“Sanders Statement on Nevada”, Annotated

Senator Sanders was pressed to react to threats received by Nevada Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange after this last weekend’s state convention. He issued a statement yesterday. As someone who’s been subject to harassment and threats for years over my political actions, I have some thoughts on that statement. Most of them aren’t good.

Let’s take a look at it, shall we?

It is imperative that the Democratic leadership, both nationally and in the states, understand that the political world is changing and that millions of Americans are outraged at establishment politics and establishment economics.

There are two major changes happening in the U.S. political world right now. The first is demographic, which Sanders’ campaign has long ignored to its peril. The other is, in fact, the rise of the unaffiliated voter. I’m a bit of a hipster in this regard, as I’ve never formally aligned myself with a party.

That doesn’t make me outraged at “establishment politics”, however. Operating outside of parties and pressuring them to change is not the same thing as declaring them invalid because they don’t represent my interests perfectly. Quite the contrary. Even when I’m frustrated by institutional inertia, I value the the organizing and the decades of relationships that make political parties the powerhouses that they are. This is particularly true when I’m asking them to help me, as Sanders has by seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

The people of this country want a government which represents all of us, not just the 1 percent, super PACs and wealthy campaign contributors.

This is campaign bafflegab. We have high partisanship in the U.S. Very few people want their political opponents represented in government. Sanders supporters themselves have shown a low tolerance for compromise, which is what “represents all of us” requires. Also, even if a government did not represent Sanders supporters, the remainder is not what Sanders claims here. This has been demonstrated quite handily in primary voting.

The Democratic Party has a choice.

Oh, it has more choices than Sanders thinks. The political future is not embodied in a single senator.

It can open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change – people who are willing to take on Wall Street, corporate greed and a fossil fuel industry which is destroying this planet.

How people want to take on these problems matters as well. Are we looking to bring in people to smash up Wall Street, or are we looking for people to organize politically? Are we looking for people who show up at one rally then disappear when it’s time to be counted? Are we looking for people who run three or four strategies at a convention that interfere with each other, or people who can keep working together even when they don’t get everything they want?

Or the party can choose to maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy.

The closest we get to unlimited energy is nuclear fission. If that isn’t subject to controls, we’re all in trouble. Just saying.

Here’s the thing. The Democratic Party is changing. It’s been constantly changing since it was formed, with decades of input from people who are not Senator Sanders. Many of those people have been working on the money problem. Many of them have worked on the demographic problem in leadership, which also limits party participation. And frankly, voter turnout in the primaries doesn’t back Sanders’ promise that he can boost the party.

Within the last few days there have been a number of criticisms made against my campaign organization. Party leaders in Nevada, for example, claim that the Sanders campaign has a ‘penchant for violence.’ That is nonsense.

Screen capture of letter sent by Nevada Democratic Party to the Democratic National Committee. Text of letter available by clicking through.
The actual quote is “We write to alert you to what we perceive as the Sander Campaign’s penchant for extra-parliamentary behavior—indeed, actual violence—in place of democratic conduct in a convention setting, and furthermore what we can only describe as their encouragement of, and complicity in, a very dangerous atmosphere that ended in chaos and physical threats to fellow Democrats.” You can see the letter for yourself.

In short, the Nevada Democratic Party is arguing that the Sanders campaign made a decision to misinform people at the convention that predictably led to violence. They may be wrong about that–either that it was a decision to misinform or that violence could not be predicted–but it’s not an nonsensical argument. It’s worth addressing.

Our campaign has held giant rallies all across this country, including in high-crime areas, and there have been zero reports of violence.

Ow. My ears hurt.

Okay, so Sanders supporters can get along with each other, even in high poverty areas without a lot of white residents. That says nothing about what happens when they clash with Clinton supporters or how things change when they’re told they’re being robbed of their votes. Neither of these situations is like a rally. And it’s not as though Sanders doesn’t know about this. He does.

Our campaign of course believes in non-violent change and it goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals.

If Sanders has to issue a statement like this because of the actions of people who support him, it doesn’t go without saying. If his supporters keep doing this, he needs to repeat himself, loudly and clearly. He needs to tell those people that they’re hurting him by resorting to violence because they’ve signed up to represent him.

Does that mean he wants more violence when he puts out wishy-washy statements like this? No. He probably doesn’t.

What it means is that he’s failing a leadership test. Leadership means taking the hits and doing what needs to be done to fix the problem caused by your people even when you didn’t ask for the problem. It means stepping up even when it’s unfair sometimes.

But, when we speak of violence, I should add here that months ago, during the Nevada campaign, shots were fired into my campaign office in Nevada and apartment housing complex my campaign staff lived in was broken into and ransacked.

This is not saying clearly that he condemns violence. It’s saying, “Violence happens, you know.” It’s saying, “Everybody does it.” Being clear on this topic goes something more like this:

I don’t know whether the incidents mentioned by Sanders here were politically motivated. I don’t have the information to know who is responsible. Nonetheless, these are unacceptable political tactics. Our democracy depends on people being able to participate free of violence and intimidation. Acts like this help no one interested in democracy.

