One hesitates to discuss the small group of Bernie Sanders followers throwing tantrums at the Democratic convention. Some 90 percent of Sanders backers say they’ve already moved their support to Hillary Clinton.
But when a tiny number — some with duct tape on their mouths saying “silenced” — marched out of the hall and straight into the media tent, the “journalists” pounded prose on “sharp divisions” in the party.
The unhappy few had already booed at Sanders himself. They heckled the progressive warrior Elizabeth Warren. Sanders’ other supporters rolled their eyes at the histrionics, but what could they do?
When Sanders finally offered total support for Clinton, he showed himself to be a giant political leader. That he did so after an email leak confirming that the Democratic National Committee had tilted against his candidacy made him taller still.
Sanders had already pushed the Democratic Party to adopt much of his program, demonstrating a skill at negotiating many of us doubted he had. In sum, Sanders deserved the adulation that friends and former rivals poured on him at the convention.
So this was a heck of a time for a handful of acolytes to grab at his spotlight, some parroting the imbecilities of the Trump campaign. To borrow from Dante’s “Inferno,” one should not reflect on such people but take a look and pass them by.
A good restaurant knows that there are certain customers it has to throw out. They’re too disruptive. They give the place a bad reputation and scare off others.
Sanders himself gets some blame for having fed his following a constant diet of grievance and belief that the electoral process had been “rigged” against them. The nominating race was lumpy all around. The DNC may have put a thumb on the scale for Clinton, but she was subject to unfairness, as well, in the coverage of the campaigns and the undemocratic nature of the caucuses that Sanders won.
I wasn’t a great fan of Sanders’. He had a reputation for not working well with others, and I distrust populist campaigns centered on a charismatic figure. But I always admired Sanders for his consistency, his obvious love for country and many of his ideas.
So it was painful to watch Sanders being treated so disrespectfully by people he had led to the portals of power. And at his finest hour, too.
A few fancied out loud that they could run the Bernie revolution without Bernie, which is kind of laughable. With Sanders would go the cameras and the attention, leaving behind a skeleton crew of exhibitionists.
That said, a lasting Sanders revolution may be in the making by others. Sophisticated backers are now recruiting like-minded candidates for lower office, building a progressive power base and expanded leadership. (A slip in the suggestion box reads, Call this a “movement” rather than a “revolution.”)
As Sanders faced hostile members of his California delegation, he laid down the stakes in no uncertain terms. “It is easy to boo, but it is harder to look your kids in the face who would be living under a Donald Trump presidency,” he said. “Trump is the worst candidate for president in the modern history of this country.”
A California Democratic Party official wisely advised against self-pity. “You fought and you won a seat at the table,” Daraka Larimore-Hall said. “We have to act like we have that seat … and stop acting like we’ve been shut out.”
Just a gentle reminder here: Clinton won the California primary by over 400,000 votes, and Sanders got these followers excellent seats at the table. The revolution, for the time being, is still his.