With this new blow-up over whatever happened over the weekend in Nevada we see the real and even dire consequences of lying to your supporters. The Sanders campaign, especially campaign manager Jeff Weaver, has been saying for weeks that Sanders can still win and that the system is 'rigged' against Sanders. But the situation in Nevada is really a microcosm of the dynamic I described last month: to the extent the system is 'rigged', it's mainly rigged in Sanders' favor. . . .And then today:
The Sanders campaign and particularly the supporters in Nevada are claiming that the Nevada party bosses deprived them of 'democracy' over the weekend. The reality is that the Sanders folks were trying to overturn the outcome of the election. You can do that in the current system. It's not cheating. But if your banner is 'democracy' and 'transparency' you just haven't got jack.
As I said in the lede, this is the problem with lying to your supporters. Losing is hard. If you pump people up with bogus arguments that they're losing because they got cheated and the system was rigged, you get people who are really angry, genuinely angry, even though they're upset that their efforts to reverse the result of the actual election didn't work.
For months I'd thought and written that Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver was the key driver of toxicity in the the Democratic primary race. Weaver has been highly visible on television, far more than campaign managers tend to be. He's also been the one constantly upping the tension, pressing the acrimony and unrealism of the campaign as Sanders actual chances of winning dwindled.This whole "Hillary is a crook and the system is rigged" theme is flat out wrong; Hillary is winning because she has gotten 2.5 million more votes than Bernie. That's all there is to it. But it's much worse than just an error or even a lie. In the short term it plays right into Trump's hands, making for him the only argument that has a chance of helping him. In the long term it feeds Americans' frustration with democracy. Bernie loves to talk about democracy but I believe that right now his campaign is an actual danger to the future of the American version. People vote because they think elections matter; if Bernie can persuade millions that their votes aren't being counted because the system is rigged, many of them may never vote again. It's a tragedy in the making.
But now I realize I had that wrong.
Actually, I didn't realize it. People who know told me.
Over the last several weeks I've had a series of conversations with multiple highly knowledgable, highly placed people. Perhaps it's coming from Weaver too. The two guys have been together for decades. But the 'burn it down' attitude, the upping the ante, everything we saw in that statement released today by the campaign seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top. . . .
This might be because he's temperamentally like that. There's some evidence for that. It may also be that, like many other presidential contenders, once you get close it is simply impossible to let go. I don't know which it is. That would only be my speculation. But this is coming from Bernie Sanders. It's not Weaver. It's not driven by people around him. It's right from him. And what I understand from knowledgable sources is that in the last few weeks anyone who was trying to rein it in has basically stopped trying and just decided to let Bernie be Bernie.
Sanders speech tonight was right in line with his statement out this afternoon. He identified the Democratic party as an essentially corrupt, moribund institution which is now on notice that it must let 'the people' in. What about the coalitions Barack Obama built in 2008 and 2012, the biggest and most diverse presidential coalitions ever constructed?
Sanders narrative today has essentially been that he is political legitimacy. The Democratic party needs to realize that. This, as I said earlier, is the problem with lying to your supporters. Sanders is telling his supporters that he can still win, which he can't. He's suggesting that the win is being stolen by a corrupt establishment, an impression which will be validated when his phony prediction turns out not to be true. Lying like this sets you up for stuff like happened over the weekend in Nevada.
As I said, it all comes from the very top.
Bernie, you lost fair and square. Give it up.