When Bernie Sanders Mirrors Donald Trump
FlaglerLive | May 23, 2016
By Nancy Smith
When the shoe’s on the other foot, notice how badly Bernie Sanders wears it.
The same Democratic candidate who decried Donald Trump for condoning violence in North Carolina in March turned right around and did the same thing in Nevada when his rally devolved into chaos. He condoned it.
He demanded Trump apologize for one of his supporters’ actions. Demanded it. But after Saturday in Nevada, he won’t apologize for his own supporters’ threatening actions — an incident that scared the pants off Democratic party leaders.
You know how I despise hypocrisy, and here we are again.
Remember when Sanders pointed at Trump and declared, “No one in America should ever fear for their safety” at a political rally? I agreed at the time. No one ever should.
Well, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. and Nevada Democratic Party Chairwoman Roberta Lange who participated in Sanders’ rally Saturday told CNN Wednesday they feared for theirs. Each in those exact words: “I feared for my safety.”
Here’s how convention organizers in part described the scene at the Paris casino in Las Vegas: “Scuffles, screams from bullhorns, and profane insults marked nearly the entirety of the event. Numerous medical emergencies among delegates pressed up against the dais had to be attended to throughout the day.”
Lange said she later received a number of voice mails and text messages from across the country that included threats of violence; some included Lange’s home address. Her phone number and the address of the party headquarters were distributed on social media.
The Nevada Democratic Party filed a formal complaint Monday against Bernie Sanders’ campaign. In the letter to the national party, it went so far as to accuse the Sanders campaign of fomenting violence.
The three-page letter from the Nevada state party’s counsel reads, in part:
“We write to alert you to what we perceive as the Sander [sic] 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. …”
Top Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid, called for Sanders to address the matter, saying it’s a “test of leadership” for him.
Reid didn’t get the answer he was looking for. The Sanders campaign said flatly Tuesday afternoon that the accusation it incited violence is “nonsense.” It went on to detail complaints about how Nevada and other states have handled their delegate processes.
All Sanders would say is, “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.”
Maybe there is some truth in what he says. Certainly, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz hasn’t been his friend. But it doesn’t explain why he failed to take charge of a most inappropriate situation Saturday in his capacity as a leader — addressing his supporters’ bad behavior on the spot.
All of this reminds me of a town meeting four years ago when an audience participant stepped forward and called Barack Obama “an Arab, not an American.” Republican presidential nominee John McCain quickly and curtly corrected him, then moved on. It was a public put-down of one of his supporters, voiced in the spirit of doing what is right. I admired him for that, and so, I think, did other TV viewers of both parties.
It seems to me neither Trump nor Sanders is able to do that. Apologies aren’t them. Neither are attempts to set their supporters straight.
“Sanders doesn’t seem very interested just now in preserving goodwill he’s built up within the Democratic Party after losing the nomination,” writes the New York Times’ John Harwood, the dean of the Nevada press corps. “And the reaction to the vanquishing was akin to the petulant mewling of a baby who had been pampered until the moment he first was told no, wailing with no purpose other than to be loud. And just like an infant, the Sanders folks wanted it to be all about them … I seriously doubt he can put out the fire he has set.”
That sums it up pretty well.
You know what’s really frightening to me? Sanders really does believe he’s leading an old-fashioned Red Square-style revolution, does believe he’s been wronged, does believe his voters all will be stolen away from him at the convention in Philadelphia. Never mind that he’s lost. He’s like a pilot who’s flown an epic journey against all odds but just never could land his plane first. He’s discovered a greatness within himself, and now will never be able to accept going back. Bernie may honor his promise to join Hillary, but I have a feeling he won’t sound real. He will betray a sense of bitterness. He’ll try to do the right thing, but he will never believe in the unity he’ll preach.
His followers will know it. And we’ll have to see how badly it will hurt Hillary Clinton.
Nancy Smith is the editor of Sunshine State News. She started her career at the Daily Mirror and The Observer in London before spending 28 years at The Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News as managing editor and associate editor. She was president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors in the mid-1990s. Reach her by email here, or follow her on twitter at @NancyLBSmith.