The campaign of Bernie Sanders was swept side by the Hillary Clinton campaign this past Tuesday. What a fall was that from the heady win in Michigan, a result that Nate Silver termed “one of the greatest upsets in modern political history“. Bernie had expected to win in Ohio by duplicating his performance in Michigan. But voters recoiled from him in a total about face from their embrace in Michigan.
What happened? Hillary Clinton didn’t turn over a new leaf last week. She didn’t change her personality in a week, she didn’t roll out any new & unique ideas. Her negatives didn’t suddenly get transformed into positives last week. So why the complete turnaround?
In our judgement, Bernie Sanders committed political harakiri last weekend. He was presented with a tremendous opportunity to glow as a person, to demonstrate his honesty as a candidate and his honor as a leader. Unfortunately, he turned the opportunity into a crisis, a crisis that may sink his revolution & his candidacy.
Think folks. What was the huge event of last weekend? What event drove all networks to nonstop all weekend coverage? The violent disruption of the Trump rally in Chicago last Friday. The country was transfixed by the specter of throngs of angry semi-maddened people infiltrating the Trump rally & blowing it up as they shouted Bernie! Bernie! No one in America wanted to see that except the people who were doing it and the organizations who planned & orchestrated it.
Bernie Sanders & his campaign should have been petrified with what they were hearing and seeing. He was the honest Bernie, the honorable Bernie and he was seeing his name being cheered & shouted by raucous hooligans as they destroyed the Trump rally. That he had nothing to do with it was and proved to be completely & utterly immaterial. All that America saw was self-proclaimed supporters of Bernie causing mayhem in a frenzy of hooliganism.
Perhaps Bernie was assuaged by the talk of network “experts” who were putting all the blame on Donald Trump & what they described as Trump’s wild irresponsible rhetoric. We heard this too, especially from David Gergen on CNN OutFront. But we could not match Gergen’s rhetoric & that of all others with what we were all seeing on TV. No one saw Trump supporters infiltrating & attacking a Bernie Sanders rally. What we all saw were Bernie Sanders supporters attacking a Trump rally in a maddened frenzy.
That we felt was extremely dangerous to Bernie Sanders. So we tweeted to Erin Burnett, CNN OutFront anchor:
- Editor Viewpoint
@MacroViewpoints – @ErinBurnett wrt, does Bernie have any responsibility for behavior of his supporters?should Bernie Sanders disavow his supporter action too?
Perhaps Ms. Burnett and others saw our tweet as an attempt to shove the blame on Bernie or drag him into this fracas. It was not. It was genuine concern for the Sanders campaign. Because we remember how Mahatma Gandhi handled worse wrongful behavior from his supporters.
Mahatma Gandhi was the father of peaceful, nonviolent protests, massive protests that moved an entire nation to fight against the most powerful empire in the world. His cause was noble but, to succeed, the cause had to be combined with exemplary discipline from his supporters in the face of massive provocation from the opposition. The revolution Gandhi led had to remain pure & pristine to succeed.
So whenever his supporters went violent, Gandhi immediately stepped in. He publicly chided them and sometimes went to the extent of fasting until his supporters swore off violence. He was ready to face death if they didn’t stop. This steadfastness to his principles, to his standards kept his revolution pristine and drew the support of the entire world.
The violent protests in Chicago had presented Bernie Sanders a Gandhi-like opportunity. He should have put out a statement, gone on TV networks and apologized to Donald Trump for the behavior of his “supporters”. He should have publicly rejected the behavior of his “supporters” and announced that any one who behaved like that had no place in his “revolution”. It would have been honest, it would have been honorable, and it would have been politically brilliant. That act would have made Bernie a genuine honest all-American hero and drawn thousands more to his revolution.
And Bernie had done that before. Remember how he apologized to the Clinton campaign when his staff got some data from the DNC that they should not have. So why didn’t he do the same last Friday or over the weekend? Why did Bernie Sanders double down instead and call Donald Trump “a pathological liar“? Perhaps because he truly dislikes Donald Trump and the way Trump’s campaign is run.
That brings us back to Mahatma Gandhi. If you study Gandhi, you will find that Gandhi was most charitable to his worst detractors, to the people who were most unlike him. To him, there was no better way to demonstrate the light of his movement. Unfortunately, Bernie Sanders had either forgotten Gandhi’s example or he had never studied Gandhi, the greatest strategist & tactician of peaceful revolutions.
We have all seen how quickly and easily revolutions go bad; how easily peaceful old leaders lose control of their rowdy, raucous followers. What we all saw on television on Friday chilled all of us and none of us wanted that in this election campaign. We the people are not as smart or erudite as TV experts like David Gergen & Chris Mathews. We tend to believe what we see unfolding before our eyes. We saw the Bernie revolution lose control of its members on Friday, we saw Bernie the leader refuse to do the right & honorable thing over the weekend. That was when people felt burned instead of feeling the Bern. That was when the Bernie revolution lost its innocence, purity & authenticity. And with that, we felt, went raison d’être of the Bernie Sanders campaign.
The Democratic voters confirmed that judgement on Tuesday.
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