Not All Bernie Supporters Are the Same

Jul 30, 2016 by

As I’ve been watching this bizarre presidential campaign for the past year, I’ve been particularly fascinated with the Sanders campaign and how U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been able to amass an army of volunteers and a jaw-dropping war chest and to start a movement that evokes incredible emotion and passion.

In May of 2015 Sanders, an independent, announced he was running for the Democratic nomination against what seemed at the time to be an invincible Hillary Clinton. He was widely written off as the longest of long shots. But something extraordinary happened.

The grumpy, frumpy, 74-year-old self-described democratic socialist became the darling of the millennial generation. He held huge rallies attracting thousands and raised an unbelievable $180 million in what he described as small individual contributions averaging $27.

The campaign was well organized, well managed and well marketed with clever slogans and perhaps the best political ad of the campaign, using populist images with the Simon and Garfunkel song America. Still the media ignored him or downplayed his significance. But millions of Americans were Feeling the Bern.

Bernie attracted a few veteran politicians, celebrities and activists but his growing movement was primarily composed of political newcomers, the working class and millennials. He called it a political revolution and proposed sweeping reforms primarily addressing income and wealth inequality.

Supporters became revolutionaries and viewed Clinton as the enemy. They were loyal, enthusiastic and helped Sanders win 22 states. Bernie supporters viewed everything through the lens of victimhood. The establishment rigs the system for the wealthy and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) rigs the nomination process for Hillary.

Once fed a healthy diet of red meat, the revolutionary army was energized and combative. They interrupted Donald Trump rallies, demonstrated in Chicago, protested in front of CNN for its lack of coverage, and became confrontational in Nevada over what they believed was rigging of the delegate process.

Their aggressive tactics on social media earned them the moniker Bernie Bros. They started the rumor that Sanders won California—it went viral. He didn’t, Clinton won 56-43 percent.

When Clinton had the necessary delegates to become the presumptive nominee, some Bernie delegates would not and could not accept defeat. Sanders smartly used his newfound influence and power to extract platform positions that reflected his campaign priorities.

Sanders endorsed Hillary and tried to bring his supporters along. Many were happy to support Hillary, some were warming to the idea but not yet there and then there was a vocal group that refused to accept the Democratic Party’s delegate results and continued to disparage Clinton by taking a “never Hillary” stance going into the convention.

The Trump camp tried to stoke their anger by fueling their belief that Hillary’s victory was rigged or otherwise illegitimate. A well-orchestrated leak of DNC emails on the eve of the convention hurt the unity effort—as intended.

Some of Bernie’s hardcore revolutionaries ramped up their vitriol at Hillary and the DNC even though the party chair had stepped down. Philosophically they had much more in common with her positions than with Trump’s. Bernie urged them to unify to beat Trump, which should be their objective. Some booed him.

Their goal was to disrupt and they weren’t through disrupting. On the first night of the convention pockets of rebel delegates jeered speakers, including U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren.

Comedian Sarah Silverman, a Bernie supporter, spoke directly to them, saying we fought the good fight but came up short and now we must unite behind the party nominee. They booed her. In the most memorable line of the night Silverman said what many of us were thinking, “You Bernie-or-bust people are being ridiculous.”

Bernie took the stage to thunderous applause and delivered a unifying message while hitting his consistent themes. The camera scanned to numerous Bernie loyalists sobbing uncontrollably. It was a very powerful and heartfelt exhibition of their admiration and grief.

After day one the protests were fizzling out and unity and acceptance were starting to take hold. Bernie’s speech and the full roll call vote would prove to be cathartic to the vast majority of his supporters.

In the nominating speech for Sanders, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii described the movement as being fueled by love. Unfortunately, this love-filled movement had some hate-filled members.

Some groups went rogue by ignoring Bernie’s call for unity and planned to disrupt, get media attention and continue the revolution. To them, unity was selling out.

When you get people fired up—particularly those politically engaging for the first time—it’s hard to get them to lay down their arms—even for Bernie.

Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland. She can be reached at PBDockery@gmail.com.



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4 Comments

  1. Larry kuhn

    It should interest Republicans how little, if any of Trumps pronouncemenTs mention republican,beliefs, goals or principles…just “I” no “we”

    • Larry kuhn

      This kind of Canditate is new to American politics, but unfortunately not to many other nations to their sorrow.

    • Paula Dockery

      I agree.
      P