[This is a guest post , reposted from Now Face North with Lirael’s kind permission. –Amp]
As I’ve mentioned before, I am a Bernie Sanders supporter! I also have some thoughts, regarding different subsets of people, about the mess in Nevada and some of the resulting Internet conversation.
To the people who doxxed, harassed, and threatened a Nevada Democratic Party official: Stop being assholes, okay? And no, the fact that the relevant info was publicly available doesn’t make it better. Doxxing and harassment have a long and ugly history in the anti-abortion movement, that predates the word “doxxing” even existing. Leave that kind of targeting of people to them, leave it to the Gamergaters, leave it to right-wing talk radio hosts (I was doxxed, albeit incompetently, by a right-wing talk radio host after my arrest last year). I mean, fight them, don’t just leave it to them and then call it a day, but don’t join them. Okay? I don’t understand why this is hard. Why would you threaten somebody’s grandkids?
If you are saying “But some of those weren’t threats! They were only saying that she should be hurt, not that the person was going to do it!” then you should consider that they are obviously meant to frighten the person they’re directed at. They are threats in a common-sense understanding. “You should be hurt” is a threat. And use some empathy, for chrissake. Last year after my arrest, in addition to the right-wing talk radio release of what the host believed to be my then-home-address, I got some threats of this nature, in the form of tweets and comments on news articles. Notably, a guy who runs a certain well-known and longstanding sportsbro media outlet, as well as a radio show of his own, posted to his legion of followers that we should be slowly and gruesomely publicly beaten to death. By the logic that some people are using when talking about Nevada, I shouldn’t have considered this to be threatening. I am irritated about the downplaying. If you’re defending threats this way, you might support the same candidate as I do at the moment, but you’re not some kind of compatriot, you’re not trustworthy, and I believe that you’ll turn on me as soon as something pisses you off.
To Bernie Sanders: Sorry, your statement was bad. I get that you have some concerns and complaints about the process, that you feel like you’re beating your head against a party infrastructure that is dubious about you. I get that you think the Nevada party leadership is singling out your supporters, when your own staff in Nevada were apparently targeted for violence by unknown persons during the Nevada campaign. None of that belongs in your statement. It’s not adequate to throw in a bit of “And of course I’m against violence.” You need to condemn the harassment against and threatening of the state chairwoman and anyone else who was targeted, and intimidating behavior like chair-throwing on the convention floor or use of misogynistic slurs. Full stop. Nothing else belongs in that statement. Process concerns can go into a different statement. Violence against your staff is abhorrent, and was not an issue of the recent convention, and can be addressed in statements that are not responses to the convention. Bringing them into your statement muddies the waters, and these are waters that shouldn’t be muddy.
To some subset of Nevada Sanders delegates: I don’t know how many of you have a background in street protest. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t and you just know what you’ve seen on TV or the Internet. But in either case, this is not street protest. You chose a “respectable” role for this one. You chose to formally represent a major campaign (and possibly your local Democratic party; I’m not sure how that works in Nevada) at a party insider business function. Nobody made you decide to do that instead of, say, marching through the local streets or sitting down in an intersection outside the building. Nobody made you pursue the electoral route to advance your causes at all. And believe me, I’m not dragging you for your choice here. I support your choice! I believe in diversity of tactics – actual diversity of tactics, not the sometime protest euphemism for breaking windows. I believe that the boundaries between institutional politics and protest politics, between within-the-system and outside-the-system, should be fluid, with activists able to assume different roles at different times if they want to, and people understanding and respecting the usefulness of different roles.
Hell, I’m a street medic who just finished going through the court system after an arrest, and I’m also a delegate in my upcoming state Democratic convention. Which, to my eternal relief, does not have to touch the Hillary vs Bernie issue, because we already chose the candidates’ national delegate allocations through our primary process. There would be something really weird going on if I didn’t believe in being able to move among different activist roles and tactics.
