Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Democratic establishment's anathema against Bernie Sanders and his supporters

May 17 is looking more and more to me like a turning point in internal Democratic Party politics. That's the day that Democratic National Committee Chair and Clinton partisan Debbie Wasserman Schultz pronounced her anathema against Bernie Sanders and all his works and all his supporters. As reported by Politico (Daniel Strauss, Sanders defends campaign, accuses Nevada Democrats of bias 05/17/2016):

"We are deeply concerned about the troubling details laid out in the letter from the Nevada Democratic Party," Wasserman Schultz said in the statement on Tuesday. "We will be reaching out to the leadership of both of our campaigns to ask them to stand with the Democratic Party in denouncing and taking steps to prevent the type of behavior on display over the weekend in Las Vegas. Our democracy is undermined any time threats, intimidation, physical violence or damage to property are present. If there are legitimate concerns, they must be addressed in an orderly, civil and peaceful manner."
The political meaning of Clinton campaign's and now the official Party hierarchy's accusations against Clinton is more than just intensified pressure for Sanders to drop out. This looks to me like a signal, or maybe more like a screaming declaration, that Clinton has no intention of making any special appeal to Sanders supporters. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it seems to me that Clinton's campaign doesn't even want Sanders to campaign for the Democratic ticket. And that there will be no special effort to turn out younger, new voters in November.

Given the arrogance and conventional thinking by the Democratic Party leaders, I believe they are going on the assumption that Trump will be such a weak candidate that At Least She's Not A Republican will be more than enough to get Clinton elected. It's very likely a setup for Hillary to start taking a more distinctly conservative campaign stance, probably emphasizing the wars she wants to start or escalate and a law-and-order stance or some other posturing to appeal to Republicans. Presumably she won't go back to calling for bringing black "superpredators" to heel like she did in the 1990s.

The anathema against Sanders and his supporters as violent rabble acting like the Stormtrumpers is a dramatic change from the patting-on-the-head position that they've taken before. As in, oh, Bernie Sanders has such cute ideas and it's nice that the silly idealistic young people were excited by it. But of course it's all very silly and unrealistic. Break up the too-big-to-fail-banks? Overturn Citizens United? [Knowing chuckle] Those BernieBros must be taking too many bong hits or something!

The Democratic Party anathema against Sanders is the best label I can think of at this point. We could call it the Nevada Incident. But what "incident" are we talking about? The Clinton campaign is trying to tar Sanders and his supporters not only with heckling and grumbling from Sanders delegates at last Saturday's state party convention. The are accusing Sanders and his supporters of aiding and abetting acts of violence at that convention, specifically fistfights and throwing chairs at people. In addition, Some of this is done by accusation and some by innuendo facilitated by our lazy mainstream press. In addition and more seriously, they are tarring the Sanders campaign with serious death threats - federal felonies - that Nevada Democratic Chair Roberta Lange claims that she has received, even including a threat against her small grandchild.

The pile-on is now being joined by Democratic partisans more generally, including media outlets. Here is Josh Marshall, for instance: It Comes From the Very Top TPM 05/18/2016. Joe Biden has put the Obama Administration's stamp of approval on the metaphorically tarring and feathering of Bernie Sanders and his supporters with claims of felony violence and death threats whose factual basis is shaky, much less any concrete ties to the Sanders campaign or even individual Sanders supporters: Caitlan MacNeal, Biden: Sanders Will Need To Be 'More Aggressive' In Reining In Supporters TPM Livewire 05/19/2016.

For Hillary Clinton to go the pseudoscandal route against Sanders may be understandable if unethical hardball politics. But the same media gullibility that has given this Nevada "Incident" the widespread publicity it has received with a remarkable thin factual basis in the public record so far is the same media gullibility and disregard for basic journalism that has so often given the Clinton pseudoscandals directed at both Bill and Hillary far more publicity and respectability than they should have had. Carelessly feeding that particular media addiction may come back to bite the Clinton campaign big time. (See Sean Wilentz' Will Pseudo-Scandals Decide the Election? The American Prospect 12/19/2001 on the "pseudoscandal" concept.)

