Get Control, Senator Sanders, or Get Out

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Supporters greet Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a rally in Carson, California, on May 17. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Violence. Death threats. Vile, misogynistic names screamed at women. Rage. Hatred. Menacing, anonymous phone calls to homes and offices. Public officials whisked offstage by security agents frightened of the growing mob. None of this has any place in a political campaign. And the candidate who has been tolerating this obscene behavior among his supporters is showing himself to be unfit for office.

So, Senator Sanders, either get control of what is becoming your increasingly unhinged cult or get out of the race. Whatever respect sane liberals had for you is rapidly dwindling, and the damage being inflicted on your reputation may be unfixable. If you can’t even manage the vicious thugs who act in your name, you can’t be trusted to run a convenience store, much less the country.  

When Bernie Sanders launched his presidential campaign, he seemed to be the kind of candidate who would inspire voters from the liberal blocs of the Democratic Party, push the party leftward and influence the future direction of politics—either as the nominee or as a force for change. But Sanders has increasingly signaled that he is in this race for Sanders, and day after day shows himself to be a whining crybaby with little interest in a broader movement. His vicious—and often ridiculous—attacks on the party whenever he doesn’t win a contest have inspired a level of ignorant fanaticism among a large swath of his supporters that is becoming more akin to what might be seen at an out-of-control rally for Donald Trump. Signs are emerging that the Sanders campaign is transmogrifying into the type of movement through which tyrants are born.  

The ugly was on display at the recent state convention of the Nevada Democratic Party, where Hillary Clinton won more delegates than Sanders. Now, this should hardly have been a surprise to anyone except the Sandernistas, whose certainty in their righteousness has overwhelmed any commitment they may have ever had to democracy. Sanders lost the Nevada caucuses in February by more than 5 percent. A rational person who cared about the will of the people would presume that Clinton would emerge from the state with the most delegates. But Sanders supporters were outraged—outraged!—that the person with the largest number of votes ended up with the largest share of delegates.

From the moment Sanders lost the state, the campaign and its supporters have been playing a badly planned long game, hoping to overrule the voters. Sanders and his managers have already proclaimed plans they hope will gain him the democratic nomination by manipulating the rules in Philadelphia at the national convention in a way that will reverse the electoral outcome. These same rules are the ones he decried until the moment he figured out they might play to his advantage, and his supporters launched a dress rehearsal in Nevada.

After the caucus votes came in—with Sanders losing—his campaign launched its effort to reverse the outcome. At county meetings where delegates for the state convention were selected, Sanders supporters orchestrated an effort to gain more slots than Clinton and succeeded. Then, when it came time for the state convention, Clinton out-organized Sanders. Some 98 percent of Clinton delegates chosen at the county level showed up—all but 27. Meanwhile, only 78 percent of Sanders delegates came—leaving 462 possible slots for his supporters unfilled.

Sanders supporters also lost it over a story that 64 of his potential delegates were kept from being seated (never mind that even seating them all would still leave Sanders short 398 delegates). Six of them were seated after missing information was obtained. The rest either didn’t bother to register as Democrats (they could have done so as late as two weeks before the convention) or their basic information—such as name and address—could not be found. When the party reached out to those delegates to obtain those details, only eight bothered to reply. (This continues the theme of some Bernie zealots—rules don’t apply to them; screaming conspiracy and posting diatribes against Clinton online is much more satisfying than bothering to get the job done.) During their riot, Sanders supporters heard a rumor that there was a “minority report” written by members of the Credentials Committee that called for those ineligible delegates to be seated. There wasn’t; it was written on site by Sanders’s national campaign staff. The Credentials Committee—which was co-chaired by members of each campaign and was composed of equal numbers of supporters of Clinton and Sanders—discredited the existence of the supposed “minority report.” No matter; this bogus report has since entered the delusional lore of Sanders-world and was used to justify the freak out of his Nevada contingent.

The unseemly tirade of Sanders supporters was a marvel, the kind of behavior more likely to be seen among British soccer hooligans than people claiming to be interested in politics. A chair was thrown. People screamed “bitch!” at Senator Barbara Boxer, a staunch liberal from California. Even the Nevada state Democratic chairwoman, Roberta Lange, who had endorsed Sanders, needed a security detail just to go to the bathroom in order to protect her from the hypocritical “humanity lovers” who seem to hate everyone but themselves and their idol.

Afterward, the goons kept up their hostile hysterics. Protesters vandalized the offices of the state Democratic Party. Lange’s personal contact information, including her cellphone number, were posted online, and she has since received thousands of death threats, according to state party officials. One of the text messages to Lange said, “Praying to god someone shoots you in the FACE and blows your democracy-stealing head off!” (Only in the delusions of Sanders-land could democracy be stolen when the winner of the popular vote was winning.) Voicemail obtained by Jon Ralston, the dean of Nevada political reporters, contain such delightful statements as, “People like you should be hung in a public execution.... You are a sick, twisted piece of sh*t, and I hope you burn for this!” And, “You f**king stupid bitch! What the hell are you doing? You’re a f**king corrupt bitch!” And, “You’re a c*nt. F**k you!” And, “You probably just guaranteed fire is in Philadelphia.”

