News & Politics

'New York Magazine'-Bernie Fans Dominate Day 1 of DNC, Also Kind of Scary

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

This is Jonathan Chait saying it…

The Democratic convention began in an atmosphere of nervousness, as polls showed that the RNC’s seemingly disastrous orgy of plagiarism, hate, and rambling celebrity has-beens somehow lifted Donald Trump into the lead. The nervousness soon burst into outright panic as it quickly appeared that the Bernie Sanders contingent was far less reconciled to Hillary Clinton as the nominee than the desultory Republican regulars were to Trump. The inevitable smooth convention, coaxing the Bernie holdouts back into the fold, was now in question. For many people, the unthinkable prospect of a Trump presidency had become thinkable for the first time.

Sanders attracted a sizable following by appealing to a long tradition of good government in liberal politics. At the same time, he mobilized a radical ideological vanguard that had previously steered clear of Democratic politics. For them, the attraction of Sanders was not merely a reiteration of the Howard Dean or the Eugene McCarthy campaign, nor merely a farther left version of standard Democratic liberalism. His raw language of class, revolution, and the rigged system framed politics in stark binary terms – either the forces of light or the forces of corruption would prevail.

The ideological vanguard does not represent a majority of Sanders’ supporters, many of whom have changed candidate preferences throughout the primary, and who on the whole support Hillary Clinton at a 90 percent clip. But that minority had commanded vastly outsized attention. Journalists have spent the last year noticing enraged, conspiratorial Sanders supporters swarming social media, dismissing inconvenient facts as a corporate or establishment plot. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Twitter mentions.

So that’s how this is supposed to work. We’re going to pretend it’s just a couple of crazies hijacking Bernie’s movement.

Sorry, JC, the crazies are Bernie’s movement. Those “enraged conspiratorial Sanders supporters” were swarming his public appearances by the tens of thousands and being fed plenty to be conspiratorial about by the candidate.

Oh, by the way, the WikiLeaks revelations make them look slightly less crazy.

Slightly.

Yes, they are passionate though. Bernie’s politics are almost completely reality-free so he’s bound to have an emotional fan base. They certainly aren’t taking any time to cool off and learn anything about economics, history or math.

It’s also true that many of them are in step with Hillary on about ninety percent of the things. That’s sort of what the primary process is all about. It’s the ten percent that differentiates the candidates and helps one prevail over the others.

Still, I have to agree with Chait’s conclusion:

Ridiculous or not, they dominated the entire day. It was a testament to the power of a fanatical, disruptive minority. In a sense, his entire campaign has been evidence of this same thing. And if the Bernie movement had convinced the mainstream of the Democratic Party of anything, it was how horrifying the world would look if that vanguard ever gained real power.

That’s the future of the Democratic Party right there.