However, different is a key word here. Some of the Nevada delegates didn’t act like they understood what they were there for, from a tactical perspective. They didn’t learn the rules, to the extent that they even scored an own-goal when it came to constructing the party platform, and then were upset when they lost. They responded to procedural things not going their way by angrily going toward the stage and yelling. Protest politics vs institutional politics is not totally binary, and you can certainly do institutional politics with an edge (Bernie Sanders has in fact made a career out of that) or mix the two up a little. But, this isn’t breaking a kettle. It’s not pulling aside the barricades to Wall Street. It’s not disrupting a public Trump rally, or some other kind of antifa-ish action. It makes sense to change your tactics based on the context, and what will advance your goals in the context that you’re working in. If you choose the ground of a major presidential campaign and a state party convention to plant yourself in, then I think you should follow through with it. And just like you’d go to a direct action training, or a know-your-rights training, or a protest health & safety training, or seek out advice from experienced protest-goers, before a big protest, if you’re going to be a delegate, you should do what you can to learn how to be a delegate for the relevant convention, which is something I am trying to do now. I would even be willing to believe that some of the reports of delegate behavior have been skewed or unfair – I wasn’t watching the live feed, and lord knows that’s common enough with protest reporting – but the fact that people accidentally removed a section that they cared about from the platform because they didn’t understand what they were doing, and then were angry about it, is hard to get around.
To some subset of Clinton supporters on the Internet: You have good reasons to complain here. The fact that progressive politicians were booed is not really, in my opinion, one of them. I get that it is upsetting to see progressives that you admire and think have done great work, booed. But no politician is owed unbroken deference by members of the public, and dealing with a little booing and heckling is part of a politician’s job. “Where do these ungrateful twerps get off, daring to boo when a progressive hero like Barbara Boxer is speaking?” is a very different statement from “Booing Barbara Boxer as a delegate at a Democratic Party event probably doesn’t help either Sanders’ campaign or the advancement of his policy agenda.”
To the many, many people in 2011-2012 who criticized Occupy on the grounds that what it really needed to do was to be more like a left-wing Tea Party, to try and take over the Democratic Party from within: Congratulations! You spoke, and some people both inside and outside of the movement listened and concluded that you were right! They decided to channel their energy, their desire to move the country leftward, into an election, into gaining power within the Democratic Party. Wait, why do you look so upset? Why are you going on about how the primary is damaging the party or damaging its chances in the general? Isn’t the Sanders campaign an example of what you straight-out told people to do if they wanted to be Effective Responsible Leftists?
leave it to the Gamergaters
Just as a point of order, while most Gamergaters are rightists and not Sanders supporters, there is a substantial overlap between the Sanders campaign and Gamergate, and particularly, there is overlap between Sanders supporters who bully and harass women and Gamergate.
I don’t think that this is surprising or inherently grounds to condemn the Sanders campaign as a whole (although holy shit do they need to stop whistling past these assholes.) The Sanders campaign initially exploded in popularity on Reddit; it’s not terrible surprising that it has some overlap with Gamergate, which uses Reddit as a organizing and recruitment space.
If you’re a leftist, booing Barbara Boxer and calling her a bitch is both absurd and stupid. She’s one of the leftmost senators, and is exactly the sort of person you want on your side (not her, specifically, because she’s retiring). She — and the people who admire her and are going to follow after her in the Senate — exactly the sort of person you need on your side if you’re going to have a “political revolution.”
I think an important comparison here is Elizabeth Warren, who is well to the left of Sanders (she is about as far left of Sanders as Sanders is left of Clinton). She is not making a big deal about personally attacking anyone who doesn’t support her. Instead, she’s doing outreach and fundraising for senators who she thinks she can recruit to her coalition, specifically liberal democratic women. Because of her popularity on the left, her fundraising and support are hugely meaningful, to the point, say Kamala Harris’s first ad, features more Elizabeth Warren than it does Harris (this is a good strategy for Harris, I think, but it’s also notable just how much influence Warren has here.)
Is Warren calling Barbara Boxer a sell-out bitch? She is not. Are her supporters? They are not.
If the Sanders campaign was interested in building a leftist coalition inside the Democratic party, it would look like this. But the Sanders campaign doesn’t seem to be interested in this at all. It’s largely has ceased to be about leftist politics and instead become about Bernie Sanders as a single charismatic leader figure, so anyone who is seen as having slighted the leader is anathema and a sell-out traitor, and anything you do to them is justified.
Hence, Barbara Boxer, who was often the second most liberal senator after Sanders, is a bitch.
If the Sanders campaign was even vaguely like a left-wing Tea Party, this would be great. But they’re not. They’re completely uninterested in running nation-wide primary challenges to centrist and center-leaning Democrats. They’re completely uninterested in co-opting existing Democrats who might be sympathetic. They’re only interested in Bernie Sanders.
