all state par­ties treat our cam­paign sup­port­ers with fair­ness and the re­spect that they have earned.”

It is no longer ac­cu­rate to say San­ders is cam­paign­ing against Clin­ton, who has es- sen­tially locked up the nom­i­na­tion. The Ver­mont so­cial­ist is now run­ning against the Demo­cratic Party. And that’s ex­cel­lent news for one Don­ald J. Trump.

“The San­ders Cam­paign spent its time ei­ther ig­nor­ing or prof­it­ing from the chaos it did much to cre­ate,” the Ne­vada Demo­cratic Party wrote in a for­mal com­plaint to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee. “Part of the ap­proach by the San­ders cam­paign was to em­ploy these eas­ily in­censed del­e­gates as shock troops.”

The Ne­vada Democrats, warn­ing of sim­i­lar dis­rup­tions at the na­tional con­ven­tion in July, ac­cused the San­ders cam­paign of “in­cit­ing dis­rup­tion — and, yes, vi­o­lence.”

A few weeks ago, I wrote that I wasn’t con­cerned about San­ders re­main­ing in the race un­til the very end, be­cause he doesn’t wish to see a Pres­i­dent Trump and will ul­ti­mately throw his full sup­port to Clin­ton. San­ders has, in­deed, light­ened up on Clin­ton and is in­stead try­ing to shape the Democrats’ plat­form and di­rec­tion. But his at­tacks on the party have re­leased some­thing just as dam­ag­ing to the causes he pro­fesses to rep­re­sent. Cou­pled with his re­fusal to raise money for the party, his in­creas­ingly harsh rhetoric could hurt Democrats up and down the bal­lot in Novem­ber and be­yond.

“We are tak­ing on vir­tu­ally the en­tire Demo­cratic es­tab­lish­ment,” San­ders pro­claims.

“The Demo­cratic Party has to reach a fun­da­men­tal con­clu­sion: Are we on the side of work­ing peo­ple or big-money in­ter­ests?” he asks.

“The Demo­cratic Party up to now has not been clear about which side they are on on the ma­jor is­sues fac­ing this coun­try,” he an­nounces.

This was Ralph Nader’s ar­gu­ment in 2000: There isn’t much dif­fer­ence be­tween the two par­ties. It pro­duced Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush. San­ders said at the start of his cam­paign that he wouldn’t do what Nader did, be­cause there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween the par­ties.

Yet now his sup­port­ers, the Ne­vada Demo­cratic Party says, are be­hind “phys­i­cal threats and in­tim­i­da­tion,” “scuf­fles, screams from bull­horns, and pro­fane in­sults” and “nu­mer­ous med­i­cal emer­gen­cies among del­e­gates pressed up against the dais.”

This, even though they were wrong on the mer­its. Ral­ston writes that “the San­ders folks dis­re­garded rules, then when shown the truth, at­tacked or­ga­niz­ers and party of­fi­cials as tools of a con­spir­acy to de­fraud the sen­a­tor of what was never right­fully his in the first place.”

And this, de­spite only two ad­di­tional del­e­gates be­ing at stake, as The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Philip Bump points out — not enough to make a dif­fer­ence in the race.

More to the point, no griev­ance jus­ti­fies what hap­pened in Ne­vada. Yet San­ders, reck­lessly, is fu­el­ing the fire.

Dana Milbank is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at danamil­bank@wash­post. com.

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