Hanging with "The Bernouts" and Jill Stein: The Bernie-or-bust crowd is loud at the DNC — but they're powerless

Philly rally "starring" Jill Stein showed that the Bernie-or-bust crowd has been reduced to fringe characters

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published July 27, 2016 11:59AM (EDT)

Jill Stein speaks during a rally outside the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia,  July 26, 2016.    (Reuters/Dominick Reuter)
Jill Stein speaks during a rally outside the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 26, 2016. (Reuters/Dominick Reuter)
Even though the outpouring of rage from Bernie Sanders supporters on day one of the DNC was ugly, there are strong indications that it was little more than a childish fit. There is no real evidence that huge numbers think Hillary Clinton stole the primary or that we’re better off with Donald Trump as president.
By the end of Monday night, it seemed that Sanders had convinced his people to chill out. While some attention-seeking dead-enders charged swiftly towards cameras after Clinton cinched the nomination, most Sanders delegates had moved on. Inside the hall, the Sarah Silverman argument was prevailing.

But that doesn't mean the Bernie-or-bust crowd has gone away. They are spending the Democratic convention outside in the blazing hot sun, trying to persuade the world....well, of something. There's no coherent ideology being communicated, and my visit to a Tuesday Bernie or Bust rally, conducted by Revolt Against Plutocracy, did not do much to clarify matters.

Despite its ostensible left-leaning politics, the rally, held across the street from Philadelphia's famous city hall, reminded me of nothing so much as the Alex Jones/Infowars rally I attended last week at the RNC. The only major difference is that the Bernout crowd doesn't have nearly the same sway over the Democratic party as the Alex Jones fans have over the Donald Trump-controlled Republican party.

Like the Cleveland rally, this one was composed mostly of white men who really, really hate Hillary Clinton and aren't afraid to make wild accusations about the first woman to be a major party nominee for president. Or to carry signs that they probably did not realize communicate subconscious phallic fears of Clinton's ascension to power.


There were, however, no dudes openly carrying guns at this rally. So there is that.

Clinton was not the only woman who was being demonized in the shadow of the "Government of the People" sculpture. Sarah Silverman's slight about Bernie-or-busters being "ridiculous" at the DNC created a grudge that was being well-nursed at the rally.

Tim Black, the host of various online talk radio shows who bills himself "unfiltered, politically incorrect and downright offensive," was spitting nails about Silverman daring speak back to those who would boo her.

"Sarah Silverman has never been funny," Black declared before going on a rant about how it's Silverman and not the people at the rally who are ridiculous.

It was a moment of anti-comedian hostility from a talk show host that had strong echoes of Alex Jones, at his RNC rally, raving about "The Daily Show" and trying to make a spectacle out of the comedian Eric Andre. The main difference was that Jones had more of a sense of humor about it.

As with the Infowars rally, the theme of the day was extreme paranoia and intimations that shadowy conspiracies are aligned against the folks gathered. Many attendees sported signs suggesting that Clinton had somehow stolen the primary from them.


Kevin Connery, of Brooklyn, was standing in the plaza with some particularly provocative signs.


"We do not recognize her as the legitimate winner of this primary," Connery explained to me. "They stole our votes, at the end of the day. That's the most important thing and the thing that I, personally, am most angry about."

When asked what he meant by "stole our votes," Connery suggested that the voting machines were corrupted.

"According to exit polls, which are the internationally recognized to measure accuracy of our election results," he argued, Sanders should have done better than he actually did.

I recognized the conspiracy theory, which holds that exit polls prove that Clinton was manipulating the voting results through hazily described mechanisms. This theory is, no surprise, completely baseless and the result of wishful thinking and even outright lying about the accuracy of exit polls vs. the accuracy of actual voting booth results.

Connery ideas, which he backed up by citing Infowars-style conspiracy theory sites like TrustVote.org and Election Justice USA, reminded me quite a bit of the 9/11 truther theories that were popular with the folks at the Alex Jones rally in Cleveland.

Even though the star of the rally was Green party candidate Jill Stein, it was clear that most of the crowd was far more attached to the idea of Bernie Sanders.








They may believe Sanders betrayed them by backing Clinton, but for some reason, getting them to abandon him wholesale for Jill Stein, who speaks far more directly to the just-gotta-be-me rhetoric of the #NeverHillary crowd, just isn't winning them over.

While it's never fun to see people get so caught up in paranoia and muddled political thinking, this rally wasn't nearly as frightening as the Alex Jones rally at the RNC.

These folks ultimately don't matter that much. They are loud and are good at spreading conspiracy theories on the internet, but there's no evidence that they have much of a voice in the Democratic party, as evidenced by Sanders's passionate speech in favor of Clinton Monday night.

In contrast, the Infowars crowd doesn't just have a voice in the Republican party, they were a dominant presence at the RNC. Their "Hillary for prison" T-shirts were everywhere and they have the ear of the presidential candidate himself, who is no slouch in the conspiracy theory department.

Which is just one of the many differences these back-to-back conventions are exposing about the parties. With Democrats, the fringe weirdoes are a nuisance, but with Republicans, they are running the show.


By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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