Maria Cardona: Unrest at Democratic National Convention "should not and must not happen"
For another view: What's fueling the Democrats' war
Editor’s Note: Maria Cardona, a political commentator for CNN, is a Hillary Clinton supporter and Democratic Party superdelegate. She is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, which does work for a super PAC supporting Clinton. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.
It’s the day after another set of primaries, and Hillary Clinton has won the state of Kentucky while Bernie Sanders has won the state of Oregon. They both are to be commended. But what happened at the Nevada Democratic State Party Convention this past weekend when party leaders and representatives of both campaigns gathered to allocate delegates was a loss for Democrats everywhere.
By all reports, it was a raucous event that descended into uncontrolled anger on both sides and even death threats from Sen. Sanders’ supporters toward the Nevada state chair. There were ugly displays of disrespect toward revered Democratic Party leaders like California Sen. Barbara Boxer when she showed up to give a speech on behalf of Secretary Clinton.
Apparently, Sanders supporters were none too happy that some of their delegates did not get their credentials (this was decided by the Credentials Committee of the State Convention who had equal representation from both campaigns). In the end, Hillary Clinton was allotted more delegates (as per her win months prior).
The rules had been agreed upon early on by both campaigns, whose representatives were active in all phases of the convention process. But this did not prevent the vocal boos, thrown chairs, hurled obscenities or threats of bodily harm. As she should have been, Hillary Clinton got allotted more delegates, and her delegates were credentialed accordingly. But in the end, security had to shut down the convention because they could no longer guarantee public safety.
In a letter of complaint sent to the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, the general counsel of the Nevada Democratic State Party strongly condemned the actions of the Sanders campaign’s operatives and supporters. He and many other Democrats are concerned that what happened in Nevada is a precursor of what could happen at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer.
This should not and must not happen. The Nevada debacle was the pinnacle of frustration and disillusionment on behalf of Sanders supporters who wanted to give the candidate an advantage. While this goal is understandable, the tactics and methods reportedly used are inexcusable.
This unrest needs to be quelled by party leaders and representatives from both camps, including by Sen. Sanders himself. Supporters and activists from both campaigns need to respect the rules and be respected for their hard work and commitment.
Unfortunately, Sen. Sanders’ statement in the wake of the Nevada fiasco was inadequate at best, and at worst, could be seen as stoking the fires of discontent among his supporters. Importantly, he said he does not condone any violence. But he did little to quell the anger and in fact threw gasoline on the fire by accusing Nevada party leaders of cheating.
While it was heartening to hear Sanders’ campaign manager state unequivocally there would be no violence at the National Convention, Sen. Sanders himself should step up and disavow this behavior without qualification or pause.
Throughout this campaign, Democrats have been able to hold our heads high and be proud of the robust and passionate way we were conducting our primary process. It has been robust, passionate, and emotional. Personal attacks and ugly threats had been reserved for our counterparts on the other side of the aisle – thanks to their standard bearer Donald Trump, who proudly feeds the flames of division and blame.
Let’s keep it that way. We cannot disappear down that rabbit hole of conflict and disunity. If we do, we might as well give Donald Trump the keys to the White House right now.
I relate to the frustration of Sanders’ supporters. As a Hillary Clinton supporter, I was there in 2008. You put your heart and soul into the belief that your candidate is the best equipped to win and then the effort comes up short. It is nothing less than a heart-wrenching experience.
But real leaders take that raw disillusionment in their supporters and channel it toward the nation’s greater good on behalf of the agenda in which they believe and for which they continue to fight.
Sen. Sanders has a choice to make.
He can guide his followers into more productive means of expressing their frustrations and keep them from burning bridges that will help them achieve the progressive changes they had hoped to with Sanders at the helm.
He can tell them to lay off the violent behavior and threats and to help him see this through with dignity and enough leverage to make real change in the Democratic Party in Philadelphia.
He can still lead his followers to the Promised Land, even if that does not mean the White House. Sen. Sanders can claim he has already won. He has put critical issues front and center – changing the debate to more strongly represent the progressive values he has championed for so long.
He can take the high road, claim this win, stay in the race, continue fighting for progressive change – all while focusing his fire on Donald Trump, the Democrats’ real common foe.
For all Democrats, this is our most important task at hand and I, for one, will bet on Bernie Sanders doing the right thing.
Maria Cardona, a political commentator for CNN, is a Hillary Clinton supporter and Democratic Party superdelegate. She is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, which does work for a super PAC supporting Clinton. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.