Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Step Up

An NBC/MSNBC host:

It's a good bet that Bernard Sanders won't be answering those questions.  After several debates, in which Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg were the main targets of other candidates, Sanders won one-half the caucus in Iowa, came out on top in New Hampshire, and is the front-runner in the Democratic primary race.

He now is the prohibitive favorite to win the caucus in Nevada later this week. Thus, the Vermont senator would be the obvious target of the candidates in the debate on Wednesday, the evening before. Then in the nick of time Michael Bloomberg becomes eligible for the debate and, if Sanders has a lot of questions to answer for, the centrist Republican turned Independent turned Democrat ex-New York City mayor has even more.  Sometimes it's more important to be lucky than good.

So Sanders may have little to gain and much to lose by addressing the constant vitriol of his supporters on social media. He simply does not have to respond in full. On Sunday, The New York Times reported that the controversy in Nevada pertaining to the criticism of Sanders by the Culinary Workers Local 226.

began last week after the union began distributing fliers to members, comparing the candidates’ stances on policy.

“End Culinary Healthcare,” reads the first bullet point beside Mr. Sanders’s name on a flyer.

It was an unwelcome criticism, made worse by the reaction among some of Mr. Sanders’s supporters. Geoconda Argüello-Kline, the union’s secretary-treasurer, said she received hundreds of emails, phone calls and texts calling her names and threatening her. Her home address was posted online, she said, and her adult children were worried about her safety.

“I believe in the democratic process, and to have this happen is very scary,” Ms. Argüello-Kline said. “After many years as an activist, after many strikes, I have never felt that way in my life. And we are not telling people how to vote — they can make their own decision.”

The vile language prompted Mr. Sanders to issue a statement, in which he said “harassment of all forms is unacceptable to me” and urged “supporters of all campaigns not to engage in bullying or ugly personal attacks.”

But his general reference to “all campaigns” only further angered some of the union leaders, who, like many of the rank-and-file members, are women of color. Ms. Argüello-Kline said that she wished Mr. Sanders would have spoken out sooner to help quell the threats.

Union leaders were angered for good cause.  Sanders did not apologize.  His statement in full read

Harassment of all forms is unacceptable to me, and we urge supporters of all campaigns not to engage in bullying or ugly personal attacks. Our campaign is building a multi-generational, multi-racial movement of love, compassion, and justice. We can certainly disagree on issues, but we must do it in a respectful manner.

The problem is not "all campaigns"; the problem is his campaign. Sanders merely applauds himself when he combines "harassment of all forms" everywhere with a boastful claim that such campaign "is building a multi-generational, multi-racial movement of love, compassion, and justice."

Even the CNN correspondent appearing in the video (from 2/7/19) below, reporting criticism of the excessive online supporters of Sanders, quotes the Senator as condemning "racist bullying and harassment of anyone." But it's not of "anyone"- it's of his opponents done in his name.

Generalizing the issue is a means to avoid responsibility because the other campaigns are not his responsibility. As Senator Warren realizes, the candidate is accountable, or should be held accountable, for condoning the excesses of his supporters, whose disappointment or anger Bernard Sanders thus far has been unwilling to risk. It does not bode well for an effective presidency.

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