Part of what this has accomplished for the Clinton campaign dirty-tricks operation (also known less politely as ratf*****g) is that the rudeness and heckling by Sanders delegates on Saturday has now been conflated with unfounded accusations of felonious violence and death threats. The delicate flowers at the Clinton campaign had their feelings hurt when Sanders people were rude over the Clinton people's heavy handed parliamentary tactics? Well, boo-hoo. Barbara Boxer claims she felt in danger for her life because people were heckling her while she was surrounded by a phalanx of security people? Please. She's a Senator from California. I'm sure this is not the first time she's been heckled and booed.

I see that Van Jones is taking a bit of a both-sides-do-it approach. (David , Van Jones escalates war with Debbie Wasserman Schultz: ‘I wish Reince Priebus was my party chair’ Raw Story 05/18/2016) Given the unfounded accusation of felonious conduct the Clinton partisans are hanging on the Sanders campaign, a both-sides-do-it position isn't entirely appropriate at the moment. But in the context of the Democratic establishment's full court press against Sanders over the Nevada "Incident," I'm happy to see Jones calling out DWS in particular. This is also good to see: Lisa Hagen, Wasserman Schultz faces million-dollar primary challenger The Hill 05/18/2016.

But even though the story is now mainly about the Clinton anathema and Sanders and his supporters, I do think the facts of the Nevada "Incident" matter a lot.

The recent incident/accusations against actor and Clinton supporter Wendell Pierce provides a useful contrast. It would be foolish to blame on the Clinton campaign for the act of which Pierce is accused. (See: 'The Wire' Star Arrested for Allegedly Attacking Bernie Sanders Supporter TMZ 05/15/2016; Rodney Ho, Wendell Pierce, hotel guest tell cops differing accounts of fight that led to his arrest Atlanta Journal-Constitution 05/17/2016) But what we have in that story is a specific individual accused of some kind of assault; the two complaining victims called hotel security made a police statement; there was an additional supporting witness to the specific acts alleged; the police arrested Pierce; and there's not really a question that he was a Hillary supporter and that was supposedly what the argument was about. None of this means he's guilty, of course.

But in the Nevada case, major press outlets and leading Democrats are treating it as an established fact that fistfights and throwing chairs at people in a big party meeting occurred and were followed up by death threats. And they are blaming not just Sanders supporters but the whole campaign and even Bernie Sanders himself. But I haven't heard that there is anything remotely like the kind of evidence in the Wendell Pierce case against anybody at all, or that an individual as been identified as doing these things, or even any confirmation from witnesses or videos that any of these things actually *happened*. And the Nevada convention was on Saturday, five days ago, and it's been a major political story all week.

Has anybody filed formal police complaints over these alleged crimes? Has any reporter actually verified any of this stuff? This additional story from Megan Masserly does say, "Local police have said they are looking into the threats made against Lange and other state Democratic officials." (Clinton adds to delegate lead with Nevada convention win Las Vegas Sun 05/14/2016) But isn't it odd that the convention involved violent fracuses but Masserly, the Las Vegas Sun reporter on the scene, didn't notice it? Local reporters aren't known for holding back if they directly witnessed violent incidents that have now been national news for days. The stories I see posted from the Las Vegas Review-Journal are equally reticent about the alleged felonious acts. (See articles linked below.) Debbie Wasserman Schultz was on CNN Wednesday saying that Sanders should condemn "that specific conduct." So whether "that specific conduct" actually took place at all really matters.

But Messerly's a UC-Berkeley graduate, so maybe she's part of the big Bernie plot or whatever it is the talking heads and Clinton surrogates are calling it. Five days after the Nevada "Incident," what's in the public record as actual evidence of the alleged crimes is remarkably meager. One story from the Las Vegas Review-Journal said that pro-Sanders protesters were "defacing walls and sidewalk with chalk." So there's that.

Here are three video reports on the anathema against Sanders. CNN Panel Shows Its Clinton Bias The Young Turks 05/17/2016:

Was Nevada Democratic convention fight sign of greater party divide? PBS Newshour 05/17/2016, including John Ralston, who Cenk Uygur mentions in the preceding video as someone who has been distinctly averse to Sanders in his reporting:

Hillary Supporter Reveals Corruption At Nevada Democratic Convention The Young Turks 05/18/2016:

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Doubles Down On Bernie Lies 05/18/2016:

CNN Hosts Yell At Bernie Sanders Supporters The Young Turks 05/18/2016:

Other stories on the Nevada "incident" and the Clinton campaign's allegations: