How Democrats Manipulated Nevada State Party Convention Then Blamed Sanders For Chaos
Days after a convention in which leaders incited chaos and disorder, the Nevada State Democratic Party demonized supporters of Bernie Sanders in a letter written to the Democratic National Committee.
“We believe, unfortunately, that the tactics and behavior on display here in Nevada are harbingers of things to come as Democrats gather in Philadelphia in July for our National Convention,” declared Bradley S. Schrager, the state party’s general counsel. “We write to alert you to what we perceive as the Sanders campaign’s penchant for extra-parliamentary behavior — indeed, actual violence — in place of democratic conduct in a convention setting, and furthermore what we can only describe as their encouragement of, and complicity in, a very dangerous atmosphere that ended in chaos and physical threats to fellow Democrats.”
The letter written by leadership of the Nevada State Democratic Party appears to be an attempt to control the narrative, so that citizens throughout the United States view what happened at the convention as the result of “violent” Sanders delegates, who had no respect for the rules, and not as the result of anti-democratic conduct by the state party.
Nevada State Democratic Party leaders “claim that the Sanders campaign has a ‘penchant for violence,'” Sanders said in a statement. “That is nonsense. Our campaign has held giant rallies all across this country, including in high-crime areas, and there have been zero reports of violence.”
“Our campaign of course believes in non-violent change and it goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals. But, when we speak of violence, I should add here that months ago, during the Nevada campaign, shots were fired into my campaign office in Nevada and apartment housing complex my campaign staff lived in was broken into and ransacked.”
The Nevada State Democratic Party held its caucus on February 20, and Hillary Clinton won more pledged delegates. However, Nevada has a tiered system, where there are county-level conventions prior to the state convention. Delegates must show up, and when they don’t, it produces an outcome, like what happened in Clark County, which flipped from having more Clinton delegates to more Sanders delegates at the county convention. This increased interest among Sanders supporters, who saw the state convention as a final opportunity to pick up more delegates for Sanders to send to the national convention.
According to several individuals, who were present, the Nevada State Democratic Party, led by chairwoman Roberta Lange, engaged in the following during the 15-hour convention:
- Lange and an executive board secretly voted on rules five weeks before the convention to give Lange “exclusive control” over the convention and strictly limit motions, as well as challenges to rulings by the chair
- Voted on “temporary rules” [PDF] for the convention and cheated by calling the vote for the “yeas” when the “nays” clearly had larger numbers. The vote happened early at 9:30 am before all the delegates had arrived. [Video here.]
- The State Democratic Party was provided with petitions from twenty percent of the delegates in attendance to challenge the adopted rules. Signatures were collected ahead of the convention because there were activists well-aware of what the Party would try to do with the new “temporary rules.” In fact, one of these people, Angie Morelli, was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Party, which was partly dismissed a day before the convention. The leadership pretended to accept the petitions and then ignored the fact that proper procedure had been followed, blocking any challenges, which effectively disenfranchised a subsection of people attempting to have their voices heard.
- Lange granted herself the authority to have the final decision on all the delegates excluded from the convention. There were 56 Sanders delegates and four Clinton delegates, which were deemed to have improper or inadequate registration information. The number of Clinton delegates outnumbered Sanders delegates by only 33 delegates.
- When one of the members of the state party committees attempted to read a “Minority Report,” reflecting what had happened with the decision to exclude 56 Sanders delegates, Lange tried to take the microphone out of the hand of the person, who was about to read the report.
- Multiple attempts were made to bring motions in order to remove Lange as chair of the state party convention because it appeared to be Lange who was responsible for eruptions of disorder. Congressional candidate Dan Rolle hopped on a megaphone to make a motion and had the megaphone confiscated. Then, Rolle tried again later when he had access to the microphone to make a motion for a “no confidence” vote. The leadership cut off his microphone.
- Nina Turner, one of the most prominent and well-respected Sanders surrogates, was there to represent his campaign at the convention. Yet, abruptly, the leadership switched the order and had Senator Barbara Boxer go on stage to speak for the Clinton campaign. Her speech riled up supporters, and as she was booed, she kept riling them up by berating them.
- The State Democratic Party charged $60 to vote in the county and state conventions. Poor people who could not afford to pay the cost of admission to participate in democracy were urged to go through a demeaning process of requesting permission from the state party to waive the $60.
- Lange moved to adjourn the convention when there was a motion made for a recount on the floor late in the convention. She illegitimately brought the convention to an end. [See video]
- State Democratic Party leadership refused to acknowledge delegates from the Sanders side, who were following the rules to make motions, and effectively sowed chaos in the process. As they fled the convention after abruptly adjourning, Las Vegas metro police lined the stage. Sanders delegates contemplated a civil disobedience action in response, but eventually, most left the room as it was cleared. This image of police in the room helped the Party spread propaganda in the hours after that it was the Sanders people who were “violent,” and brought the convention to the point of chaos where it was not safe for people anymore.
