Neither did Hillary choose to attend the progressive free-for-all this year. Other Democratic candidates for president did. Unfortunately for them, this is what ensued at a key event yesterday.
I am not a fan or supporter of either candidate, but I have to wonder what has become of decorum and respect. What is the point of inviting candidates to speak to you if you shout them down and prevent them from delivering their messages? Did the candidates who agreed to speak not merit the courtesy of being heard? Was it not the task of the organizers to ensure that courtesy?
PHOENIX — A group of protesters repeatedly confronted Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland during a town hall discussion with liberal activists here on Saturday, demanding the Democratic presidential candidates address issues like discrimination and police brutality.
Chanting, “What side are you on, my people, what side are you on?” and “Black lives matter,” the demonstrators moved to the front of the ballroom about 20 minutes into the event as Mr. O’Malley discussed proposed changes to Social Security. They remained there, heckling the candidates and posing questions, until organizers shut down the event, one of the centerpieces of the annual Netroots Nation conference.
Mr. O’Malley repeatedly tried to answer the demonstrators, saying that, as president, he would advocate for civilian review boards and other measures to overhaul the criminal justice system.
Mr. Sanders, taking the stage a few minutes later to a standing ovation from the audience, tried to respond to the protesters and deliver a brief stump speech on economic inequality.“Black lives, of course, matter,” Mr. Sanders said, answering the chants. “I spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and dignity, but if you don’t want me to be here, that’s O.K. I don’t want to out-scream people.”
The other concern, of course, is security. These are potential presidents. How does a protester get all the way up on stage next to Martin O'Malley? How is this chaos permitted to continue for such an extended period of time? How is disruption tolerated to such a degree that an event central to the conference is shut down?
Given the events of yesterday, Hillary Clinton's decision to skip Netroots Nation and instead speak at the Arkansas Annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner was wise indeed.
Everyone, under the First Amendment, has the right to free expression. We have all at some point protested something. Nothing is wrong with protest. But event organizers should have plans to protect all the messages - those of the protesters as well as those of guest speakers who have agreed to appear at their event. They also have a duty to protect the messengers. Netroots organizers failed on both counts yesterday to the disadvantage of those who paid for tickets specifically to hear these speakers.
Toward the end of the article, Jenni Siri, who represents Women for Bernie Sanders and New Mexico for Bernie Sanders, is quoted as saying of Hillary, “Her not being here almost looks like she’s thumbing her nose at the event. ..She’s acting like it’s not a big deal.”
Nose-thumbing is not an activity in which Hillary Clinton indulges. In fact, it is impossible to imagine her engaging in a behavior so undiplomatic and impolite. What Hillary Clinton does do is assess her options. Her decision to head for a Democratic Party dinner in a state that once was her blue home and lately has been leaning red as a savvy one. Had she headed for Phoenix instead, would anyone have had a chance to hear what she had to say?
I am not saying she can foresee the future or knew what would happen in Phoenix, but she does size up the pros and cons. She made a wise decision.