[Marxism] Democratic Leaders Willing to Risk Party Damage to Stop Bernie Sanders

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Feb 28 08:24:27 MST 2020

("Mr. Sanders argued that he should become the nominee at the convention 
with a plurality of delegates, to reflect the will of voters, and that 
denying him the nomination would enrage his supporters and split the 
party for years to come." Is that so? What will they do if Sanders ends 
up backing the candidate who a brokered convention produces, like 
Sherrod Brown who is cited in the article? Will they be enraged at him? 
Will they put pressure on Sanders to run as an independent? That would 
be the logical response to such an undemocratic act but I am afraid that 
Sanders and most of his supporters would view starting a new party as 
"unrealistic". As for me, I say three cheers for being unrealistic.)

NY Times, Feb. 28, 2020
Democratic Leaders Willing to Risk Party Damage to Stop Bernie Sanders
By Lisa Lerer and Reid J. Epstein

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the 
minority leader, hear constant warnings from allies about congressional 
losses in November if the party nominates Bernie Sanders for president. 
Democratic House members share their Sanders fears on text-messaging 
chains. Bill Clinton, in calls with old friends, vents about the party 
getting wiped out in the general election.

And officials in the national and state parties are increasingly anxious 
about splintered primaries on Super Tuesday and beyond, where the 
liberal Mr. Sanders, of Vermont, edges out moderate candidates who 
collectively win more votes.

Dozens of interviews with Democratic establishment leaders this week 
show that they are not just worried about Mr. Sanders’s candidacy, but 
are also willing to risk intraparty damage to stop his nomination at the 
national convention in July if they get the chance. Since Mr. Sanders’s 
victory in Nevada’s caucuses on Saturday, The Times has interviewed 93 
party officials — all of them superdelegates, who could have a say on 
the nominee at the convention — and found overwhelming opposition to 
handing the Vermont senator the nomination if he arrived with the most 
delegates but fell short of a majority.

Such a situation may result in a brokered convention, a messy political 
battle the likes of which Democrats have not seen since 1952, when the 
nominee was Adlai Stevenson.

“We’re way, way, way past the day where party leaders can determine an 
outcome here, but I think there’s a vibrant conversation about whether 
there is anything that can be done,” said Jim Himes, a Connecticut 
congressman and superdelegate, who believe the nominee should have a 
majority of delegates.

 From California to the Carolinas, and North Dakota to Ohio, the party 
leaders say they worry that Mr. Sanders, a democratic socialist with 
passionate but limited support so far, will lose to President Trump, and 
drag down moderate House and Senate candidates in swing states with his 
left-wing agenda of “Medicare for all” and free four-year public college.

Mr. Sanders and his advisers insist that the opposite is true — that his 
ideas will generate huge excitement among young and working-class 
voters, and lead to record turnout. Such hopes have yet to be borne out 
in nominating contests so far.

Jay Jacobs, the New York State Democratic Party chairman and a 
superdelegate, echoing many others interviewed, said that superdelegates 
should choose a nominee they believed had the best chance of defeating 
Mr. Trump if no candidate wins a majority of delegates during the 
primaries. Mr. Sanders argued that he should become the nominee at the 
convention with a plurality of delegates, to reflect the will of voters, 
and that denying him the nomination would enrage his supporters and 
split the party for years to come.

“Bernie wants to redefine the rules and just say he just needs a 
plurality,” Mr. Jacobs said. “I don’t think we buy that. I don’t think 
the mainstream of the Democratic Party buys that. If he doesn’t have a 
majority, it stands to reason that he may not become the nominee.”

This article is based on interviews with the 93 superdelegates, out of 
771 total, as well as party strategists and aides to senior Democrats 
about the thinking of party leaders. A vast majority of those 
superdelegates — whose ranks include federal elected officials, former 
presidents and vice presidents and D.N.C. members — predicted that no 
candidate would clinch the nomination during the primaries, and that 
there would be a brokered convention fight in July to choose a nominee.

