Sanders Needs To Condemn His Supporters

by Rosie Holden Vacanti Gilroy

The Donald is no longer the only candidate backed by a violent contingency. At Nevada's Democratic caucus on Saturday, Bernie Sanders' supporters demonstrated their own brand of misconduct. When it became evident that the senator would not win the state, Sanders' supporters at the Las Vegas convention booed speakers, threw chairs, threatened party leaders, and brought a tumultuous end to the caucus.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sanders released a statement on the incident. However, he did not condemn his supporter's actions. Instead, he addressed the claims that his supporters can be violent, calling such accusations "nonsense." He did condemn violence, but did not associate such violence with his supporters. He also challenged the Democratic Party, stating:

The Democratic Party has a choice. It can open its doors and welcome 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, remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions and be a party with limited contribution and limited energy.

There's no doubt that the people Sanders describes should feel welcomed within their political party. However, Sanders failed to acknowledge that his supporters are far from perfect, and that actions like these need to be stopped — that way, their voices will be better heard.

It's impossible not to be disappointed in Sanders' voters after such behavior. However, I'm disappointed with Sanders, too. Even though he urged them to work "respectfully and constructively on Saturday at the Nevada Democratic convention," and he certainly did not incite or condone violent or disrespectful behavior, he has yet to personally denounce his supporters actions at the Nevada convention.

This comes down to more than working toward eventual party-unity — Sanders needs to call out these supporters because their behavior has crossed the line and become dangerous. For instance, the Nevada Democratic Party chairwoman, Roberta Lang, was not only protested at the convention, but has also since received numerous death threats and countless threatening phone calls and text messages. One even threatened to come after her grandchildren.

California Senator Barbara Boxer was also subjected to absurd behavior on Saturday, even if it was not violent. Although she called out the crowd and assured them that Sanders would not approve of such conduct, Boxer was loudly booed as she attempted to give her speech.

The incident led the Nevada Democratic Party to write a letter to the Democratic National Committee on Monday, warning that Sanders supporters are prone to violence. Part of the letter read:

We write to alert you to what we perceive as the Sanders 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.

So where is Bernie Sanders? What happened in Nevada certainly should not be allowed to happen again, and it seems to me that only Sanders himself will be able to ensure this. A letter from Nevada's Democratic Party certainly will not lead to an end to the misconduct, since it was the party that angered the Sanders supporters in the first place.

According to The Washington Post, Sanders' supporters at the convention in Nevada believed that the rules favored his opponent, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and thus refused to concede the race. However, Clinton only won five more delegates than Sanders' 15, meaning that either way, the caucus had little effect on the primary race. No amount of delegates is enough to actually fight over, but this number seems particularly insignificant, considering the race as a whole. If Sanders' supporters were this upset over five delegates, I too worry what is to come at the convention in July. Not to mention how Democratic Party unity seems farther off every day.

Senator Sanders, it's time for you to condemn violence and disruptive disrespect from your supporters — no political race should include such behavior. In the end, it's just politics.