I’ve heard lots of talk about the rabid Bernie Sanders supporters who will never get behind any other Democratic presidential nominee.

I’ve heard Sanders supporters referred to on national television as “brown shirts,” comparing them to the Nazi party’s military wing, a group that participated in heinous human rights abuses.

I’ve heard Sanders supporters pejoratively referred to as Bernie Bros, implicating all in the egregious online misdeeds of an odious few.

I live in Hawaii. I know lots of people who supported Sanders for president in 2016. I attended the Democratic National Convention in 2016 as a Sanders supporter, where I met even more Sanders supporters. I have numerous friends and acquaintances who are enthusiastically supporting Bernie Sanders for president in 2020.

Oddly, I don’t know a single rabid, brown-shirted, human-rights abusing, internet-trolling Bernie Bro, though I am sure there are a few.

It is unsurprising when the Republican party attacks a Democratic candidate. What I find especially disturbing is that the trash talk against Sanders and his supporters is coming from media figures who claim to be opposed to the reelection of President Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders in Iowa in 2019. Some establishment figures in the Democratic Party are worried about his rising candidacy for president. Flickr: Gage Skidmore/2019

When the television talking heads get to pontificating, they should stop and think how their words will sound coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth in a campaign ad against a Democratic presidential nominee. Chuck Todd and Chris Matthews on MSNBC have made notably offensive comments on national television. They obviously don’t like Bernie Sanders, and they are entitled to their opinions.

But falsely calling Sanders a communist or a socialist (he is a democratic socialist) is wrong. Making incendiary predictions about violence that will surely follow the election of Bernie Sanders is wrong. Suggesting that the voting preference of all Bernie Sanders supporters should be ignored or suppressed is wrong.

Disenfranchised Democrats

Voters get to choose the candidate, not the pundits, not the media, and not the party establishment, much as it might pain them all. The selection process is underway. It should be allowed to play out without undue interference from anyone.

Unfairness in the process, even perceived unfairness, can produce unexpected and undesirable results. As a personal example, the way Hillary Clinton achieved the nomination in 2016 made me feel disenfranchised as a Democrat, and disinclined to support her.

Even that obstacle might have been overcome if the Clinton campaign had simply asked for my vote. I’ll never know because I was instead told that I would vote for Clinton, which is another good way to repel a voter in case anyone still had a question about that.

If the Democratic Party wants the membership to get behind the candidate in 2020, fairness in the process, both real and perceived, is critical. Sadly there are already issues. A wonderfully diverse opening class of candidates has been winnowed down to almost all white candidates.

Although the winnowing process seemed fair in its design, the outcome reveals the possibility of hidden bias, which can lead to unfair results. This circumstance may be excusable because the outcome was unforeseen. However, changing the debate rules to allow Michael Bloomberg to participate was a blunder that produced predictable outrage.

Such rule changes were specifically requested and rejected for other candidates who were not multi-billionaires, but who had otherwise put in the work to earn a place on the debate stage. There is the clear appearance of unfairness — because there is unfairness.

While not ideal, the situation is not beyond redemption. The selection process could simply be allowed to play itself out, let the chips fall where they may, no further interference or favoritism. Unfortunately, rumor has it that the party establishment is considering intervening to prevent Bernie Sanders from being the nominee, if Sanders reaches the convention with a plurality but not a majority of delegates.

Unfairness in the process can produce unexpected and undesirable results.

That would be a mistake.

Even if Bernie Sanders “only” has 35% of the delegates, those delegates will be needed to win the general election. It would be foolish to alienate them. The way to get their votes is through a fair selection process.

What would happen if any other candidate arrived at the convention with a plurality of delegates, but short of a majority? That is exactly what should happen if Bernie Sanders is that candidate.

The media will do what it does, but the Democratic Party establishment would do well to listen more carefully to the voters. They are, after all, the ones who will vote.

Every campaign season we get tons of emails and commentary from people supporting or opposing particular candidates. Campaign Corner is a forum for healthy — and civil — discussion of candidates and their issues. Endorsements and criticisms are part of a voter’s decision-making process. Here are the ground rules: The column must be written by an identifiable person and accompanied by a current head shot and brief bio. The commentary must be original and not published elsewhere. No campaign email blasts. No letter-writing campaigns. Send columns and questions to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Campaign Corner are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

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