These 3 people just tore apart the Democratic Party
By unfairly maligning Sanders supporters, they broke open a permanent rift
This past week, I watched the Democratic party crumble before my eyes. It was a sad scene, since for a long time, I wanted nothing more than to keep Republicans out of power. At the start of the 2016 campaign, I was glad that we had two good candidates who argued the issues. Unfortunately, my faith in the system slowly eroded over the following months. The straw that broke the camel’s back happened this past week, when three individuals ran roughshod over Sanders supporters to the cheers of the national media. Their actions exposed a broken system, and laid bare the dirtiest elements of the Democratic party. The center of this ugliness? The Nevada Democratic caucus, run by chairwoman Roberta Lange.
The Nevada Convention
In February, Secretary Clinton won the Nevada caucus by 5 points. At the county conventions in April, more Sanders delegates showed up. This meant that Sanders would send more delegates to the state convention, which would apportion 12 national delegates between the candidates.
The Nevada Democratic party claims that Clinton had 33 more delegates show up to the national convention. Their credentials committee, supposedly split evenly between the campaigns, disqualified 64 of Sanders’ delegates, because the Clinton campaign claimed that they weren’t registered in time. They eventually seated six of them. The party reported that only eight of the 58 remaining delegates showed up to the convention.
However, a number of sources undermine the credibility of the party’s claims. Leslie Sexton, Co-Chair of the Convention Credentials Committee, claimed in a minority report that the delegates were not given a chance to appeal the decision. Even more interesting is the words of Clinton delegate, Pat Barrett. She confirmed that rejected Sanders delegates were properly registered. She said that the party gave delegates misinformation, and told them to go to the wrong places. She denounced the whole process, calling it unfair and wrong.
Sanders will lose the election, and the two Nevada delegates won’t make a difference. Of course, the whole caucus system is undemocratic. However, those national delegates represent thousands of people, and these irregularities undermine trust in the system. More important, though, is the completely inept and offensive treatment of Sanders delegates by Roberta Lange.
The Sanders campaign was already unhappy that Lange, a Clinton supporter, was afforded so much control over the proceedings. At 9:30, Lange held a voice vote to accept the temporary rules, relying on the preliminary delegate count favoring Clinton. Video of the vote shows an obviously unclear result; if anything, the “nays” seem louder. According to the rules, “if the Convention Chair is unable to determine the outcome of a voice vote, a vote of standing division shall be taken.” No such vote was taken.
A motion for a recount was then ignored. Petitions for amendments were also rejected, with little justification. Finally, Lange offered motions to end and accept the proceedings. She did not wait for responses, and ignored the overwhelming opposition. In clear disgust, she slammed her gavel and left the room. In those moments, one can watch the unfolding destruction of the Democratic party. Sanders supporters cried as they watched this sham of a democracy taking place.
Politifact claims that these motions were legitimate because Clinton delegates initially outnumbered Sanders delegates. Ignoring the fact that they unfairly rejected delegates, this is a ridiculous argument. The initial count was conducted before doors closed at 10:00, and more Sanders delegates could have arrived afterwards. Furthermore, some Clinton delegates may have voted with the Sanders delegates.
After the convention, journalist Jon Ralston tweeted that the “convention ended w/security shutting it down, Bernie folks rushed stage, yelling obscenities, throwing chairs.” As a respected journalist, his words were taken at face value. A snowball effect led news organizations across the country to report that Sanders supporters were violent and/or threw chairs. This was reported by the AP, LA Times, NY Times, ABC News, CBS News, MSNBC, Fox News, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, USA Today, Reuters, The Guardian, Daily Kos, Vox, and NPR. (NPR later apologized. Kudos to them, and shame on all the rest of these sources.)
It turns out that there were no chairs thrown. There was no violence. Supporters definitely yelled “obscenities” at Lange, perhaps legitimately so, as the corrupt process was taking place. They tried to speak at the podium, and were held back. But there was no violence at all. The entire convention was videoed by numerous people. The only documented event involving a chair was one man lifting a chair in frustration. The video shows that the chair was placed down, and the man hugged by other Sanders supporters. The photographer confirmed that there were no chairs thrown. In fact, the only fight she saw was when a Clinton supporter yelled at an 11 year old girl until she cried.
It is unclear why Ralston lied. He admitted that he wasn’t there for the end of the convention. Counterpunch claims that he relied on local reporter Andrew Davey, who relied on a still picture of the man lifting the chair. Ralston ignored the outreach from the Sanders campaign before making his slanderous claims. Whatever his motivations, his actions were simply another cog in the destruction of the Democratic party.
After the convention, delegates were reasonably upset. Unfortunately, some of them apparently acted in inappropriate ways. At a protest the next day, some Sanders supporters wrote some angry messages on party office buildings. Someone also leaked Lange’s contact information online, and memes across the country urged Sanders supporters to contact her and ask about her inept and unfair actions.
Obviously, this was terribly misguided at best. Every campaign has radical supporters, and the barrage of calls and messages to Lange included some very over-the-topic and jarring rhetoric. The Huffington Post provided the worst voicemails and messages that they could find. The worst message, left in a voicemail and spread across countless media, said that Lange “should be hung in a public execution.” Other messages did call Lange a cunt and a bitch, messages that were obviously inappropriate, nasty, and shameful.
None of the messages were death threats. A death threat is a statement of intention to kill. Not a single one of the messages contained such a statement. Nonetheless, the distortion that Lange received death threats was published by practically every national “news” organization. That is not an exaggeration.
Rolling Stone and Jezebel both contacted some of the people who left the messages. Despite their best efforts, they could not get any of them to say anything inflammatory in the slightest. Every one of them said that they did not intend to threaten anyone. Most of them acknowledged that they made a mistake. They all seem like well-intentioned people caught in poorly expressed outrage.
In the Nevada Democrats’ ensuing tantrum, they recruited DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to attack Sanders. Wasserman-Schultz, a Clinton supporter, had a bad history with the Sanders campaign. At one point, she used the pretense that Sanders was hacking Clinton’s data to essentially shut down the Sanders campaign.
Her and other party leaders demanded an apology from Sanders for the actions of a handful of his supporters. They ludicrously claimed that his campaign had “a penchant for violence.” Wasserman-Scultz even compared the delegates’ behavior to the beating up of protesters at Trump rallies. In response, Sanders released a statement saying that “it goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals.” He also mentioned acts of violence against him, and Lange’s inept conduct.
Apparently that wasn’t enough for Wasserman-Schultz, who was looking to alienate even more voters. In a spiteful interview, she said “the senator’s response was anything but acceptable. It certainly did not condemn his supporters for acting violently or engaging in intimidation tactics and instead added more fuel to the fire.” Nothing could be more ironic. Her lies did nothing but add fuel to the fire. She completely ignored the Sanders campaign’s concerns, and instead chose to give her disgusting rant, filled with mock indignation. For a party that preaches unity, this was the worst response she could have given. I sincerely hope that she loses her primary in Florida this August.
The media, of course, took that as license to unleash their vicious slander. CNN host Ashleigh Banfield bullied her guest Sally Kohn, interrupting her and shouting “it is ugly! it is foul!…decry the disgusting behavior we just saw!” The same behavior repeated itself in media outlets across the country. This was a vicious attack on a movement that is genuinely trying to help the poor and suffering in society. Informed Sanders supporters, who knew the injustice that was taking place, were left feeling degraded and silenced. There is no doubt that when the general election comes by, many of them will not vote for DNC candidate Hillary Clinton.
This article has been updated with new information.
(Also see my take on BernieOrBust here.)