It’s been five days since the conflagration at the Nevada State Democratic Convention, and the embers are still burning. Much of it has singed Senator Bernie Sanders. The intimidation of speakers and the misogynist death threats against party chair Roberta Lange have led to a wave of critical pieces by Bernie supporters—some of them now former Bernie supporters. Sanders’s loyal CNN backer Sally Kohn wrote in Time: “I Felt the Bern But the Bros Are Extinguishing the Flames.” Esquire’s Charles Pierce, who voted for Sanders, weighed in Tuesday: “It’s Time for Bernie’s People to Calm Down.” Sanders supporter Harold Meyerson now insists, “The Bros Are Undermining Bernie.”
In the pages of the Sanders fanzine Salon (for which I used to work), at least two Bernie supporters have written that it’s over: For them, the mayhem in Las Vegas has doused the burn. Even on Sanders-friendly Reddit, former Berners were leaving the fold. Much of the media has reacted with shock to the Nevada chaos, and Sanders surrogates have faced tougher grilling on cable news than they have for the entire campaign.
But the Sanders camp is defiant, with the senator himself condemning the threats and reports of violence, but—and you never add “but” to a sentence that’s condemning threatening behavior—insisting party leaders had it coming, because convention rules were less than fair or “transparent.” Sanders has continued to rip the Democratic Party for unfairness, and his supporters are now telling reporters there will be trouble at the convention in Philadelphia over the “rigged” primary process.
“When you lose a fair fight, then you’re sad and disappointed. When you lose a rigged fight, then you’re angry and you hit the streets,” Charles Chamberlain, the executive director of the liberal group Democracy for America, told MSNBC. He predicted “disruption” in Philadelphia, and then he went off a cliff: “I think a little bit of disruption is exciting. That’s democracy,” Chamberlain said. “The reality is without that, all you have is boring parliamentary procedure and everyone falls asleep. So I think it’s exciting and it’s actually healthy.” “Disrupting” a party convention because parliamentary procedure is “boring” seems the height of entitlement.
Let me stipulate that the “Democratic establishment” isn’t blameless in this mess. I understand the anger and even fear of Nevada Democrats, but the local party’s letter to the DNC charging that there’s “a penchant for violence” in the Sanders campaign was histrionic and only escalated the conflict. I get it: After Clinton supporters were forced to walk a gauntlet of shame in East Los Angeles, screamed at by angry Sandernistas with bullhorns who even bullied children; after protesters crowded Clinton’s car on the way to a fundraiser; and now, after Nevada, there is growing concern about an apparent mob mentality that can cross the line into physical harassment, if not violence. But describing “a penchant for violence” is unfair to the many millions of peaceful, respectful Sanders supporters.