- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Democratic Party insiders fear Sen. Bernard Sanders and his “revolution” followers have little to lose by pursuing a scorched-earth campaign against Hillary Clinton, and the unease is growing despite vows from the maverick politician’s camp that violence will not erupt at the Democratic National Convention in July.

Mr. Sanders has been a Vermont independent during his 25 years in Washington. With no real loyalty to the party itself, he seems eager to rage against the Democratic establishment.

He has done little to calm his troops after a testy convention Saturday in Nevada. The convention chairwoman said she has received death threats from his supporters.

“I think he has no real conscience about whether or not he’s dividing the Democratic Party. When you have a candidate that actually doesn’t care about the institution they’re purportedly running to head, their motto seems to be, ‘Burn it all down,’” said Lara Brown, a political science professor at George Washington University who studies the evolution of political parties. “I don’t think he’ll necessarily be a gracious loser. And it’s because he doesn’t have any institutional investment. He has nothing to lose.”

Warnings from top Democrats on Capitol Hill have failed to broker peace, and Sanders supporters say the heated discussion is healthy for a party trapped in the past. Mr. Sanders himself issued a challenge to party leaders on the heels of his victory in the Oregon primary Tuesday night, saying they must open their doors to his supporters and his ideas or risk becoming irrelevant and allowing the Republican Party to capture frustrated working-class voters.

He has given no indication that he is prepared to tell his supporters to give up the fight and has indicated that he is preparing for a tooth-and-nail battle ahead of California’s June 7 primary.

“I say to the leadership of the Democratic Party: Open the doors, let the people in,” Mr. Sanders said to a raucous crowd at a California rally late Tuesday. “I will be damned if we will allow the Republican Party, whose job it is to represent the rich and the powerful, to win the votes of working-class Americans.”

The senator seized victory in Oregon the same night he lost a razor-thin primary election in Kentucky to Mrs. Clinton. His win in Oregon gave him even more incentive to fight on to the convention.

There is increasing concern about what may take place at that convention unless Mr. Sanders calms down his followers. The Nevada convention descended into chaos when Sanders supporters objected to rules of the proceeding, and some of the senator’s backers later aimed death threats at Roberta Lange, chairwoman of the state party.

Mr. Sanders, campaign chief Jeff Weaver and others quickly condemned the violence and the threats, but they also took shots at Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other party leaders, saying they have been stacking the deck in favor of Mrs. Clinton since the campaign began last year.

“He categorically condemns any kind of threats that went on — absolutely unacceptable,” Mr. Weaver said on CNN Wednesday. “Debbie Wasserman Schultz — we can have a long conversation just about Debbie Wasserman Schultz and how she’s been throwing shade on the Sanders campaign since the very beginning.”

The Sanders campaign’s approach — to condemn violence but charge unfair treatment — is wearing thin with party leadership.

“The longer this goes on and the Sanders campaign doesn’t take responsibility for what happened in Nevada, I think it’s going to continue,” Ms. Lange said Wednesday.

Other top Democrats echoed her comments.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, told CNN on Wednesday she, too, was troubled by Mr. Sanders‘ response.

“I was, because I think that was the time to have sent a full-throated message to his followers that we don’t do this kind of thing. And this kind of thing is antithetical to the process set out before us. If we don’t like the process, we should work to change it,” she said.

Other Clinton supporters charge that Mr. Sanders is whipping his supporters into a frenzy by, in essence, lying to them about his prospects for capturing the party’s nomination. After Tuesday’s contests, Mrs. Clinton leads Mr. Sanders in the delegate count 2,293 to 1,533, according to an Associated Press tally.

The figures include superdelegates — party leaders whom Mr. Sanders is trying to persuade to abandon Mrs. Clinton and switch to his side. There has been no indication that the superdelegates are willing to switch sides, and analysts say Mr. Sanders‘ constant bashing of the party makes them even less likely to do so.

“He can’t win, yet he keeps insisting that he can. That’s not right, nor is it fair to his supporters,” said Clinton backer Jim Manley, director of the communications practice at QGA Public Affairs and former spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

Sanders supporters say all they want from the DNC is fair representation at the party convention and a primary system that is fair to both candidates. They say Mr. Sanders‘ delegates can’t be marginalized, prominent supporters should be given prime-time speaking slots and the senator’s key policy proposals should be given consideration in the party platform.

“The lesson here for Philadelphia is that the Democratic Party establishment needs to recognize they have to bring the political revolution to the table in a fair fight. They can’t rig the convention against them,” Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the liberal PAC Democracy for America, said Wednesday. The organization supports Mr. Sanders.

Mr. Chamberlain rejected the notion that Mr. Sanders doesn’t care about the future of the Democratic Party.

“To imply somehow because Bernie Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist instead of a Democrat means he isn’t part of the Democratic Party is a joke,” he said.

David Sherfinski contributed to this report.


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