The sour grapes revolution that rocked the Paris Hotel

On the eve of the Nevada Democratic Convention in Las Vegas, Friday the 13th as the calendar would have it, Bernie Sanders issued a news release asking for good fortune on that traditionally unlucky day.

The Vermont senator, prodded by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who feared unrest at the state confab after a hard-fought caucus battle, talked of  “transformational change in America through honest and dignified discussion of the issues” and emphasized “working together respectfully and constructively” to defeat Donald Trump in November.

It was a game effort, but doomed to fail.

What ensued at the Paris Hotel the following day was anything but honest and dignified and everything but respectful and constructive as dozens of Sanders delegates exploded in anger at what they called an anti-democratic attempt to steal the convention from them.

By the time hotel security shut down the event late Saturday evening, the Sanders delegates had hurled ugly epithets at Clinton surrogate Barbara Boxer, and used a sign to block her from being shown on big screens; screamed vulgarities at state Chairwoman Roberta Lange, who later received death threats after Sanders sympathizers posted her cell phone number and home address online; and threw chairs at the stage as they rushed forward to try to take control of a convention they had lost, just as Sanders was defeated at the Feb. 20 by Clinton in in a decisive result.

The next day, a group of Sanders supporters protested at the state Democratic Party headquarters and scrawled messages ('Murdered democracy" and "You are scum" among them) on the outside walls and nearby sidewalks.

Sanders, who had national campaign operatives on the floor at the Paris, has yet to comment on the near-riot his local operatives enabled as they poured gas on a fire that started with a lawsuit against the party and ignited after arguments about rules, voice votes and rejected delegates.

Despite their social media frothing and self-righteous screeds, the facts reveal that the Sanders folks disregarded rules, then when shown the truth, attacked organizers and party officials as tools of a conspiracy to defraud the senator of what was never rightfully his in the first place. Instead of acknowledging they were out-organized by a Clinton campaign chastened by county convention results and reanimated to cement the caucus numbers at the Paris, the Sanders folks have decided to cry conflagration in a crowded building, without regard to what they burn down in the process.

If what happens in Vegas happens in Philadelphia, the chances of a unified Democratic Party in the general election are virtually nonexistent and the odds of a President Trump suddenly don’t look so long.


Democracy is messy, caucuses are messier and conventions are the messiest of all. But even by those metrics, the Saturday gathering on the Las Vegas Strip was as noisy and pointless as a second-rate vaudeville act.

It also was inevitable.

The passion coursing through the Sanders movement, well documented in Nevada and elsewhere, has only grown more intense – and at time irrationally directed – as the inevitability of a Clinton nomination has become clear. The senator’s inability – or refusal – to tamp down the grassroots uprising he has engendered, even when it veers off a productive course, surely stems from his genuine surprise at his viability and his frustration with the Clinton machine.

All of that came to a head in Las Vegas on Saturday, presaged by a failed lawsuit with Team Sanders alleging state Democrats had conspired to prevent their people from being in key party positions. This is the kind of arcana that usually dominates intraparty fights and convention tussles – arguments over rules and bylaws.

But Reid and his team, which runs the Democratic Party, knew that the Sanders folks, who had taken over county conventions after losing the caucus, were itching to cause trouble at the Paris. That’s why he induced Sanders to put out the unity statement the night before.

Reid, who endorsed Clinton shortly after helping her win the caucus, has iron-fisted control over the party apparatus and has for many years. Chairwoman Lange answers to him and his operatives, but that does not, as the twisted transitive property of Sandersophiles seems to conclude, mean she is corrupt.

What’s more, the whole arrangement has worked pretty well, turning the Nevada Democratic Party into one of the most formidable organizations in the country. Since 2008, and with last cycle the only blip, the Democratic Party in Nevada has overseen two presidential victories, a miraculous Reid re-election and many lower-ballot wins, thanks to a legal money-laundering operation and a massive voter registration vehicle.

Sometimes the Establishment is, you know, the good guys, especially when, you know, they win a lot of seats. That's what parties are suppsoed to do, not be outlets for malcontents who have empty social lives or rabble rousers without a cause.

The stage was set before the gavel came down Saturday, and it’s clear party officials were ready for the Sanders delegates to try to disrupt the convention. (Indeed, the Sanders campaign had tried to have standard “if you disrupt, you get thrown out” language removed from the rules before the convention.)

Much of what occurred was inflamed by Democratic National Committeewoman Erin Bilbray, who fired up the Sanders folks about the issues that caused the lawsuit and then started shouting at the Paris about “Roberta’s rules” being used instead of “Robert’s Rules.” Some context: Ironically, Bilbray started a group called Emerge, designed to help elect Democratic women, before she decided to work against the potential first female Democratic president. Bilbray has been fine with the party for years and was grudgingly anointed by Reid to run for Congress in 2014, a race she lost by 25 percentage points.

She has been clutching at relevancy ever since, attacking the Establishment and by extension, Reid, who was a close political ally of her father, ex-Rep. Jim Bilbray, a Clinton supporter.

Yes, Nevada is a small state.

