A little over a week ago, a Sanders supporter created a superdelegate “hit list” – a website with the names, phone numbers, home addresses, and social media accounts of democratic superdelegates. The list targets delegates who are supporting Hillary or are undecided. The founder bills it as “a new website aimed at harassing Democratic Superdelegates.” While it has since changed its name and logo to be less provocative, it remains counterproductive.
All this week, delegates on the list have received harassing phone calls, emails, and attacks on social media. They have been called “immoral,” “corrupt,” “thickheaded,” “sellouts,” an endless list of sexist slurs, and numerous other insults. One threatening phone call was answered by a superdelegate’s twelve-year-old child.
Samantha Bee recently did a clip on superdelegates which highlighted a few specific cases of harassment. It included a clip of a democratic superdelegate who claimed she had been told to “go to hell” for “voting against her own interests as an African-American woman.”
Needless to say, these people are not affiliated with the Sanders campaign, nor are they representative of it. But they are doing tremendous damage to him.
First of all, it goes without saying that harassing and insulting superdelegates is the last way to get them to switch their vote. It will do exactly the opposite, and it already has. As one delegate put it after receiving more than 200 social media posts and early morning phone calls, “he lost my vote at 2 a.m.”
As Sanders tries to win more superdelegates, the last thing he needs is supporters making harassing and threatening attacks on his behalf to the very same people.
It’s not just superdelegates who may sour on Bernie because of this. It could sway ordinary voters too. Voters will always judge a candidate at least in part by their supporters and how the candidate reacts to them. Donald Trump is a case in point.
Sanders has done a good job at condemning and distancing himself from the actions of many of his more over the top supporters. Just this week he called out a supporter at a rally for saying that “Zionist Jews” run the financial system. He also condemned another supporter for referring to the Democratic establishment as “corporate Democratic whores.”
But he has failed to do the same with the harassment of superdelegates, where his response has been slow and inadequate. Last week NPR reported that the Sanders campaign failed to respond to several requests for comment after the ‘hit list’ was first put out. Days later, his campaign manager stated that “we certainly don’t condone harassment of anybody.”
But neither Sanders nor his campaign has criticized or condemned the site or its founder.
In order to repair the damage this harassment of superdelegates has caused, Sanders needs to make a public statement. He needs to send a strong message condemning such behavior and asking those doing it to stop. He needs to make it clear that neither he nor his campaign appreciates or benefits from such actions. This is something he has so far failed to do, and this could end up hurting him just as bad as the harassment itself.
Sanders also needs to apologize to all the delegates who have been on the receiving end of this if he wants any hope of winning any of them over.
His supporters also need to realize that their actions have had and will continue to have a major impact on this primary. While most Sanders supporters have been polite, open-minded, and well-behaved, there are far too many who have not been. Those individuals need to understand that their actions have a huge impact on the race. Simply put, if things don’t change, Bernie could lose because of them.
Feature image via Hal Yeager/Getty Images