Yeah, these are exactly the kind of people who Americans want to have as the next president’s base—vicious, sociopathic misogynists. And their threats of violence at the convention is just another sign that Sanders could go down as one of the most destructive forces in American history. Riots and flames at the convention—a repeat of the chaos of the 1968 Democratic Convention—would help open the White House doors for Donald Trump when compared with a nose-holding coronation by Republicans at their gathering in Cleveland.

Meanwhile, Sanders reacts with mealy-mouthed mumbles, saying he doesn’t support violence while doing literally nothing about it and claiming that—contrary to the statements of witnesses, reporters and video recordings—his violent supporters aren’t violent. Trump would be proud of the disingenuous delusions vomited up by the candidate.

Sanders supporters have shown their penchant for abusing those who disagree in other locations. At a Clinton rally in California, they tried to shout Clinton down, disrupting the event to such an extent that the former secretary of state cut her speech short. According to witnesses, they went after at least one child, snatching her pro-Clinton sign, which had been autographed by the candidate, and tearing it up. That girl was left in tears; videos of adults comforting other crying children who were terrified by the Sanders supporters are now online.

Sanders himself has been willing to stoke the flames. He has said that if Clinton wins the nomination and wants his supporters, she has to court them herself by focusing on his issues while abandoning the “establishment.” After all, the loser always gets to dictate the agenda of the winner. (Usually, the candidate who doesn’t win the nomination vigorously endorses the party’s winner, but this is yet another example of Sanders being in it for himself.)

The scenario is bizarre, to say the least. Sanders has never been part of the Democratic Party, instead choosing to remain an independent. But when the time came for a presidential run, the party poo-bahs agreed to allow him to run as a Democrat; eventually, he turned on the party, slashing at his erstwhile political home. It was as if you invited someone into your home who proceeded to leave a huge, steaming pile in your living room.

Now, as the old saying goes, politics ain’t beanbag, and it seemed for a while that Sanders’s plan was essentially to launch a revolution inside the Democratic Party. That’s certainly not a controversial goal for someone to shoot for in any political party—conservatives have been transforming the GOP for more than 35 years, pushing it increasingly to the right. But it has become increasingly obvious that this “revolution” is a façade designed to hide what is little more than an arrogant thirst for individual power.

Why is there no organized effort by his supporters, led by Sanders, to start changing the direction of the Democrats by snagging local and state-level positions in the party? Why are Sanders and his revolutionaries doing so little to find like-minded people who could run for office down-ballot—without such people sitting in Congress, the Vermont senator’s proposals could never be transformed into policy. Why is Sanders continuing to bilk his delusional supporters of money, despite the impossibility of his winning the nomination, rather than directing it to candidates who support his ideals? Why do so many of his supporters scream “fraud!” when he loses a state and demand changes to the rules that they proclaim would have led him to victory? (Hey, folks: The way you change rules is by gaining positions in the party, not by screaming and name-calling.)

Then there are some of the policies being espoused by Sanders and his team, which seem less like a call for fundamental change than for appeasing young people who rarely get their hands dirty or seem to care about the less fortunate. America’s schools are crumbling. Art classes, music and athletics are disappearing (prominent conservatives don’t need to worry about that, since they live in the wealthy areas with top public schools or send their kids off to private ones). Teacher turnover is too high, robbing students of the most talented classroom leaders. Even obtaining school supplies and textbooks is increasingly out of reach for some cash-strapped districts. And year after year, America sees the consequences, as it falls behind other countries in science and math, the foundations of expanding, global economies.

Sanders is calling for raising taxes on the wealthy and on corporations. And, as a centerpiece of his campaign, he wants to use that money for education—by giving students free college educations at state universities.

College? Seriously? How many kids stuck in the cycle of poverty because they cannot obtain a good pre-college education will be able to take advantage of Sanders’s undergraduate giveaway? How could students supposedly concerned with social justice walk happily past the local run-down high school as money is diverted so that they don’t have to take out college loans? How many of them would have been able to gain an undergraduate education, either through scholarships or by attending a community college? About 70 percent of Americans don’t have a college degree—what does this plan do for them?

If the idea is to improve education, no one who truly cared about the poor would direct money that could have gone to elementary and high schools to colleges instead. This is about doling out benefits so that the comfortable can be more comfortable, not about improving the plight of the impoverished. Which of course raises the uncomfortable question: Despite all the raging of Sanders’s college-aid supporters about their desire to help others, is their anger really just about self-centered desire to help themselves?

Which brings us back to the original point: Senator Sanders, grow up or get out. Your supporters are now, in true petulant child fashion, proclaiming that they will vote for Trump rather than Clinton because blah blah blah, Wall Street, blah blah blah, corporate contributors, blah blah blah, establishment, blah blah blah. Probably none of them have much of a memory of the Vietnam War and the 1972 campaign. Then, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party won with the nomination of George McGovern and a large segment of the usual party supporters proclaimed they would vote for Richard Nixon instead. And look how well that turned out.