Diehard supporters of Bernie Sanders managed to boo, jeer or otherwise interrupt and disrespect an impressive roster of Democrats yesterday, including their champion himself when he appeared before them outside the convention. Here’s a list of the some of the people of color they mistreated: former head of the NAACP and Sanders supporter Ben Jealous, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio who is now chairing the convention, New York state Senator Adriano Espaillat who is running for Charlie Rangel’s Harlem seat in Congress, Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale who mentioned Hillary in her invocation, platform chair Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and immigration activist and actress Eva Longoria.
They also heckled others like former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Some particularly bad miscreants had to be aggressively shushed during First Lady Michelle Obama’s impressive speech. These behaviors were seen as problematic enough that Sanders fired off an email to his list begging people not to cause disruptions on the convention floor because they would damage the movement.
Charlie Pierce put it well.
Reverend Cynthia Hale delivered a lovely invocation, asking god to heal the wounds in our land and to make the rough ways smooth and so forth, and things were blissful, until she mentioned Hillary Rodham Clinton, and then half the hall erupted in a “Bernie! Bernie!” chant. If Roger Stone was paying these people with pilfered Russian oil rubles, he couldn’t have done a better job of having people ratfck themselves. I remain amazed.
In fairness to Pierce, he left the convention hall and met with the disenchanted Sanders folks outside, and then he wrote sympathetically and respectfully about their concerns. Still, he could not come around to the idea that their conspicuous displays of displeasure were a necessary and important stand on principle rather than a spectacularly self-defeating tantrum.
And, of course, Pierce could not help but point out the strong likelihood that Vladimir’s spies were puppet masters behind the scenes. But even former KGB officer Putin isn’t this effective. He needed help and he got it from some own goals that Clinton allies delivered on a poorly encrypted platter. He also got it in some of the psychological operations that Sanders folks ran against the Clinton campaign throughout the primaries.
Chief among these were false allegations of election tampering and fraud in places like Arizona, Brooklyn, Kentucky, California and Puerto Rico. That these things did not happen in a way that would have favored Clinton did not prevent the memes from spreading like wildfire, turning hoards of well-meaning Bernie fans into outraged lifetime opponents of Clinton.
Let’s take the most obvious example. Here are the election results for Brooklyn, New York.
Clinton 60% 174,236
Sanders 40% 116,327
As WNYC reported back in April, there were two significant and irregular voter purges in Brooklyn that resulted in about 120,000 people being improperly removed from the rolls. The chief clerk, a woman named Diane Haslett-Rudiano, was suspended without pay and you can join others in scouring her background and associations. One thing you should know, though, is that she is still listed as the Republican Commissioner of Overseas and Military Services for New York state’s board of elections.
Considering that Clinton won New York despite losing the vast majority of its counties, and that she carried the Brooklyn voters who could vote by twenty percentage points, and that the person ostensibly responsible for the purges is a Republican election commissioner, it seems highly unlikely that it was in Clinton’s interests to suppress the vote there. But let’s examine the question a little more.
In June, WNYC and NPR reported that the purge affected Latino voters the most:
On two dates — June 18 and July 5, 2015 — a total of 122,454 voters were removed from the rolls of registered voters in Brooklyn. This map shows the percentage of registered voters purged in each election district:
The concentrations of purged voters generally align with election districts where the majority of the population is Hispanic, based on the population of individual blocks that make up each election district in the 2010 Census.
According to the exit polls for New York’s primary, Clinton carried the Latino vote statewide by a 64 to 36 percent margin. She also carried the black vote 75 to 25 percent. Since 122,454 voters were removed from the rolls in areas populated by people who gave Clinton more than the 60 percent she won from Brooklyn as whole, it seems much more likely than not that Clinton came out much worse than Sanders. By my back of the envelope math, if all the purged voters had turned out, Clinton would have gained approximately 24,000 net votes. This is because the 60 to 40 percent countywide split would have translated to about 73,000 votes for Clinton and 49,000 votes for Sanders. Of course, these precincts being highly black and Latino implies that Clinton’s split would have been higher, but we know that many of these voters would not have voted even if they hadn’t been purged.
However you slice it, it doesn’t add up to a nefarious plot to steal the election from Sanders or to target his voters for disenfranchisement. There’s a candidate from New York who didn’t want Latinos to be registered to vote, but he isn’t a Democrat. He’s Donald Trump. If you want to know why a Republican commissioner purged 122,454 largely Latino voters off the rolls in the summer of 2015, maybe that’s a better place to aim your tinfoil hat. After all, the first purge took place a mere two days after Trump announced his candidacy on June 16th. At the time, no one in Clinton’s camp would have taken remotely seriously the idea that she might need to cheat to beat Bernie Sanders in the state she represented as senator. In fact, no one in Clinton’s camp would have ever believed that, and if they were going to do it, they would disenfranchise people from precincts and counties where Sanders would pile up votes, not places where he would bleed them.
That was a long digression, and I could make similarly long digressions to debunk theories of theft in California, Kentucky, Arizona and anywhere else these charges have cropped up. The important thing is that they have become articles of faith among a lot of #BernieorBust people who ought to know better but have gotten caught up in a false narrative every bit as beguiling as the Fox News-generated Benghazi! hysteria. These things don’t “just happen.” There are actual people who spread these memes for political, ideological and sometimes simply mercenary reasons. They are con men, at least initially. The second wave is made up of people who are sincerely outraged.
But the election was not stolen from Bernie Sanders, and while some highly placed people at the DNC did act inappropriately and disrespectfully, the weight of their thumbs was insufficient to sway the election.
To this day, the single most damaging thing the DNC is proven to have done to Sanders and the other challengers to Clinton was to schedule so few debates and to place them on weekends when viewership and news coverage would be at its lowest level. You can’t measure the influence of something like that, but I believe that it’s a real stretch to believe that it changed the outcome of the primaries.
But the sense of corruption and unfairness grew and grew until a news dump of Russian-pilfered emails seemed to confirm every unhinged, unchecked allegation.
To say that this benefits Trump and Putin is to put it mildly. Hillary Clinton can ill-afford to have her reputation for honesty and integrity falsely maligned by Democrats and Democratic delegates. She’s still carrying the baggage of twenty-five years of Republican smear tactics. Here and there, along the way, she’s added some legitimate targets for criticism, but that doesn’t justify accusing her of crimes and making false allegations against her.
In the end, Charlie Pierce is right. Yesterday, we watched people ratfck themselves in an amazing fashion, and they mostly did it with a clear conscience and a sense of moral righteousness.