Seeing and hearing the furor at the Democratic National Convention from Bernie Sanders supporters was quite a spectacle last week. Certainly they are at least as passionate as Ron Paul supporters I know, and their passion was ignited with anger with the recent DNC email leaks showing how the party machine worked against him. I’d say they are justified in their anger, but did any of them really expect differently going into it all?
The Clintons are legendary for playing the game of politics. Even though I was in junior high school when Bill ran for president, it was glaringly obvious that his wife had political ambitions of her own. She didn’t even wait for her husband’s name to be off the door before moving to a state in which she had never lived to seek a Senate seat. She wasted no time making a play for president in the middle of a second term and securing a cabinet position from a rival whom she had raked over the coals in the primary.
This isn’t limited to races for public and appointed office. The Clintons built a fairly vast network of supporters across the Democratic Party in every single state. After being bested by a relatively unknown upstart in 2008, Clinton made sure that every contact she had made would have some kind of position of power within the party structure, both nationally and in each state, to ensure it would not happen again.
Ironically, these very things needed to obtain political power are the very things that turn most people off about the Clintons. While building these political connections, they’ve also been leveraging the business side of them, dramatically increasing their net worth as a near direct result of politicking. This has also made them very chummy with donors that have deep pockets, people like Mark Cuban and Warren Buffett (who, I would note, haven’t been typecast as “evil rich people” because their political support is on the “correct” side). It’s this giant confluence of money and influence that build political dynasties and results in a candidate that has to be at least a little wishy-washy on political positions to keep competing interests contented.
So in the face of all of this, what did Bernie Sanders and his supporters think was going to happen?
He’s never been a man for party politics, running as an independent or third-party since 1971. Other than having some friends in the Democratic Party, the closest a major party will ever get ideologically to a hardcore socialist, he was basically an outsider to the machine. He didn’t court large donors instead relying on small donations, something that put him at a significant financial disadvantage. His entire playbook was “speak truth to power” and expect that the electorate would simply fall in behind him.
Don’t get me wrong. Sanders pulled off a small miracle getting as close as he did to securing the nomination, especially as a party outsider. He managed to get a huge chunk of supporters to the convention to try to change the direction of the party. I see a lot of Sanders supporters now focusing on down-ballot races. I would have personally voted for him in the general election over Trump. But winning the nomination? As I pointed out over a year ago, it wasn’t going to happen.
Unfortunately for them, they are squandering this opportunity to shape the party much in the same way that Paul supporters did in 2012 with the GOP. The constant heckling during the convention, the storming of media tents, the juvenile fart-in (yes, you read that correctly) are all signs of a movement that is largely more interested in feel-good actions than do-something ones. Losing the race can be recovered from, not losing your grace.
Is it a bitter pill to swallow that Democrats now have to stomach a compromise candidate that embodies some of the worst aspects of the political process (not to mention policy positions that give many progressives the heebie jeebies)? Absolutely. But take it from a right-libertarian in the GOP, insulting the people who won and flipping the tables on your way out the door as your ragequit isn’t going to fix it.