On the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, Bernie Sanders dashed the hopes of his most ardent supporters by conceding the nomination. As Sanders urged the crowd to rally behind Hillary Clinton, Bernie's backers wept openly, evidence of the deep passion inspired by the Sanders campaign. One young, teary-eyed woman had “Bernie” written across her face, and another expressed her anguish by clenching her fists against the top of her head throughout Sanders’ speech.
So what was the cause of this outpouring of genuine angst and pain? First, Wikileaks had just released more than 20,000 e-mails from the archives of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) — e-mails demonstrating the determined opposition of some committee members to the Sanders campaign, as well as the lengths to which they were willing to go to ensure Clinton's nomination. For instance, DNC members had discussed tactics to hinder Sanders' performance in primaries, and others colluded with 'journalists' to influence the media's narrative. Understandably, Sanders' supporters felt betrayed by the DNC. However, this sense of betrayal extended to Mr. Sanders himself.
Amongst his followers, Senator Sanders had built a reputation as a real "Progressive," an image presented as a stark contrast to Mrs. Clinton, the darling of the Democratic, power-elite establishment. For instance, Sanders' supporters had come to believe that the Senator was a principled critic of American empire, the surveillance/police state, and 'crony capitalism' (a.k.a., economic fascism). So when Sanders took to the podium to offer a full-throated endorsement of Mrs. Clinton — the embodiment of such 'un-Sanderistic' principles — many of his acolytes were visibly shocked.
Welcome to the sordid 'World of Politics' where principle is forever sacrificed on the Altar of Power.
Despite Sanders' consistent advocacy of centralized power in economic affairs — a ruinous, time-tested mindset that would merely accelerate the root cause of countless domestic woes while empowering politically-connected interests — we sympathize with the plight of his (mostly) young, idealistic supporters. As with Ron Paul's energized base in '08 and '12, Sanders enthusiasts trustingly poured themselves into the 'democratic process,' only to be blocked, beaten, and betrayed by a corrupt political establishment.
From an early age, Americans are indoctrinated with a belief in 'Democracy,' and we're told that the US boasts a "government of the people, by the people, for the people." Sure, it's a mindless platitude — afterall, who are the non-people? — but Bernie's backers worked hard and donated generously to promote their guy, only to be deceived, disillusioned, and, ultimately, disenfranchised by the system and the people in whom they'd placed their trust.
In short, Bernie's backers got Berned, but they deserved better — as do we all.