The comedian and Bernie Sanders backer Sarah Silverman made headlines last night when she took the stage at the Democratic National Convention and said, “to the Bernie or Bust people, you’re being ridiculous.” She then called for “unity.”
The dramatic question on everyone’s mind as the DNC geared up was whether there would be “unity” amongst the Sanders and Clinton supporters. The fear is that if the party is not “unified” it will be unable to take down the fascist menace of Herr Trump. The data suggest that the fear is probably way overblown, but hey, at this point conventions are specifically designed to project “Unity.” Anyone who dares deviate from the script is chastised by the Professional Politico-Media class.
But exercising your political voice in a political convention is not “being ridiculous,” it’s democracy. The only way to get what you want in a democracy is to find ways to exercise political leverage in whatever small way you can. Threatening to disrupt a PR event and withhold support for the winning nominee are some of the (few) ways regular people can exercise any leverage over giant national parties.
Back in the day, political conventions must’ve been pretty awesome. They were where party delegates from every state got together to choose a presidential nominee. There was a whole lot of shouting, backdoor negotiating, leverage-exercising, protesting, and disrupting. But sometime around the ‘60s and ‘70s, conventions morphed into carefully managed TV events. They’re essentially really expensive four-day long infomercials for The Party.
The weird thing is that many people seem to prefer it this way.
That was the overwhelming feeling here at the Democratic National Convention. Even the slightest disruption from pro-Bernie delegates, or activists opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, or whomever was met with almost universal condemnation from the professional media class.
*shakes head* https://t.co/SGLXAq16x3
— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) July 25, 2016
For some reason, these Political Journalists want to do the work of the party, and enforce a strong showing of “unity.” It’s a strange thing, but it shows how much contempt many in the media have for people who earnestly engage in the political process.
Political conventions are one of the few times when basically everyone involved in politics is in the same room. Politicians, professional strategists, donors, activists, journalists, and voters are all in there together. To expect all of them to be docile and just passively accept whatever is being paraded in front of them is weird. People who boo or show discontent at a convention are not being “juvenile”—they’re being engaged citizens.
The authoritarian instinct runs deep. Any criticism of leaders makes people uncomfortable. But a few boos at a convention are not going to elect Comandante Trump in November. We should welcome dissent, discord, and the exercise of democracy.
We often bemoan how disengaged and depoliticized the American population has become. The best way to get people engaged is by celebrating their rights to vent their political passions, not treat them like petulant children.
Nando Vila is Vice President of Programming at Fusion and a correspondent for America with Jorge Ramos.