At the end of the Nevada debate on Wednesday evening, each of the candidates on NBC stage was asked one last question: If nobody has a majority of delegates after the primaries, should there be a brokered Convention? All the candidates answered yes except for Bernie Sanders, who as the acknowledged front-runner in the polls was asked last. “No,” he responded, to loud cheers from the audience. “I think the people should decide.”
Sanders, who saw the nomination snatched from him by corrupt tactics on the part of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee in 2016, said he believes that any candidate who goes to the convention with a solid plurality of elected pledged delegates should be the party’s nominee this year.
Sanders and the progressive base that supports his candidacy have reason to worry that won’t be allowed to happen. The DNC and many top Democratic office holders, along with liberal pundits, have been undermining Sanders since he announced his candidacy early this year, and have been openly trying to “Stop Sanders,” claiming that his nomination would be tantamount to throwing the election to Trump. In fact, mega-billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the country’s eighth richest man with $62.8 billion, has said he entered the race for the party’s nomination in large part to prevent Sanders from winning the nomination. His way into the debates last week despite his not having won a single delegate was paved by a DNC that was happy to have him and his money in that fratricidal battle. It is already being reported that Bloomberg’s staff is plotting with the Democratic leadership on a strategy to win a second ballot nomination if Sanders can’t take the nomination on the first ballot based on delegates won in the primaries.
The mounting panic among centrist Democratic poobahs is palpable as Sanders’ popularity surges. But with polls showing Sanders does as well as or better against Trump than any of his Democratic presidential wannabes, it becomes clearer by the day that what they are afraid of is not that he will lose to Trump, but that he will win the White House.
The flaw in their argument for “stopping Sanders,” meanwhile, is that none of the centrist candidates competing for the Democratic nomination, including Bloomberg with his unlimited personal wealth, but clearly limited campaigning talent and equally clear lack of positive reasons to vote for him, are likely to beat President Trump. The centrist candidates, many of whom have already dropped out of the race for lack of support, are now down to Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and late-comer Bloomberg, none of whom has much in the way of either progressive or minority support. Biden, who began with some support among African-American voters, has lost much of that to Sanders in recent weeks as his long record of supporting racist legislation like mass incarceration policies, an end to welfare and opposition to busing of students for racial integration, have come out. Meanwhile the rest of the pack had little minority support to begin with. For a time, Elizabeth Warren was seen as a popular if slightly less radical progressive alternative to Sanders, but her backpedaling on Medicare for All and other progressive policies like the Green New Deal and her sneak attack (coordinated with CNN) on Sanders in the Iowa debate with a dubious charge of his allegedly having told her a “woman cannot win the presidency” have damaged her badly. Basically it appears that none of these candidates would have an easy time defeating Trump.
Only Sanders, who has been building a grassroots movement of progressives for years, and who has stuck to his progressive platform of Medicare for All, free public college, student loan forgiveness, strong support for Social Security and a Green New Deal of shifting the nation away from fossil fuels while providing transitional employment for those workers in the energy sector who lose their jobs, shows his ability to build a coalition of Democrats, independents and disaffected working-class voters, including Republicans, that can unseat President Trump.
Because stealing the nomination from Sanders this time would be even more egregious than it was in 2016, and because it would in itself likely hand the election to Trump, progressives need to make it crystal clear: If Sanders wins the most delegates in this primary season and is denied the nomination because of the votes of unelected so-called Super Delegates, his progressive base will collectively walk away and not vote for the party’s candidate in November.
I am willing to make that promise here and now: I will not vote for some loser candidate, and certainly not for the anti-union, misogynist, racist, war-supporting, unquestioning Israel-championing, uber-billionaire Bloomberg if Sanders wins the most delegates and isn’t the party’s nominee.
I’ve already had liberal friends who are looking to Bloomberg as the “Great (Obscenely Wealthy) White Hope” who will defeat Trump say to me, “Oh no! Not again!” at my latest decision (Note: I voted for Green candidate Jill Stein in Pennsylvania in 2016). In fairness, that comment was made before Bloomberg’s disastrous first debate outing, but I think they’re probably still not switching their support to Sanders—even the ones who admit they like him, and say they’ll vote for him if becomes the party’s nominee. If you’re like them, please read this article by my friend David Swanson about Bloomberg.
But here’s the thing. If we progressives make it clear now, not at the convention, or after the convention, that we will not support a Democratic candidate who gets the nomination through the backing of Super Delegate votes, that may deter the party leadership from committing suicide again as they did in 2016.
Meanwhile, there is a good way to solve the problem of Sanders not winning a majority of delegates and a clean first-ballot nomination victory. The reason it is so hard to get a majority is a combination of the number of candidates still running in the primaries, and a Democratic Party rule that all candidates who receive at least 15% of the votes in a primary get delegates (Republicans have winner-take-all primaries). Even if some Democratic candidates only get 15, 16 or 18 percent of a primary, those totals can deny the winner getting more than 49% of the total vote.
So Sanders, if he has a plurality, but comes up short with, say 40% of the delegates by the end of the primaries (the amount that NY Times polling guru Nate Silver says he’s likely to pile up in the primaries), could offer the Vice President spot on his ticket to Warren, in return for her asking her delegates to vote for him on the first ballot. That would be a win-win. Sanders would get the nomination without the Super Delegates having a chance to block him, and Warren, who is at this point unlikely to get the nomination on her own, would be well positioned to run for the presidency in 2024, when Sanders would be 82, and would likely not want a second term. Since Warren largely supports all of Sanders’ policies, he would know that his legacy issues would be continued by her, and progressives could unify around the ticket.
Even if the combined delegate count won by Sanders and Warren was still slightly below the required 50% + one to win the nomination (Silver projects Warren will ultimately win only 5% of the delegates), they’d surely come so close that Sanders would have to receive the nomination by acclimation at that point or total disaster would ensue, reminiscent of Chicago in 1968! (Anyhow, Sanders seems to be gaining as time goes by and if he comes close to sweeping Super Tuesday on May 3, he Silver may have to upgrade his expectations for how many delegates Sanders will ultimately win.)
What seems clear to me is that a Sanders presidential campaign, especially with Warren also on the ticket, would be electrifying to a broad majority of American voters in all parts of the country. It wouldn’t just be progressives. Sanders has demonstrated his support among working people. He has demonstrated his support over the years for black, Latino and other minority Americans. Women—even those who have objected to Sanders—would support a Sanders/Warren ticket. This would, instead of being a lackluster election year, be the year of a tectonic shift in American politics, starting with a wholesale replacement of the present sclerotic neoliberal Democratic National Committee.
In fact, if as polls are predicting, Sanders wins most of the primaries on Super Tuesday, including California, Texas and North Carolina (and maybe Warren’s own home state of Massachusetts), I propose that Sanders and Warren strike a deal in public right then, according to which she’ll continue to compete for delegates through the rest of the primaries, after which the two will team up at the Convention, agreeing that whichever of them wins the lesser number of delegates will ask them to vote on the first ballot instead for the one of them that has the most delegates.
That would be the radical and progressive thing to do. True evidence that both of them are in it not for the ego gratification or the power, but for the movement. For the revolution!