Unfortunately, all of this conduct has been drowned out by a narrative that somehow Sanders supporters were sore losers. They misunderstood the process. They mistakenly believed they would win the convention when they should have accepted back in February, when Clinton won the caucus, that they would not flip the state. Charles Pierce of Esquire wrote, “This whole mess was over four freaking delegates, and the Sanders people should know better than to conclude what has been a brilliant and important campaign by turning it into an extended temper tantrum.”
However, the fact of the matter is Sanders delegates outnumbered Clinton delegates at the Clark County convention weeks ago and successfully flipped that county (something most media outlets viewed as inconsequential). Sanders delegates came prepared to not only win more delegates to send to the national convention in July but to also make motions to influence the state party platform. The State Democratic Party was prepared to stifle this activity at the convention. So, for wanting to participate in a democratic process, Sanders supporters were silenced by party leaders beholden to the Clinton campaign.
People Aren’t Going to “Stand By and Allow People To Cheat”
On “The Benjamin Dixon Show” on May 16, Nina Turner appeared to discuss what she witnessed at the state party convention.
Turner described how she was in the room for eight hours, and when she arrived, it was immediately evident that “Sanders supporters were concerned about unfairness. They felt that the process had been rigged before they had got there.”
“Nobody’s supporters are homogeneous, and nobody can control all of their supporters. [Clinton] can’t and neither can Senator Sanders,” Turner added.
In regards to the vote on “temporary rules,” Turner stated the “nays clearly had it.” What followed later was Sanders supporters “letting the leaders know that cheating happened, and it’s unfair and they’re not going to stand for it.”
“Folks are not going for the status quo. They are not going for business as usual, and they’re not going to stand by and allow people to cheat,” Turner said, contextualizing the turmoil which occurred.
Turner said the leadership changed the schedule and had Senator Barbara Boxer speak before her. This would not have been that big a deal, however, it appeared to pour more gasoline on a fire that was already growing.
“It was the tone that she took with them,” Turner suggested. “It started off as kind of, ‘Can we all just get along?’ And it built up to a condescending tone. So, they started booing.” Supporters booed the majority of her speech because she was saying things like, “You can boo yourself out of the party.”
According to Turner, every single standing committee for the convention was controlled by “pro-Secretary Clinton folks.” That was “unfair.”
Turner delivered a speech, and she said she chose to be a “real leader” and calm people at the convention. She could have condemned the conduct of the leadership of the convention yet she found it best to refocus people on why they were all here.
“The best way to fight our disappointment is to make sure that we stay here and make sure that Senator Bernie Sanders wins today. That is the best way to fight,” Turner said during her speech. She urged people to “remain calm but remain committed,” and emphasized to supporters that they were on the side that believed they could make the impossible possible, like Medicare for All and free college education.
“You can’t have a testimony without a test. We are being tested today about whether we have heart enough, commitment enough, love enough, and principles enough to stand up and to do what is right,” Turner further declared.
After she finished her speech, Turner was swarmed with people from the Sanders side, and even the Clinton side, who expressed gratitude for attempting to calm people down with such a rousing speech about what matters and why people need to keep their eyes on the prize.
Unfortunately, much to Turner’s disappointment, the manipulation of the convention process did not come to a halt after her speech
“People were giving of their time. These are mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and aunts, and uncles, and children. There were babies in the room. You think about how long a caucus takes. People were in that room, some of them in that room as long as 15 hours, some of them. And to be cheated like that, to have them not allowing a ‘Minority Report’ to come forward, to have parking challenges.”
A number of people have said it took an unacceptable amount of time to park because the garage at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas was full. The State Democratic Party failed to prepare a contingency plan to accommodate all the people—both Clinton and Sanders delegates—that would be in attendance. That contributed to the chaos.
“We Were Just Blatantly Ignored”
Angie Morelli, a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Nevada State Democratic Party and a prominent local activist who has spent the last eight months organizing for Sanders, shared with Shadowproof how much effort went into collecting petitions so Sanders delegates would not be shut down at the convention.
“We spent a considerable time drafting those petitions,” Morelli said. “My volunteers came in with less than five hours of sleep on Saturday because of how late we stayed” out to collect signatures. The leaders at the convention “wouldn’t even accept them.”
It was “ridiculous,” Morelli added, that people had to get twenty percent of those in attendance to sign petitions in order to make floor motions. On top of that, the leadership refused to respect the process when petitions were submitted.
“We made several peaceable motions from the very beginning, very respectfully, and we were just blatantly ignored,” Morelli recounted. The leaders kept pushing barricades back.
