Bernie Sanders (AP/Elaine Thompson)

Bernie Bros out of control: Explosion of misogynist rage at Nevada's Dem chairwoman reflects terribly on Sanders' dwindling campaign

Sanders backers have been flooding Roberta Lange with sexist abuse because of the loss of 4 delegates


Amanda Marcotte
May 17, 2016 11:18PM (UTC)

There continues to be ugly fallout from the bizarre happenings at the Nevada state Democratic convention, where convention-goers, mostly Bernie Sanders supporters, screamed and freaked out and verged on rioting in anger over convention rules perceived to disfavor their candidate. The battle was as ugly as it was inconsequential — the number of delegates being fought over is far too small to make a difference at the national convention — suggesting that the rage on display, which is pouring out in online Sanders supporter circles as well, was not really about a principled object to the arcane rules of one state's convention, but about many Sanders supporters simply refusing to accept that their candidate has lost the primary race to Hillary Clinton.

Reporter Jon Ralston — who is getting hammered on social media by those who reject his reporting that paints the angry Sanders supporters at the convention in a negative light — posted a new update to his blog Monday afternoon that will not endear him any more to those who deny that sexism or paranoia is fueling the ugliness coming from Sanders supporters.

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"Sample of voicemails left for state Democratic Chairwoman Roberta Lange," the headline reads. What follows is no surprise to any woman who has dared say nice things about Clinton online, though it will surprise those who bought into claims that "Bernie Bros.," i.e. the chunk of Sanders supporters whose "socialism" is mostly about keeping women out of office, are just a myth.

"I just wanted to let you know that I think people like you should be hung in a public execution to show this world that we won’t stand for this sort of corruption," one man said in a voicemail for Lange. "You cowardless bitch, running off the stage! I hope people find you."

"You fucking stupid bitch! What the hell are you doing? You’re a fucking corrupt bitch!" another man said in a voicemail.

"You’re a cunt. Fuck you!" another man said, in a to-the-point voicemail.

Women also left voicemails, but they were less likely to call Lange a "cunt" or a "bitch." Lange was also subject to many threatening text messages, which the Nevada Democrats put online.

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The reason Lange is getting hammered like this — reporters who've tried to call her for comment can't even reach her, because he voicemail is so full — is because angry Sanders supporters posted her phone number in multiple places, often alongside pictures of dead animals.

Sanders supporters are angry with Lange ostensibly because, as Charles Pierce (himself a Sanders supporter) lays out, the complex rules of the convention led to Sanders netting 4 fewer delegates than anticipated. There are some other factors involved, such as the fact that the Clinton campaign did a better job at filling their allotted state delegate chairs than the Sanders campaign and the fact that the convention rules disallowed people who aren't Democrats from filling chairs, but the important takeaway here is that all this is over four national delegates. In a state where Clinton actually won the caucus, putting her ultimate delegate haul right about where you'd expect it to be based on that win.

Under the circumstances, it's hard to really buy the argument that this eruption of anger is really about some kind of moral outrage in the face of injustice. This is made all the more apparent by the role that gender is playing in all this, and not just because words like "bitch" and "cunt" are so favored by Sanders supporters expressing their displeasure at losing.

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After all, it's not just Lange that Sanders supporters are villainizing. Barbara Boxer's presence at the convention seems to have caused a near-meltdown in the crowd there. Considering that the majority of Democratic leadership is still male, it's hard to really buy that it's just a remarkable coincidence that it's female leaders who get the lion's share of the hate from Sanders supporters.

Which isn't to say this is all about sexism. A lot of the problem is because the Sanders campaign is a dead campaign walking. There's no way Sanders can win at this point. It creates a situation where some of the more realistic and sober-minded Sanders supporters are cutting their losses and moving on. (This is probably why Sanders had so much trouble filling out all his delegate seats but Clinton did not.) Without the moderating force of the more realistic Sanders supporters, the voices of the dead-enders — who are more prone to rage, misogyny, and conspiracy theories — have a disproportionate influence.

Still, it's not like the campaign has been whittled down to nothing but dead-enders. Sanders could, if he wanted to, do a lot to rein in the worst elements, by asking people to chill out and behave respectfully.

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Unfortunately, there's no sign that the campaign really wants to do that. Sure, they are issuing rote condemnations of violence, but beyond that, the Sanders camp seems unwilling to ask people to dial down the sexism and conspiracy theories to focus on the issues.

In a statement responding to the Nevada convention, for instance, the Sanders campaign said that while they don't condone violence, they encourage the party "figure out a way to welcome people who have been energized and excited by his campaign into the party."

Sorry, but calling a woman at home to spew misogynistic vitriol at her isn't being "energized and excited". It's being hateful and bigoted. The Democrats should prioritize making the party safe for women, not safe for men who like to yell "cunt" at them.

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Disturbingly, Sanders's top aide, Jeff Weaver, couldn't bring himself to issue a full-throated denunciation of these antics on CNN Tuesday, either. Instead, he played footsie with the conspiracy theorists, accusing the party of  being run "undemocratically" and insinuating that it's due to an "unwillingness on the part of the Nevada Democratic Party to bring in all of the new people that Bernie Sanders has brought into the process."

It is worth remembering at this point that Clinton won the Nevada caucus and that the Sanders folks were able to manipulate the system to get him more delegate seats at the convention, which would have netted them more delegates if Sanders people had bothered to show up. It's true that the system is a disaster, but it's also true that the claims that it's "undemocratic" were not coming from Sanders supporters when they thought they had a chance at chipping away at the victory that actual voters gave Clinton earlier this year.

Sanders himself had a perfect opportunity to put a kibosh on all the craziness on Tuesday, when asked about it by NBC News. He could have played the role of the conciliator, telling his supporters they fought the good fight but you can't win them all — Clinton's concession speech to Barack Obama from 2008 is a good model — Sanders simply walked away.

This is irresponsible of Sanders and his campaign. They know full well that they have lost this campaign and that Clinton has millions of more votes than he does. Sanders needs to issue a full-throated denunciation of not just the violence, but of the misogyny and the conspiracy theories. The refusal to do so, even when directly offered an opportunity, speaks volumes.

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Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. Her new book, "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself," is out now. She's on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte

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