In a reflection of the establishment’s wariness about Mr. Sanders, only 
nine of the 93 superdelegates interviewed said that Mr. Sanders should 
become the nominee purely on the basis of arriving at the convention 
with a plurality, if he was short of a majority.

“I’ve had 60 years experience with Democratic delegates — I don’t think 
they will do anything like that,” said former Vice President Walter 
Mondale, who is a superdelegate. “They will each do what they want to 
do, and somehow they will work it out. God knows how.”

As for his own vote, Mr. Mondale, the 1984 Democratic presidential 
nominee, said, “I vote for the person I think should be president.”

While there is no widespread public effort underway to undercut Mr. 
Sanders, arresting his rise has emerged as the dominant topic in many 
Democratic circles. Some are trying to act well before the convention: 
Since Mr. Sanders won Nevada’s caucuses on Saturday, four donors have 
approached former Representative Steve Israel of New York to ask if he 
can suggest someone to run a super PAC aimed at blocking Mr. Sanders. He 
declined their offer.

“People are worried,” said former Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a 
former Democratic National Committee chairman who in October endorsed 
former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “How you can spend four or 
five months hoping you don’t have to put a bumper sticker from that guy 
on your car.”

That anxiety has led even superdelegates to suggest ideas that sound 
ripped from the pages of a political drama.

In recent weeks, Democrats have placed a steady stream of calls to 
Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who opted against running for president 
nearly a year ago, suggesting that he can emerge as a white knight 
nominee at a brokered convention — in part on the theory that he may 
carry his home state in a general election.

“If you could get to a convention and pick Sherrod Brown, that would be 
wonderful, but that’s more like a novel,” Representative Steve Cohen of 
Tennessee said. “Donald Trump’s presidency is like a horror story, so if 
you can have a horror story you might as well have a novel.”

Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee expressed enthusiasm about the 
Democratic convention picking Senator Sherrod Brown as the party’s 
presidential nominee.Credit...Tom Brenner for The New York Times
Others are urging former President Barack Obama to get involved to 
broker a truce — either among the four moderate candidates or between 
the Sanders and establishment wings, according to three people familiar 
with those conversations.

William Owen, a D.N.C. member from Tennessee, suggested that if Mr. 
Obama was unwilling, his wife, Michelle, could be nominated as vice 
president, giving the party a figure they could rally behind.

“She’s the only person I can think of who can unify the party and help 
us win,” he said. “This election is about saving the American experiment 
as a republic. It’s also about saving the world. This is not an ordinary 

People close to Mr. Obama say he has no intention of getting involved in 
the primary contest, seeing his role as less of a kingmaker than as a 
unifying figure to help heal party divisions once Democrats settle on a 
nominee. He also believed that the Democratic Party shouldn’t engage in 
smoke-filled-room politics, arguing that those kinds of deals would have 
prevented him from capturing the nomination when he ran against Hillary 
Clinton in 2008.

Officials at the Democratic National Committee maintain that it is 
highly improbable to head to the convention without an assured nominee. 
Historically, superdelegates had always supported the candidate who won 
the most pledged delegates, which accrue from primary and caucus wins. 
While those delegates are proportioned based on the results of those 
elections, they are not legally bound — meaning that they are 
technically free to change their votes as the race progresses.

In recent days, both Mr. Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren of 
Massachusetts said that Mr. Sanders should not become the nominee if he 
arrived at the convention short of a delegate majority. “Bernie had a 
big hand in writing these rules,” Ms. Warren said during a CNN forum on 
Wednesday night. “I don’t see how he thinks he gets to change them now 
that he thinks there’s an advantage for him.”

Slightly less than 3 percent of delegates have been allocated in the 
race so far, and Mr. Sanders, of course, can win a majority, making him 
the nominee. But while Mr. Sanders has demonstrated momentum in the 
race, winning the most votes in each of the first three contests, he has 
yet to show that he can expand his coalition enough to set his campaign 
on a path to capturing the majority of delegates. As a result, some 
within Mr. Sanders’s own campaign foresee a possible brokered convention.