“Originally, the barricades were maybe only four or five feet away from the stage. After that, the barricades were twenty feet away from the stage. While they’re telling us they can’t hear what we’re saying, they’re pushing us farther and farther away from them,” Morelli stated.
She became worried they did not have a clear record of the State Democratic Party denying the petitions. Morelli grabbed a megaphone and said, “Madame Chair, I motion for you to accept these petitions that we have requisite signatures for. Can I get a second?” Morelli was ignored.
Those running the convention came over while she was in the middle of her motion and tried to rip the megaphone after her hands. She was informed if she tried to make a motion like that again she would be kicked out of the hotel.
Morelli recalled asking Chris Wicker, a first vice chair on the state party’s executive board, “If you felt like you were in a situation where you thought your voice was not being heard, if you thought there was undemocratic things going on at a convention such as this, what would you do? He kind of looked at me and said, well, this isn’t supposed to be a democratic situation.”
“I Personally Did Not See Any Acts Of Violence”
Dan Rolle, a congressional candidate for the fourth district in Nevada, was present at the convention. He put together a video of what happened at the convention and why it happened. Two days later, it has over 30,000 views.
According to Rolle, an executive board of the Democratic Party in Nevada met and voted on a set of rules that allowed Roberta Lange to have “complete control over the convention.” It enabled the Party to ignore motions. It enabled the Party to exclude a disproportionate amount of Sanders delegates on the basis of not having “appropriate” registration information and limited the ability of any effort to challenge their authority.
There were not enough people present to change the rules, however, the leadership held a voice vote and figured it did not matter. They proceeded as if the “yeas” had it, regardless of how loud the “nays” were.
Rolle appeared on “The Benjamin Dixon Show” on May 16, right before Turner spoke about the convention. Rolle mentioned the State Democratic Party may have pushed hundreds more people to not attend by charging people $35 admission to the convention. He called it a “sham.”
He described his attempts to initiate votes of “no confidence” to have Lange removed from her position of power. Those efforts were suppressed and entirely disregarded.
Rolle was very unsettled by the final moments of the convention, when the entire stage was flanked by Las Vegas metro police as leadership fled after undemocratically bringing the convention to a close.
“I personally did not see any acts of violence,” Rolle stated. The State Democratic Party has closed their office to shun supporters. It basically fuels this narrative that Sanders supporters were responsible for the disorder while at the same time making it next to impossible for anyone in Nevada to hold leaders of this political party accountable.
Rolle sent a letter to Senator Harry Reid, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, urging them to demand Lange resign after her actions at the convention.
There is a lot more going on here than people upset with not winning more delegates. The Democratic Party establishment, especially the party leadership at state levels, has witnessed supporters pass motions in an effort to end superdelegates, which have gone against the will of the people in multiple states where Sanders won landslide victories. They do not want Sanders delegates to organize effectively and wield the process to advance their agenda. So, leaders, who back Clinton, have decided to engage in manipulation and obstruction at conventions to diminish the influence of Sanders supporters.
On top of that, the Nevada State Democratic Party and others, who militantly guard the status quo, cry out about the “threat” Sanders supporters pose to the Party’s national convention scheduled for July. Their false alarm is dependent on the public not knowing all the shenanigans, which the Party has engaged in to improperly limit the influence of the Sanders campaign. For example, the Party has stacked the deck against the Sanders campaign by only appointing three of the 45 people he recommended for the Democratic National Convention committees. Critically, former Representative Barney Frank—a Clinton surrogate, who has been vitriolic in his criticism of Sanders—will co-chair the important Rules Committee.
Finally, it cannot be argued that Sanders never would have won the state convention in Nevada, and so it does not matter what the Democratic Party did to engineer a certain outcome. Why, then, did they go to all that trouble to stifle the influence of Sanders?
The answer is because the Democratic Party is confronted with a popular uprising that is raising expectations for change and forcing them to represent people over corporate or special interests. It threatens the very mechanisms, which the party uses to entrench a status quo that helps preserve their power. They do not appreciate being challenged and have opted to respond with authoritarian maneuvers to vilify and silence millions of people they expect to fall in line and support a nominee they are still struggling to anoint as the presidential nominee.
Demanding state Democratic party leaders show supporters fairness and respect, Sanders indicated he was “happy to say that has been the case at state conventions in Maine, Alaska, Colorado and Hawaii where good discussions were held and democratic decisions were reached.”
“Unfortunately, that was not the case at the Nevada convention. At that convention the Democratic leadership used its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place.”
Below is a video showing some examples of how the Nevada State Democratic Party rigged the convention against Sanders supporters:
Update: There were never any chairs thrown at the convention.