While eventually Sanders made a weak token effort at supporting three women running for the House, there’s been basically no follow-up with that, and three House members is not a functional caucus. Because the Sanders campaign is pretty much just about Sanders as a personality, no other candidate can be acceptable because they’re inherently suspect by virtue of not being Bernie Sanders.
Although I strongly suspect I would disagree with most of their politics, I’d love to see a national grassroots leftist movement that was interested in building up real legislative coalitions like the Tea Party did. (When I was registered in Seattle, I voted for the Socialist Alternative candidates because they were doing precisely that: running for seats they could win and building up alliances and caucuses). But the Sanders campaign is about as far from that as is possible.
Thank you for this. Every other similar post that I’ve seen has devoted at least a paragraph or two to the possibility that it’s actually Clinton supporters making the threats, to make Sanders look bad, and I was getting so fed up with the deflection of responsibility.
Yeah, Bernie Sanders turning into Nader 2.0 isn’t a happy making thing. He has a chance to have a lasting and, imo, good influence on the Democratic Party. If it all becomes about him, it’s another opportunity wasted for questionable at best personal gain.
I look forward to the 2024 election, in which all punditry will be reduced to evaluating which of the volunteer and paid troll armies is most offensive/offended/overwhelming.
But seriously, I’ve never seen my friends on social media get quite so nasty – Hillary and Bernie supporters in equal measure. It’s really brought out the worst in people.
Thanks for this, and also thanks for linking to that rundown of what went on in the Nevada convention, which provided some much-needed background for me. I can’t think of a single one of your points that I disagree with. And drawing the connection back to the Occupy movement and how Sanders’s supporters are bringing those ideas into mainstream politics was a lightbulb moment for me, too.
I just spent a good 20 minutes writing a response, primarily to Ben Lehman, and it got eaten when I tried to post. Let’s try that again.
I think it’s important to remember that Reddit is not the election, Twitter is not the election. They’re part of the election, for sure. But most supporters of both campaigns are basically regular people, and most people don’t even talk on the Internet, or talk very little, about politics (Alex Pareene has a pinned tweet with a chart about this). I would not be surprised if there’s an overlap between Sanders supporters and Gamergate – I have not looked into it, but it seems plausible – but I would be astounded if it was more than tiny (a minority of Gamergaters and a tiny minority of Sanders supporters).
There are certainly Sanders supporters who have treated this primary as a cult of personality. I don’t think that’s unique to Sanders. I remember it existing with Obama, and indeed, I remember Clinton supporters during the primary and right-wingers during the general (and after) mocking and complaining about it constantly. I’ve encountered Clinton true believers who fit the profile, and every time the Green Party runs someone I see some of this effect. That said, I do think charismatic figures who are appealing to alienated people, as Sanders is, get more of it (look at Ron Paul, for instance, and I have a theory that some of the more obnoxious Sanders supporters were previously obnoxious Paul supporters, who will go for any candidate with a sufficient “outsider” brand and inspiration level). I have a couple of great stories from medicking the 2012 RNC protests about Ron Paul supporters and their peculiar dedication to Ron Paul.
Anecdotally, I’m starting to hear stories about newly politically active Sanders supporters getting involved in non-electoral left causes like Fight for $15, which I think would be an excellent development.
I like Elizabeth Warren (I volunteered for her in 2012!). At least here, in her home state (and bordering Sanders’ home state), the overlap between her supporters and Sanders’ supporters is quite large, to the point that I’d say Sanders’ supporters approach being a subset of hers. Which complicates any attempt to contrast her supporters and Sanders’. I don’t know if this is true elsewhere. I’ve certainly met Warren supporters who railed on about sellout Dems on social media, though they are fewer and/or quieter than what seems to be the case with Sanders’ supporters.
Regarding booing Barbara Boxer, there’s a difference between what’s acceptable (in an ethical sense or tactical legitimacy sense) and what’s useful or productive. I don’t think booing Boxer was useful. I think it was acceptable, in the sense that I think booing politicians, whether I personally like them or not, including politicians of your own party, is a generally legitimate and acceptable practice. I’ve seen more commentary attacking the booing as unacceptable, inherently a wrong thing to do to a politician (at least a left-of-center one) than attacking it as unuseful, which is what I was responding to.
Calling her a bitch is another matter. I don’t care whether it’s Boxer, Warren, Carly Fiorina, Ann Coulter…calling a woman or female-presenting person a bitch, unless you have that kind of close affectionate-insults-and-slurs-are-okay relationship with them, is crossing a line.
