There is the activist in Chicago who unleashed a movement to “harass” superdelegates backing Clinton, with an online “hit list” complete with delegate phone numbers and some home addresses. There are the online trolls who have come to be known as "Bernie bros," who attack journalists, politicians and fellow voters they perceive to be pro-Clinton with misogynistic, often vulgar attacks. There are the campaign surrogates -- some of them high-profile -- who use language the campaign finds itself having to walk back.
On Thursday, Sanders apologized for comments made by Paul Song, chairman of the progressive California group Courage Campaign, during Sanders’ huge rally the night before in New York’s Washington Square Park. Song railed against “corporate Democratic whores,” saying the party establishment was beholden to the pharmaceutical industry. The Clinton campaign demanded Sanders disavow Song’s words, which it did. Song himself also apologized, saying the comment was not directed at Clinton.
The hostility from some Sanders backers reflects a very different tone than what supporters projected a year ago at Sanders’ first large rally in Vermont, a lakeside park affair that resembled a peace festival. It comes as Sanders, the underdog candidate who trails in the delegate count despite a string of electoral wins in recent weeks, has stepped up his attacks on a political system he says is rigged for Clinton and a corporate media he says wants him to lose.
His increasingly hostile tone can be a combustible mix with a group of supporters who, in many cases, are new to the mechanics of party politics, delegate lobbying and campaign messaging. As a campaign so heavily focused online, it is especially vulnerable to the Internet’s darker impulses.