On April 25, 2019, Indivisible launched its unity pledge, asking the 20 contestants in the Democratic Party primaries to agree to support the final winner. “The “We Are Indivisible” pledge asks for three commitments from . . . any . . . prospective signers, as first reported by BuzzFeed News. First, Indivisible’s pledge requests that candidates “make the primary constructive” by outlining their visions while respecting their opponents.
“I’ll support the ultimate Democratic nominee, whoever it is – period,” the pledge also reads. “No Monday morning quarterbacking. No third-party threats. Immediately after there’s a nominee, I’ll endorse.”
“And the group also wants a commitment that every candidate will “do the work to beat Trump,” including a promise that “As soon as there is a nominee, I will put myself at the disposal of the campaign.””
Reportedly, Bernie Sanders was the first to sign on. From one standpoint, it was surprising that he acted so quickly. From another, it was perfectly understandable, since he was originally not a Democrat and wanted to demonstrate his loyalty. He did the same in 2016 when he pledged to work for Hillary Clinton after she basically stole the election from him.
I believe that the better approach would have been to make the pledge, but state that he would withdraw it if there were clear evidence that the DNC had taken sides and supported the centrists over the progressives. Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard, having not yet signed, can take that position. Moreover, they can (and should) band together with Bernie and other progressives and state that progressives as a group may elect to walk out of the party if there is cheating by the DNC.
What is the most likely cheating? The DNC has changed the rules with respect to “super delegates.” Unlike the 2016 rules, super delegates may not vote in the first round at the convention. But this doesn’t mean that the DNC won’t find a way to delay a nomination in the first round so super delegates can vote in the second round. There are so many candidates, after all, that it is highly unlikely that any one of them will get over 50% of the vote in the first round.
So how can progressives keep the DNC from using super delegates to toss the nomination to someone like Biden or Harris? First, Bernie, Tulsi and Liz need to get together on the meaning and extent of the Unity Pledge. Second, they need to get many of the second-level candidates (such as Andrew Yang) to back their interpretation of the Unity Pledge. Third, they should agree that all of their delegates shall vote in the first round for whichever progressive has the greatest number of votes in the first round. This is very important, because this is perhaps the only way that progressives can get one of their number over 50% of the vote in the first round – thus defeating the use of super delegates to give the nomination to a centrist candidate.
Please note that the DNC can use the same strategy, but only if they can get, e.g., an agreement among Biden, Corker, Harris and others.
For the progressive strategy to work, they have to band together with true progressives. They cannot band with Harris, for example, because that might push her into the winning spot. On the other hand, they might be able to band with Corker if he isn’t likely to be the candidate with the greatest number of votes in the first round.
Let’s suppose that after all the primary results are in, Bernie has 30% of the delegates, Warren has 10% and Tulsi has 5%. Suppose further that Biden has 20%, Harris has 19%, and Corker has 7%. The remaining candidates have 8%. If Biden can get Harris, Corker, and some of the remaining candidates to pledge their delegates to him in the first round, he can win. Same for Bernie: he needs Tulsi, Warren and some of the remaining candidates to join with him. In fact, if he can get Corker to side with him, he can win in the first round. There’s no real chance that Corker with outstrip him, so he can bring Corker into the progressive wing..
The progressives should formulate a platform that all true progressives can support. They should support one another in the opening ballot. They should be courteous to one another in the primaries. In fact, they should follow the Unity Pledge, except that they can bolt from the party – and everyone will know that in advance – if the DNC pulls some trick to undermine the fairness of the primaries. And that includes steps to block voters from voting and other moves to keep progressives from winning.
The progressives should establish a group of impartial observers – including Republicans and Libertarians – who can see what is happening on the ground, and who will state impartially if the voting is being skewed in any way. This group should schedule a report after the last of the primaries and before the nomination convention.
I am sure that there are other ideas that can be added to the foregoing to make the progressive candidates strong. If you have any, please forward them to Bernie at firstname.lastname@example.org or me the comments to this article.