Bilbray led the charge soon after the convention began to try to institute rule changes – a scene like many others repeated at countless conventions here and everywhere. But Lange, knowing that there were more Clinton delegates, disregarded the louder Sanders contingent on a voice vote, and cut it off, which began the march toward chaos.

The slow simmer toward the boiling over that evening began as at least two national Sanders operatives  – Joan Kato, the former state director who became national delegate overseer for the campaign, and attorney Matt Berg – were in the room. There would later be debates over credentials – again, this occurs at every convention –with Sanders people complaining that they were illegally denied access.

When security called for the convention to end, it descended into screaming, chair-throwing and obscenities, with many videos like this one (warning: language) posted online to show the chaos. Congressional hopeful Jesse Sbaih, a Bernie backer, was up on stage for a moment in the sun. Others, too, tried to wrest control from Lange; some Berners charged the stage, according to numerous witnesses.

It was ugly; maybe not Chicago ’68 ugly, but ugly.


Despite all of this, the Sunday chalking of the walls and sidewalks and the social media nastiness still going on, some facts are ineluctable, some of them elucidated in this post from the state Democratic Party:

►Sanders lost the caucus on Feb. 20. He had no right to the most delegates, even if the Clinton campaign was asleep at the switch for the county conventions. The Sanders campaign simply did not follow through. As the Medium post reveals, the Sanders folks just did not show up; the Clinton delegates did:

Clinton only had 27 delegate positions vacant on Saturday. Sanders left 462 vacant. Clinton filled 98 percent of her available delegate slots at the State Convention, and Sanders only filled 78 percent of his available delegate slots.

End of story. They lost

On the 64 delegates the Sanders campaign insists should have been seated, the Democratic Party post reveals only six showed up and:

The remaining potential delegates were ineligible for two main reasons: 1) They were not registered Democratic voters in Nevada by May 1, 2016, and 2) Their information — such as address, date of birth and name — could not be found or identified, and they did not respond to requests from the party and campaigns to correct it.

Rules, it appears, have no place in a revolution.

“They're lazy, they don't read the rules and when the rules are pointed out to them, they cry by exaggerating some Democratic talking point (everyone should participate, rules are unfair, it's mean to do this),” said one longtime Democrat who attended what he called his "first and last convention.”

The credentials committee, made up of half Sanders and half Clinton supporters, had no ability to simply toss rules such as May 1 registration date. The Sanders folks repeatedly raised what neutral observers said were either red herrings or nonsensical arguments, including that parking was so difficult some got there very late.

One eyewitness described it thusly: "There was some guy testifying that he missed getting in line because he stopped for a cigarette or got the wrong directions from the concierge. Or some guy who wasn't registered to vote but brought an incomplete registration application with him, and the Bernie folks would say ‘He clearly wants to participate, we're Democrats and we're inclusive.’”

Soon after the convention ended, Angie Morelli, a Sanders organizer who previously had posted a petition talking about the pilfering of democracy, sent out a “news” release with the all-caps headline: “ALLEGATIONS OF GROSS CORRUPTION NEARLY CAUSE A RIOT AT THE  NEVADA STATE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION “

Morelli led with Lange having to “flee” the convention and added, “Delegates from the convention reported instances in which Lange repeatedly ignored petitions, motions from the floor, and even appeared to rule against the clear majority in multiple voice votes, leading to a convention full of enraged and shocked delegates.”

Uh huh.

Morelli goes on to complain about Lange trying to have a megaphone she used confiscated – the horror! – and then focus on a so-called “minority report” from the credentials committee, presented by a Sanders member to talk about the supposedly denied delegates.

So how many of the delegates believe in the ghosts that the Bilbray-Morelli caucus conjure?

Said one keen observer: “It's a minority, sure, but the problem is the Sanders people use them. Rile them, send them out there, profit from the chaos but disclaim (sometimes, and weakly) responsibility. That ‘minority report’ last night is a perfect example. They drafted it, manipulated a Sanders member of the credentials committee into demanding it be delivered, then profited from the rumor that the delegates were stolen. That's brilliant, sure, but also pretty sick.”

And to what end, really?

Let’s suppose the worst – that the Sanders delegates were improperly denied (even though 56 of the 64 weren't there) and Sanders had more delegates than Clinton and Sanders won the day. Then what?

Sanders is still going to lose the nomination by a little something called math, barring anything unforeseen. And are Bilbray, Morelli and other Berniebots going to make the Nevada Democratic Party better by filling slots to take control of an organization that has dominated Nevada politics and been copycatted by Republicans? What exactly do they bring to the table except blind fury and guaranteed disorganization? (Will Bilbray run the party like her congressional campaign? If so, Nevada will be red for years to come.)

I have little doubt that Lange was given orders from Reidworld to try to keep order and not let the Sanders delegates take over. So what?

Does this merit the Sanders folks posting he personal information so she is getting death threats and messages that they know where her grandchild goes to school?

Clinton has a difficult needle-threading job keeping the Sanders voters in the tent as she moves toward November. But if Sanders does not soon disavow what his team here has overseen -- and even the senator may not be able to douse the wildfire he lit -- there is no reason to believe that what happened at the Paris in May will not happen at the Wells Fargo Center in July.

(Pics from, PBS)