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. I am happy to say that has been the case at state conventions in Maine, Alaska, Colorado and Hawaii where good discussions were held and democratic decisions were reached. Unfortunately, that was not the case at the Nevada convention.

This also is not issuing a clear condemnation of violence and threats. When people are using what happened at the convention as a justification of the treatment of Lange, it would behoove a campaign to keep these issues far from each other.

When Sanders’ supporters are the ones booing speakers, maybe he shouldn’t be complaining about the lack of good discussions. Also, whatever you think of the process, the outcome numerically was entirely in line with vote totals at the population level. That’s pretty democratic. But I already said most of what I have to say about the convention itself.

At that convention the Democratic leadership used its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place. Among other things:

  • The chair of the convention announced that the convention rules passed on voice vote, when the vote was a clear no-vote. At the very least, the Chair should have allowed for a headcount.

That there was a clear no vote is a disputed assertion. Others there heard a clear yes vote. What you heard seems to have depended on where you sat in which camp. A headcount may have made the vote more palatable to people there, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a clear acceptance of the rules from the vantage of the stage. It also isn’t guaranteed, since the headcount of delegates wasn’t accepted by Sanders supporters.

In either case, a statement like this should acknowledge that the facts of the matter are in dispute. It should particularly do so when part of the statement is addressing charges that the campaign is spreading misinformation about what happened at the convention.

  • The chair allowed its Credentials Committee to en mass rule that 64 delegates were ineligible without offering an opportunity for 58 of them to be heard. That decision enabled the Clinton campaign to end up with a 30-vote majority.

Again, this is in dispute. The party says that only eight of these 64 delegates showed up at the convention and that six of those were seated. That would make the 30-vote majority the fault of those delegates who stayed home, even if you accepted the idea that most of them would be seated. This is also in dispute.

Again, Sanders should acknowledge this claim from the party and either accept or dispute it outright.

  • The chair refused to acknowledge any motions made from the floor or allow votes on them. The chair refused to accept any petitions for amendments to the rules that were properly submitted.

This charge comes from a memo written by Angie Morelli, one of the parties to the pre-convention suit. A major claim of that suit was tossed for being inaccurate, and there are parts of this memo that don’t match other accounts as well. Lange did not write the rules herself, but rather with the help of supporters of both campaigns. The memo repeats the count of 64 Sanders delegates refused credentials instead of two.

Most importantly, however, the claims included in Sanders’ statement are contradicted by statements from Sanders supporters elsewhere or precluded by convention rules (pdf). Delegates aren’t supposed to be able to make motions to change the rules from the floor of the convention. The chair is supposed to rule those attempts out of order. And if you’ve ever tried to run a day-long meeting, you’ll know why that is. Complaining that Lange did something wrong because she didn’t accept those motions is ignorant at best, but Morelli wasn’t ignorant of the rules. She’d been trying to change them via petition.

Then there’s the reason the petition wasn’t accepted. Other Sanders supporters told reporters something quite different from what Morelli said in her memo. “However, amid the chaos at the front of the room [i.e., Sanders supporters expressing their displeasure over a vote], the supporters said they missed their chance to make a motion and introduce their petitions.” So the reason petitions were refused was because they weren’t submitted during the appropriate window.

This has been on record since Saturday. As of yesterday (Tuesday), Sanders is still acting as though this information doesn’t exist.

These are on top of failures at the precinct and county conventions including trying to depose and then threaten with arrest the Clark County convention credentials chair because she was operating too fairly.

Actually, there was no failure from the party at the convention. The committee stopped Clinton’s camp from interfering. That was their job as party volunteers. That was the same job party volunteers had during the state convention. They did their jobs there too.

If this statement was meant to address the behavior of Sanders supporters during and after the Nevada convention, it failed. If it was meant to make a compelling case that Sanders was mistreated during the convention, it is self-servingly incomplete. Either way, it makes me less impressed by Sanders than I was already.

“Sanders Statement on Nevada”, Annotated
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12 thoughts on ““Sanders Statement on Nevada”, Annotated

  1. 1

    How ridiculous. You hate Sanders and his supporters and set out the spin his entire statement into every negative light possible. How dishonest. Any objective observer can see Sanders’ statement as full on condemnation of violence and harassment. Only to a blind Clinton supporter would this come off as disingenuous or dismissive and whining about false injustices.

    You do realize you’ll need Bernie supporters in November, right? Why do so many Clinton supporters go out of their way to hurl insults and belittle Sanders and anyone who supports him at every turn, do you think this is going to win his supporters over to your side? You are doing the exact opposite. Continue to insult and belittle his supporters. They’re either going to stay home or vote for another candidate in November. If you want Hillary to be our next President, you better start addressing Sanders and his supporters in a real way, and take the issues his base is bringing into the Democratic party platform. Attacking Sanders and his supporters in every way possible (well, except the actual substance of his issues – I’ve found critique of those surprisingly lacking) is a sure fire way to keep them from ever casting a vote for Hillary in November.