Sanders isn’t a Democrat and he’s never been a Democrat. That’s showing now, isn’t it?
I’m a Democrat. I’m pretty far left for a Democrat but I’m not a crazy person – I know that the choice in any recent presidential election has been a Dem who’s too moderate and a candidate who is somewhere between an authoritarian patriarch and an evil fascist. When that’s the choice I know who to support.
I voted for Sanders in the primary knowing he wasn’t going to win the nomination because I wanted to move the party to the left. Mistake. Sanders has got no loyalty to the party and if he can’t win he’ll do his best to smash it up. He doesn’t care if the fascist wins the general election. He’s Nader 2.0.
Man, I wish Warren had run.
I’m not trying to say that Gamergaters are the majority of Sanders’ supporters or anything, but I would not be surprised if they made up a substantial portion of the Sanders supporters who harassed, threaten, and dox (mostly) women. The tactics and approach and grammar of their complaints is very, very similar.
I agree with you that there’s a chunk of Sanders base that is primarily anti-establishment, rather than leftist, and that these people were Ron Paul supporters in 2008 and 2012. I think it’s also important to remember that Paulites were involved in Occupy as well, particularly in the early stages of it. Anti-establishment ≠ leftist, but I think a lot of leftists are willing to suspend a lot of disbelief to claim it is.
I’m glad that some Sanders supporters are branching out into other political causes! It’s good and I hope they keep doing it.
I understand that it looks very different from your perspective and in your bubble, but it’s not hard to find Sanders supporters who are primarily about Sanders rather than about leftist politics. If you want to see Sanders supporters who don’t like Elizabeth Warren, look no father than the comments on her facebook feed. Any post will do, doesn’t matter if it has anything to do with Sanders or not. You’ll find a fever swamp of hate, special pleading, and Clinton conspiracy theories. Or check the mentions of anyone (particularly a woman with any political power) on twitter who says anything even mildly critical of Sanders or mildly supportive of Clinton.
This is exactly the sort of thing that bubbled over at the Nevada caucuses, as well. The “the internet is not real life” line is wearing pretty thin: these are real people, they are really doing a thing, and they can’t be outright dismissed. It’s 2016: a huge amount of politics happens online. Sanders’ breakout moment was an AMA on reddit, the bulk of his fundraising is online, and a hell of a lot of campaign organizing goes on through online platforms. You can’t take a campaign that does all those things online and then say that the internet is not real life. Online conspiracy mongering, harassment, and misogyny has real world consequences, and that isn’t only true if the people doing it are on the right wing.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with booing politicians, but booing Barbara Boxer for being a centrist is like booing John Kerry for being a draft-dodger: it’s shamefully ignorant. Most of the people I’ve seen aghast at the treatment of Boxer are aghast at that (or aghast at the slurs). It’s also bad tactics, but that’s only part of it.
Ugh, I realized just past the editing window that “in your bubble” sounds condescending I really mean it in the context of “we all have different contextual bubbles, me including, and I’m now going to talk about mine” rather than what it came across as.
It’s still Facebook anecdata, but I have noticed that, in the past week, a lot of my friends (mostly female, white, liberal, educated, in their thirties and forties) who hadn’t been posting much about the primary before (though many of them had been posting stuff criticizing Trump), have started posting things about how they’re fed up with Sanders and just have no patience for dealing with the crap he’s inspiring anymore.
Sanders at this point in the race is not behaving substantially differently than Clinton did in 2008 at this point in the race (blows were thrown over Michigan and Florida delegations not being given full delegate counts). Sanders initial reaction to the Nevada fiasco was pretty shameful (I don’t know what Clinton’s reaction to the incidents over FL and MI delegates was, and can’t be bothered to look it up).
Sanders had made clear all along that he intends to do everything he can to prevent a Republican victory, including supporting Clinton when (previously if) she is the nominee. Despite the recent mess and his campaign manager’s incendiary rhetoric, Sanders has continued to make this point clearly and has (post-Nevada) begun to semi-privately acknowledge that he is not going to win and needs to start winding down the rhetoric and preparing his supporters to shift to supporting Clinton in the general election.
This thing of taking the race all the way to the end of the primaries is something we haven’t seen in a long time (2008 excepted), 1980? It looks really different and angrier than elections like 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, and 2004. Was Ted Kennedy not a real Democrat? Did he not really care about the party?
