Bern, baby, Burn

Daily Best of the Web   —   Posted on May 19, 2016

Bern, baby, Burn

Supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders during the Nevada Democratic Party's convention at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel on Saturday.

The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at The Wall Street Journal written by the editor, James Taranto.

Bern, baby, Burn
“Thrown chairs. Leaked cellphone numbers. Death threats spewed across the Internet. No, this is not the work of Donald J. Trump supporters . . .” That’s the arresting, not to say biased, lead of a New York Times story on the Democrats – specifically, Saturday’s Nevada Democratic convention, where “angry supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders . . . were directing their ire” at what they see as “a rigged political system”:

Although Hillary Clinton won the Nevada caucuses in February, the Sanders campaign worked hard to win delegates at county conventions and was hopeful that it could emerge from the state with an equal number of delegates or more. But the state convention, held at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel, deteriorated into chaos after nearly 60 of Mr. Sanders’s potential delegates were deemed ineligible amid a dispute over the rules. The convention concluded abruptly after security staff no longer felt it could ensure the safety of the participants, many of whom were yelling and throwing things.

Though the raucous Republican nominating fight was the one that appeared to be careering toward a contested convention, the drawn-out fight on the Democratic side has emerged as an ugly intraparty feud in its own right, threatening hopes for unity ahead of the July convention in Philadelphia. Mr. Sanders faces a virtually insurmountable delegate deficit, but has pledged to carry on his campaign despite the long odds. . . .

“What Nevada shows is the kindling is there,” Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist, said of the energy within Mr. Sanders’s base of support. “The question is, what is he going to do with it?”

Hasn’t he been answering that question for months with “feel the burn”? Journalists across the country are feeling it now, as the Los Angeles Times demonstrates: “Will the fire that Sanders has lighted among millions of supporters with his critiques of Wall Street greed and political corruption burn the party this summer?”

Democrats are now forcing Sanders to disavow violence, as The Wall Street Journal reports:

After the convention, the Nevada Democratic Party took the unusual step of filing a complaint about Mr. Sanders and his supporters with the Democratic National Committee, the national arm of the party. In the letter sent Monday, Nevada Democrats said Mr. Sanders’s supporters had a “penchant” for violence and disruption, warning that the party’s national convention in Philadelphia this summer could see similar actions.

Mr. Sanders responded in his Tuesday statement that claims of a penchant for violence were “nonsense.” He added: “Our campaign of course believes in nonviolent change and it goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals.”

“It goes without saying” is a curious phrase, because it inevitably means its opposite. You never see a sentence that ends “it goes without saying.”

Talking Points Memo reports that the DNC’s chairman, the unwieldily named Debbie Wasserman Schultz, isn’t ready to make up with Sanders: “Unfortunately, the senator’s response was anything but acceptable,” she said on CNN. “It certainly did not condemn his supporters for acting violently or engaging in intimidation tactics and instead added more fuel to the fire.” Bern, baby, burn.

This is all a bit surprising given Hillary Clinton’s inevitability. As the Times notes, “the raucous Republican nominating fight was the one that appeared to be careering toward a contested convention.” Instead the last of Donald Trump’s rivals left the race two weeks ago, while Sanders soldiers on.

On Monday the Democrats held primaries in Oregon and Kentucky; Sanders easily won the Beaver State, while Mrs. Clinton edged him by fewer than 2,000 votes in the Bluegrass State. “Wounded Hillary Limps to Kentucky Win,” reads a Daily Beast headline. A CNN section header: “[Mrs.] Clinton finally wins a state.”

Another CNN story reports on Sanders’s election-night rally:

Speaking in Southern California Tuesday night, Sanders fired up the crowd by calling out the Democratic leadership.

“The Democratic Party is going to have to make a very, very, profound and important decision. It can do the right thing and open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change. That is the Democratic Party I want to see,” Sanders said.

“I say to the leadership of the Democratic Party: Open the doors, let the people in! Or the other option for the Democratic Party, which I see as a very sad and tragic option is to choose and maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy,” he said.

The crowd responded by chanting, “Bernie or Bust!” the equivalent of the Republican #NeverTrump slogan for the Democratic race.

That seems to us a dubious equivalence. The Bernie-or-busters are enthusiastically (if sometimes violently) for a candidate, whereas the Nevertrumpkins are against one. If anything, the more persuasive parallel is between Sanders and Trump (and their supporters): Not only are both challenging their parties’ establishments, but neither has a history of identifying with the party whose nomination he now seeks.

There is, moreover, a similarity between Mrs. Clinton’s defenders and the Nevertrump diehards: Both are attempting to counter their opponents’ enthusiasm with increasingly tortured rationalizations. Here’s Jill Abramson, former New York Times executive editor, in London’s Guardian:

In small groups, Hillary Clinton answers questions in perfect paragraphs, sometimes long ones. It can be a dazzling display. She is so prepared that she rarely needs a pause to think about what to say.

One aspect of her precision and careful phrasing, with nary a “like” or “you know” ever tumbling from her mouth, is that you need to listen hard to take it all in.

[Mrs.] Clinton is definitely the candidate for voters with long attention spans.

That could be a challenge in a world where the human attention span has fallen to eight seconds, shorter than a goldfish, according to a recent Microsoft study.

And here’s Michael Gerson, former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush, in the Washington Post, attempting to rebut the argument that Trump is the lesser of evils:

This justification has a few flaws. The first is reductio ad Trumpism. If [Mrs.] Clinton is the ultimate evil, would anyone be better than she is? How about Trump’s ex-butler, who threatened President Obama on Facebook? How about Trump supporter Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty”? Of course not, a Republican would angrily respond. A prospective president needs to be morally and intellectually fit for the office. He or she can’t be guilty of demagoguery or mean-spiritedness, or talk nonsense all the time.

Then again, Max Boot, who praises the Gerson piece as “yet another clear-eyed column,” told the Times back in March: “I would sooner vote for Josef Stalin than I would vote for Donald Trump.”

Fair enough, but what if the election pitted Stalin against Trump’s butler? Such are the burning questions that preoccupy conservatism’s top minds.

For more “Best of the Web” from The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto click here.