    Just my two cents.

  2. 2

    You’re so right. How could I ever have thought that critiques of the honesty and leadership ability of a presidential candidate were important? Silly me.

    Thanks for threatening me with Trump, though.

  3. 3

    Wow: “Attacking Sanders and his supporters in every way possible (well, except the actual substance of his issues – I’ve found critique of those surprisingly lacking) is a sure fire way to keep them from ever casting a vote for Hillary in November.”

    Really? You don’t think this critique has merit? Further, you haven’t seen any critiques that tackle the substance of Bernie’s plans? There’s quite a bit out there, if you cared to look. Instead I hear:

    If you really wanted [Bernie supporters] to [vote for Hillary] to help [prevent a Trump presidency] – you should have spoken nicely to them.

    If you really wanted [men] to [care about feminism] to help [end the oppression of women] – you should have spoken nicely to them.

    If you really wanted [white people] to [listen to people of color] to help [end white supremacy] – you should have spoken nicely to them.

    Why do I think that you had already made up your mind that you would never vote for Hillary even before this post? If you are planning on living in the states for the next four years, you’d better hope we CAN elect her without people like you. Thanks for nothing.

  4. 5

    Will you also take the media to task for exaggerating what happened at the convention? While countless reports have mentioned chairs being thrown, a man who briefly lifted one up was stopped and hugged…by another Sanders supporter. This was exactly what happened with the false reports of “English only” chants: a narrative is born and refuses to die.

    I also would hope that you subject inadequate statements from Clinton to this level of scrutiny. How about when she responded to African American activists by going on about how easily offended kids are these days?

  5. 6

    These anti-Bernie articles are preparatory work on a back-up plan to blame Sanders if Clinton happens to lose to Trump in November.
    I must say it’s weird for people who talk up their radical credentials to align with the Establishment candidate. Very weird.

  6. 7

    Mark W, I don’t know that the media has exaggerated anything. Yes, we have evidence that one person who picked up a chair was talked into putting it down. We also have reports that came from the convention that chairs were thrown. The reporter who first tweeted those reports still said afterward that there were witnesses to throwing. Could they be mistaken? Yes. Is this a product of media exaggeration? No. Should someone track down what happened? Probably, but it isn’t critical to talking about the atmosphere at the convention. We all know that a subset of Sanders supporters were riled up by misunderstandings and misinformation to the point where physical violence against people running the convention was a serious consideration.

    And the “You need to say something about X if you have anything to say about Y” is an old, boring derailing tactic. I don’t, actually. Someone does, certainly, but if it’s being done, I don’t need to repeat the work. I have, however, boosted several founded criticisms and defenses of Clinton on racial issues. That means you’ll go out and share this post with your Sanders-supporting friends, right?

  7. 8

    Gerard O, OMG, you caught us! Who let you into the planning meeting?! There’s no other way you could have learned the master plan!

    Given a choice between conspiracy theorizing and pointing out that reality matters and political candidates should stay attached to it, I’m going to go with I’m not the one acting weird here.

  8. AMM

    It may just be paranoia on my part, but I’m beginning to worry that Sanders isn’t just being a sore loser. I’ve heard (but don’t know if it’s true) that Sanders pledged not to launch a third-party candidacy if he failed to get the Democratic nomination, but if so, this kind of rhetoric sounds like he’s trying to build a case that any such pledge has been invalidated by the Clinton campaign.

    I remember the 2000 Bush-Gore campaign. If Sanders not only refuses to support Clinton, but tries to get his supporters to vote for somebody else, the possibility of a Trump presidency becomes a whole lot more believable.

    Unfortunately, a lot of Sanders supporters have been saying that they’d rather have Trump (or Cruz!) than Clinton.

    And Sanders’ long-standing practice of “going his own way” and refusal to join a political team he doesn’t run make that seem awfully likely.

    (Yes, “going his own way” is supposed to remind you of the MRA slogan “men going their own way.”)

  9. 10

    Everything I know about his political past says Sanders is mostly a sore loser. His confused personal messaging (as opposed to the confused campaign messaging) over whether he’ll support Clinton looks to me to be bearing out the idea that he’s decided to support the Democratic candidate, but he’s having a difficult time believing that this isn’t him. He’ll either get there in fairly short order, or he’ll lose a lot of the support that made his endorsement important. We can already see the second part of that happening over the last few days.

  10. 11

    Completely missing from Sanders’ statement: Any condemnation at all, even a nonapology, of the threats of violence made by his supporters against Clinton’s supporters and the organizing committee. He didn’t even say, “I don’t support violence but…”

  11. 12

    Note that in the primary (mine was months ago), I was not only a Sanders voter, I was a Sanders donor. I regret that decision now.

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