Eric Frazier

Bernie is right: the game is rigged

By Eric Frazier

Hecklers for Sanders disrupt start of the DNC

Despite calls from Sen. Bernie Sanders for party unification, his supporters booed and chanted as speakers called for support of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. The four-day convention kicked off on Monday in Philadelphia.
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Despite calls from Sen. Bernie Sanders for party unification, his supporters booed and chanted as speakers called for support of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. The four-day convention kicked off on Monday in Philadelphia.

Here at the Democratic National Convention, supporters of Bernie Sanders are seething with righteous rage over those now-infamous leaked emails.

See, they say, the game was always rigged against Bernie and the grassroots.

Their anger has forced Sanders’ nemesis, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, to resign her post. She seemed reluctant to leave the spotlight Monday, so they booed her off the stage when she addressed the Florida delegation.

Hillary Clinton’s supporters? They acknowledge it was wrong for DNC staffers to have been bad-mouthing Sanders, as the emails showed. The DNC formally apologized Monday to Sanders and his supporters.

So it was a day for strong feelings and passionate words. But in all of the marching and shouting and protesting, I kept coming back to the three-word sentence I kept hearing over and over, from both Clinton delegates and Sanders supporters:

I’m not surprised.

The game is rigged, as the Russians or whoever it was showed by pulling back the curtains on America’s political elite. And absolutely no one is shocked at that fact.

Rigged not just because some party staffers liked Clinton more than Sanders. Rigged, more importantly, because the leaked emails showed how the party cozied up to wealthy donors in exchange for big-dollar contributions.

It’s the same smarmy transactional game we’ve come to know so well. Not quite a direct quid pro quo. Not quite pay to play. But just slimy enough to remind average voters that the rich and the powerful aren’t quite playing by the same political rules as everyone else.

And yet, for all these years, nobody’s done anything to change it.

The gears of our political machinery have been gummed up by Big Money for so long that everyone just takes it for granted. Washington has disappointed us so consistently that we simply assume the worst, and year after year, decade after decade, we accept it.

We’re not surprised. Perpetually so.

And in that, we have bipartisan unity. The GOP’s grassroots sent Jeb Bush and his army of big-money donors home and instead handed its nomination to Donald Trump – about as emphatic a blow-it-all-up temper tantrum as America has seen the electorate throw in modern memory.

People are sick of feeling like their votes don’t count, or don’t count as much as the checks of the big donors. They’re tired of the two-party stranglehold on political power.

They’re tired of a political elite that seems incapable of solving the problems of average, everyday people.

But you get the sense here in Philadelphia that the rage on the left and the right is more than just a temper tantrum.

Walk around downtown and you could be forgiven for thinking that Sanders, not Clinton, won the election. You see five Sanders T-shirts, signs and buttons for every one of Clinton’s.

His young supporters bounce along as if they’re headed for a rock concert. They aren’t ready for their revolution to be over.

They seem to be taking delight in the angst they are bringing on the defenders of the hated Status Quo so neatly embodied by Hillary Clinton.

The rest of this convention could prove just as chaotic as the Republicans’ fight-fest in Cleveland – perhaps even more so. Sanders urged his supporters Monday to simmer down, but they were having none of it.

This is messy, unpredictable stuff. And few of us saw it coming.

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Eric: 704-301-5027; efrazier@charlotteobserver.com.

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