I wrote on April 29th about an email from Senator Ted Cruz indicating that his presidential campaign had set up a “delegate defense fund” to help protect the convention delegates pledged to him who had received all sorts of intimidating comments and threats from people supporting Donald Trump, including evidently, death threats. Such comments also circulated in the media and appeared to have credibility. Trump supporters have in various ways publicly demonstrated their aggressive tendencies. Trump himself has done little to tamp down such activities.
Last Saturday the Nevada Democratic Party held its convention to select delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Hillary Clinton won the Nevada caucus on February 27th.
It seems that there was a rule for the Nevada convention that people who wanted to be chosen as delegates had to be Democrats by May 1. That does not seem unreasonable considering the delegates would be going to the Democratic National Convention a few weeks later. But for many Sanders supporters, and it appears Bernie himself, rules that don’t suit them are discriminatory.
The Nevada convention had to be shut down before it concluded its work, but it did not end there. The Washington Post reported:
Nevada’s Democratic party on Monday [May 16, 2016] warned the Democratic National Committee that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters have a penchant for violence and may seek to disrupt the party’s national convention in July, as they did during the Nevada convention Saturday.
The allegation is the latest fallout from a divisive Nevada Democratic convention that had to be shut down because security at the Paris Las Vegas hotel could no longer ensure order on Saturday night. The gathering closed with some Sanders supporters throwing chairs; later, some made death threats against state party chairwoman Roberta Lange.
Sanders’ backers had been protesting convention rules that ultimately led to Hillary Clinton winning more pledged delegates. Clinton won the state’s caucuses in February, 53-47, but Sanders backers hoped to pick up extra delegates by packing county and state party gatherings. [A total of four delegate spots were at issue.] …
Michael Briggs, a Sanders campaign spokesman, said, “We do not condone violence or encourage violence or even threats of violence.” He added that the campaign “had no role in encouraging the activity that the party is complaining about. We have a First Amendment and respect the rights of the people to make their voices heard.”
Several Sanders backers have condemned some of the threats against Lange and other actions Saturday. Former state assemblywoman Lucy Flores, a current congressional candidate, said in a statement: “There were actions over the weekend and at the Democratic convention that very clearly crossed the line. Progressives need to speak out against those making threats against someone’s life, defacing private property, and hurling vulgar language at our female leaders.”
State party offices remained closed Monday for security reasons after Sanders supporters posted Lange’s home and business addresses, email and cell phone number online.
Lange said she’d been receiving hundreds of profanity-laced calls and texts from inside and outside of the U.S., threatening her life and her family.
“If-I-didn’t-win-the-system-is-rigged” is the Sanders campaign mantra. He and his supporters seem to walk around with a giant chip on their shoulders. It’s been a pretty consistent excuse wherever Sanders has lost.
A candidate, particularly a presidential candidate, cannot control everything said or done by his or her supporters. In the heat of the battle things get said that folks have not thought through.
But what a candidate can do and must do to demonstrate leadership is to both clearly denounce hateful speech or actions on the part of their supporters and to tell them to cease and desist. The candidate must demonstrate that such actions are not tolerated and that the haters should leave the campaign.
Sanders’ reaction to the Nevada convention chaos was a verbal middle finger in the air. There was no pledge to get his supporters to end their uncivil and violent behavior. Another Washington Post story noted:
By Tuesday afternoon (May 17th), Sanders’s campaign responded in a defiant tone, condemning alleged threats made against party officials but standing by supporters who are unhappy about what transpired at the convention.
The [Nevada State Democratic Party’s] letter details behavior of a small number of Sanders supporters who, angry at a vote rejecting proposed changes to the rules of the day, protested loudly over the course of the day’s proceedings. That anger was heightened by the fact that, despite Sanders’s team having managed to get more people elected to attend the event, more delegates for Hillary Clinton showed up on Saturday. Clinton had about 30 more people in the room — but nearly 60 Sanders delegates were rejected for not being registered Democrats by the May 1 deadline. …
“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,” Sanders said. … “Unfortunately, that was not the case at the Nevada convention.”
Sanders ticked off four specific complaints: passing the convention rules by a voice vote rather than counting actual votes, not allowing the ineligible delegates to make their cases, and refusing to allow motions from the convention floor or petitions for amendments to party rules.
Sanders cast the episode as the latest evidence of the national party trying to silence the grassroots.
“The Democratic Party has a choice,” Sanders said. “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 that is destroying this planet. 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.” …
[T]he end result of the Nevada vote yielded four more delegates for Clinton than if the vote had gone the other way — just a bit over 1 percent of what Sanders needs to pass Clinton in the pledged delegate total.
I will not go into any recitations about what Sanders has accomplished in his campaign. There may be a lot to say about that later in the year, but for now Sanders is on probation. If he can wrap up his campaign on June 14 and then move on to an effort to elect Clinton over Trump, there will be plenty of time to comment. Otherwise he will fall into the Ralph Nader category of candidates whose campaigns were simply exaggerated ego trips. Only time will tell.
And while we’re on Bernie
Sanders’ argument about how the system is rigged often channels back to how terrible it is that some states only allow Democrats to vote in Democratic Party primaries.
Every state has some quirks in its election system. Some do not register voters by party. Some allow election-day declarations of party loyalty. Some allow independents to choose whatever party they choose to affiliate with for a primary day.
Sanders only became a Democrat in the past few months, if in fact he is actually a registered Democrat at this time. His participation in the Democratic Senate Caucus is as much a convenience for himself to secure some standing as anything.
A lot is spoken and written about fusion voting in New York State, which allows our six minor parties to endorse candidates who do not belong to the various minor parties. Joe Crangle has preached against the system for many years. Alan Bedenko often criticizes the system in his blog posts. Even some Republicans are now talking about ending open primaries, having seen the damage that Trump has brought to their brand.
Allowing non-party members to vote in a party’s primaries is just a corollary to fusion voting. My vote is for limiting all primary participation to party members only and to ending fusion voting in New York State. I will not, however, hold my breath waiting for these changes to happen.
Updates to previous posts
Some short updates:
- Time Warner’s Ryan Whalen provided additional information on the NYstateofpolitics blog about former Senator George Maziarz’ consultant/lobbyist activities. You can read it here.
- The Erie Community College Board of Trustees approved the Start-Up New York deal with BlackRock, as detailed in our April 7th post. Businesses approved for Start-Up New York participation don’t have to pay state sales or business taxes and new hires are also exempt from state income tax. Approval of the deal now has moved to the Amherst Industrial Development Agency, which had previously approved tax breaks for BlackRock. The firm manages more than $4 trillion in assets worldwide. Except for some discussion about hiring ECC interns by BlackRock, how the college fits into this deal with the firm is not clear. BlackRock’s data center is housed locally in a gated facility in West Amherst, miles from the closest ECC campus. Perhaps there is a nice “quad” hiding behind that fence and gate.
- Speaking of Start-Up New York, The Albany Business Review notes that the economic development agency is six weeks behind in releasing its annual report for the year that ended on December 31, 2015. The report is supposed to detail how many jobs the program has created. Maybe there is not much to report. Or perhaps it is just that the economic development folks in Albany are too tied up with pending legal matters to get around to issuing the report.