I think you are misreading Lirael. Nothing they said actually came all that close to “the internet is not real life.” (Maybe you meant that to be a tangent, not a direct response, but it read like a direct response to me).
Charles! I probably am. I’ll reread.
(FWIW, I remember that Clinton was being just as — if not more — bonkers than Sanders at this point in 2008. I also remember talking a lot about how stupid Clinton’s supporters were being at this point in 2008.)
Oh yeah, lots of Clinton supporters (the highly visible ones) at this point in 2008 were ridiculous and lots of Sanders supporters at this point (the highly visible ones) are ridiculous (and worse) now. I’m too young to have any recollection of what Kennedy supporters were like in 1980, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the same could be said of them. I’m just disagreeing with Bloix about Sanders’ intentions (I agree with Lirael about Sanders’ failure to emphatically reject the abusiveness of the worst of his supporters in Nevada).
Yes and yes. Most of the Ron Paul people eventually went away from Occupy, but some of them were there, especially at the start. Also some other rather odd folks who I would not call leftist, like the LaRouchies, who started leaving right around the time (in mid-October, 2011) that I started spending time there.
Sure, and as I said, I think all presidential campaigns attract this phenomenon to some degree, and those involving inspirational figures with some kind of outsider branding probably attract it more. I think it’s also pretty easy to find Sanders supporters who are about leftist politics, or at least, Sanders supporters who have glommed on to multiple inspirational politicians. I remember the attempts to get Warren to run for president, before the primary kicked off (to which my response was “Please no! She’s a good senator! We need good senators! Plus, every time an office opens in Massachusetts now I’m afraid that the Dems will nominate Martha Coakley for it!”). Those people, at least in my contextual bubble and the ones I’m familiar with, mostly became Sanders supporters.
Unfortunately, misogynistic, harmful, aggro leftist dudes are nothing new (some of them were at Occupy too). The fact that people are doing this doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in some version of broader leftist politics. Look at the whole Bruenig/Demos mess that exploded yesterday. Bruenig has been in leftist politics for some years now (and people have been commenting that his social media behavior is harmful to others, and that he particularly seems to target women, for a year and a half, two years, something like that).
I never said that the Internet wasn’t real life. The first section of my original post, where I talk about my own experience with online doxxing and threats, and say angry things about people doing that to the Nevada chairwoman, ought to make it clear that I think the Internet is real life with real consequences. My point in my comment to you was that it’s a small – not in terms of emotional impact, but in relative terms compared to all of life – subset of real life, and that most people don’t discuss politics on the Internet. The people who support any candidate who are discussing politics on the Internet – and that includes me – aren’t representative. The people who are harassing others over politics on the Internet are a smaller sample still (a sample that is causing a lot of harm to others despite their small numerical size). Given that, it struck me as unlikely that there was substantial overlap between the Sanders campaign and Gamergate, though I think it’s plausible that Sanders supporters who dox people are fairly likely to be Gamergaters.
@Bloix: I agree with Charles S’ response to you here. I’ve been really confused by the recent uptick in people thinking Sanders doesn’t care if Trump wins the election. Even that anonymously-sourced NYT article didn’t say that, despite the crap headline, and more recent stories have provided evidence otherwise.
The type of voters that Bernie Sanders hopes to win in CA probably aren’t too happy with his supporters calling Barbara Boxer a “bitch” And yeah calling her a centrist is like calling Kerry a draft dodger. Dianne Feinstein is much more centrist.
Yeah anytime I’ve ever questioned supporters on anything about Bernie (Sierra Blanca anyone?) all those gender slurs come flying out.
Now Sanders supporters expecting HRC to drop out if he wins CA. She’d still be ahead of him in popular vote and unpledged delegates. The reverse would be would he drop out if he lost CA? Of course we know the answer to that.
Then the whole philosophy is that if Trump wins he’d only last four years and it might be really bad but then the people would see the light about progressivism and the progressives would swoop in to save the day. Of course that’s stretching the paraphrasing a lot but often that’s the sentiment that seems to underlie what they do say. But during those four years the composition of SCOTUS could change quite a lot and not for the better for many people.
No, I heard someone say that directly. The problem, of course, is that this has historically failed to work. Also, it’s really shitty political philosophy that sounds like the Marxists who deliberately *want* to make things worse in order to spur revolution. Not the best idea.
More broadly, I’m feeling antagonistic toward Sanders right now, but possibly just because I’m sick of the circling arguments among the folks on the left I hang out with.