#FeelTheBern Blowback: When People-Powered Politics Backfires


Last weekend’s Nevada delegate-selection dust-up seems to have tested the patience of many on the Left who’d been sympathetic to Sen. Sanders but who weren’t full-on Berners. The Daily 202 rounds up some high points from the resulting criticism, much of it pointing to the candidate’s role in convincing his supporters that if he loses, it means that the system is rigged. (I heard that theory personally from many Sanders supporters at an activist training a couple of weeks ago.)

The idea is fundamentally absolutist, since it allows only one explanation for Democratic voters choosing Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders: the Establishment gamed the process to ensure her victory and preserve an unjust status quo. The danger, of course, is that his people see any setback (including this weekend’s opaque Nevada delegate-selection process) as the triumph of outright evil. Perish the thought that millions of Democratic voters preferred her to him to be the next president!

Nevada’s scuffles and protests possibly portend a chaotic Democratic convention. But, Bernie himself could kill the protests aborning if he chooses, since his voice is golden to his mass of supporters. Will he? Assuming Clinton maintains her delegate lead, he needs to — unless he wants to risk a President Trump wrecking everything he stands for.

For another glimpse into what can go wrong when supporters go overboard, let’s look back to a segment from last month’s Technology Bytes. The piece first covered a pro-Hillary SuperPAC’s intention to spend a million dollars to counter attacks on Clinton by posting online comments. What could possibly go wrong with a project that reeks of sock-puppetry? It might just go as badly as this:

Blowback Alert: Sanders Superdelegate Edition

More fun on the grassroots front: as has been reported, Sanders supporters have been publicly posting contact information for Democratic superdelegates and encouraging people to help “persuade” them to endorse the Vermont senator.

I spoke with a superdelegate recently who’s publicly backing Clinton and who’s been hearing about it from the Sanders grassroots. Activists have sent her harsh condemnations via email and Tweets that include things like “traitor” and “bitch”, plus a four-letter word that rhymes with “stunt”. Her point, besides annoyance and disgust: why would calling her names possibly convince her to change her position? If anything, Bernie’s over-zealous and self-selected “ambassadors” may do him more harm than good.

Did you notice that wave of superdelegates switching their support to Sanders? Neither did I — in their zeal, his people won him no friends. A preview of the summer of 2016?


Written by
Colin Delany
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