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Conventional Wisdom: Sanders Refuses To Play Nice

This is our weekly politics newsletter, Conventional Wisdom, covering the wild and wacky world of Donald Trump’s Republican Party Bernie Sanders’s ongoing primary campaign. (Sign up here.)

The Democrats. Remember them? You’ve not read much about the blue donkeys in this space, given the Republican Party’s particular devotion to political acrobatics this year. But it’s high time the high drama of Sanders v. Clinton gets its due.

One might guess that Bernie Sanders has done a lot of reading of Dylan Thomas — he will not go gentle into the good night. Instead, he’s spent a lot of time of late telling the Democratic Party’s leadership to go to hell.

Take this past weekend. In a television interview, Sanders said he would support the primary challenger to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents a House district near Miami. “Clearly I favor her opponent,” Sanders said on CNN. “His views are much closer to mine.”

The reason for the shade? The Sanders campaign has long felt that the DNC favored Hillary Clinton and has publicly aired many grievances, including complaints over the scheduling of debates on weekends. But the acrimony has increased of late.

At the beginning of this month, Sanders wrote a letter to Wasserman Schultz, complaining that only three of the 45 people he had submitted for consideration to serve on Democratic National Convention committees had been selected. He noted, in particular, that none of his supporters would be serving on the Rules Committee, a crucial group at the convention, and was blunt about his plans should the national committee not cede any ground: “If the process is set up to produce an unfair, one-sided result, we are prepared to mobilize our delegates to force as many votes as necessary to amend the platform and rules on the floor of the convention.”

One of the biggest tiffs with the party — actually, more like a tussle — came at Nevada’s state convention on May 14, when Sanders supporters disrupted the proceedings and then threatened the state chairwoman. The Sanders campaign came under fire from Democratic leaders after it condemned violence and harassment but went on to challenge the integrity of the convention.

Reports have suggested that Sanders’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, has more than a little to do with the pitched rhetoric the campaign has been slinging. The New York Times reported that this has some inside the campaign worried that Sanders could be hurting the party going into the general election: Weaver’s most recent job, after retiring from Sanders’s Senate office, was running a comic book store, not working within the party’s Washington network, and his outsider status has some worried that party unity isn’t a priority for Weaver as the general election nears. The Times also noted that several people had “described the campaign’s message as having devolved into a near-obsession with perceived conspiracies on the part of Mrs. Clinton’s allies.”

But writing at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall said it wasn’t Weaver who was driving the campaign’s more aggressive tone, it was Sanders himself: “What I understand from knowledgeable sources is that in the last few weeks anyone who was trying to rein it in has basically stopped trying and just decided to let Bernie be Bernie.”

Elsewhere in the world of conventions and campaigns:

  • Some Sanders supporters submitted a memo to the campaign suggesting it begin to make plans to graciously concede; the campaign called it “totally irrelevant.”
  • In California, Sanders supporters have filed a lawsuit to keep voter registration open until the state’s June 7 primary, contending that there is widespread confusion among unaffiliated voters about how to register to vote in the Democratic election.
  • Eight in 10 Republican voters want their party’s leaders to line up behind Donald Trump, according to a new poll.
  • Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has been one of Trump’s most pointed critics, is apparently telling donors that it’s time to get in line.

Listen to the latest episode of the FiveThirtyEight politics podcast.


Read more:

The Hidden Importance Of The Sanders Voter by Nate Silver — Although Clinton’s substantial lead in pledged delegates (and larger lead in overall delegates) makes her the all-but-certain Democratic nominee, her lack of support from Sanders voters is harming her general election numbers against Trump.

Trump Supporters Probably Aren’t Lying To Pollsters by Harry Enten — Could the polls be underestimating Donald Trump’s support? That’s the conclusion of the “shy Trump-ers” theory, which holds that public opinion surveys undersell Trump because some of his supporters are unwilling to admit they’re backing The Donald.

Trump’s Scorning Of Data May Not Hurt Him, But It’ll Hurt The GOP by Joshua Darr — Trump said he intends to rely on his personality and rallies in the general election instead of collecting data on voters. His decision may not hurt him much in 2016, but it’ll mean Republicans may need to wait until 2020 or beyond to even the playing field with Democrats.

Clare Malone is a former senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight.