Bernie Sanders made a terrible tactical error when he refused to emphatically denounce the violent, bullying behavior of his supporters at the recent Nevada Democratic Party convention. Angered because some of them were refused seats as delegates for not following the rules of the convention, they threw chairs, screamed profanity and disrupted the business of the meeting.
The female chair of the Nevada party later received misogynistic, often threatening, emails, tweets, and phone calls, and the party headquarters was defaced the next day with profane graffiti. Rather than sternly rebuking such behavior, Sanders took a page out of Donald Trump’s playbook and tried to defend his people by talking about their passion for what they believed and repeating his insistence that the Democratic Party leadership is corrupt. Bernie Sanders is forgetting how the party has bent its rules time and again in Congress to give him positions of great power.
Back in 2005, when Sanders decided to run for the seat of retiring Sen. Jim Jeffords (R-VT), Chuck Schumer, who was the chair of the DSCC at the time, endorsed Sanders and warned other Democrats thinking of running that they would receive no monetary help if they ran against him. Also endorsing Sanders were minority leader Harry Reid and Howard Dean, who was then the head of the DNC. The feeling of party leaders was that Sanders stood the best chance of flipping a seat and helping Democrats regain control of the Senate by agreeing to caucus with Democrats. So, back then, Sanders wasn’t railing against the leadership or calling them corrupt.
Refusing to join the Democratic Party, Sanders steadfastly remained an independent who calls himself a democratic socialist. (By the way, there is a U.S. democratic socialist party he could lead if he wished.) Last year, as he prepared to run for the presidency, Sanders finally “joined” the Democratic Party because he knew he had no chance to win as an independent or a third-party candidate. His “allegiance” was predicated totally on his own self-interest, much like that guy who is getting the Republican Party nomination. Right now, Sanders sits on the Senate Budget Committee as the ranking member, thanks to the good graces of the party he‘s now denouncing, the party that gave an independent a choice seat that by rights should have gone to a Democrat with seniority who has worked for other Democrats, something Sanders has never done and still hasn’t pledged to do.
The positive aspects of the Sanders campaign – appealing to young voters, pushing Hillary Clinton to the left, drawing greater attention to the plight of the middle class – all of that’s in jeopardy because of the outsized ego Sanders is displaying and the boorishness of far too many of his supporters. If he’s smart, he’ll change his tune in June when the nomination will surely go to Hillary Clinton, who’s earned it by winning more votes than Sanders and by a life of dedicated service to the party. Otherwise, the senior senator from Vermont might find himself without a party home…and without any power in Congress. Payback would be very easy if he continues to act like he has for the past few months.