The argument of Mr. Sanders and his allies — that a plurality of 
delegates should be sufficient to clinch the nomination — is a different 
standard than the one laid out in party rules that his team helped draft 
two years ago. It’s also a reversal of their stance in 2016, when Mr. 
Sanders encouraged superdelegates to support him over Mrs. Clinton, who 
secured the majority of pledged delegates.

“The will of the people should prevail,” he said when asked during last 
week’s debate if the candidate with the most pledged delegates should be 
the Democratic nominee. “The person who has the most votes should become 
the nominee.”

Supporters of Mr. Sanders said that blocking him from the nomination if 
he had the most delegates would repel progressives, and would deliver a 
second term to Mr. Trump.

“If Bernie gets a plurality and nobody else is even close and the 
superdelegates weigh in and say, ‘We know better than the voters,’ I 
think that will be a big problem,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal 
of Washington state, a Sanders supporter who is co-chairwoman of the 
Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Not only would a messy convention fight risk alienating a sizable part 
of the Democratic base that supports Mr. Sanders, it would also give 
Republicans ammunition to use in the general election.

“We don’t have to freak out,” said Jane Kleeb, the Nebraska Democratic 
chairwoman, who helped write Democrats’ presidential nominating rules 
and supported Mr. Sanders in 2016. “We shouldn’t be second-guessing 
voters. If that’s what our party leaders are going to do, you’ll see 
rebellion not just in the presidential race, but in down-ballot races as 

Others in the party view Mr. Sanders as such an existential threat that 
they see stopping him from winning the nomination as less risky than a 
public convention fight. Many feared that putting Mr. Sanders on the top 
of the ticket could cost Democrats the political gains of the Trump era, 
a period when the party won control of the House, took governor’s 
mansions in deep red states and flipped statehouses across the country.

“Bernie seems to have declared war on the Democratic Party — and it’s 
caused panic in the House ranks,” said Representative Josh Gottheimer of 
New Jersey, a supporter of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York. 
Private polling of Mr. Gottheimer’s northern New Jersey district, for 
example, shows a double-digit gap in the approval ratings of Mr. Trump 
and Mr. Sanders.

Representative Veronica Escobar of Texas said that if Mr. Sanders 
arrived at the convention with 40 percent of the delegates, it wouldn’t 
be enough to convince her to vote for him on the second ballot.

Should Mr. Sanders win big in the 16 states and territories holding 
primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday next week, he could be on a path 
to the 1,991 pledged delegates needed to capture the nomination on the 
first ballot at the party’s convention. But if the Super Tuesday vote is 
sharply divided among Mr. Sanders and two or more other rivals, the 
Vermont senator could find himself with more delegates than the 
competition but not enough to win the nomination outright.

Under the current rules, the convention would then go to a second 
ballot. On that vote, all 3,979 pledged delegates and 771 superdelegates 
would be free to vote for any candidate they chose.

That would give Democratic delegates a huge amount of power to determine 
the nominee, setting off a fierce round of jockeying by the candidates 
to win over 2,375.5 delegates and superdelegates. (Superdelegates from 
Democrats Abroad count as half a vote each.)

“It is a mini primary process in the making,” said Leah Daughtry, who 
ran the party’s 2008 and 2016 conventions. She’s been warning Democratic 
donors about the prospect of a contested convention for nearly a year. 
“If you don’t have a political operation that will get you through a 
second ballot then what are you going to do in a general?”

The campaigns are already strategizing about how they will handle a 
protracted convention battle. Superdelegates, too, are brushing up on 
the rules: Ms. Pelosi invited House Democrats to a meeting at D.N.C. 
headquarters on Thursday to review the details of the convention process.

“Whatever the atmosphere is, and I would hope that everyone would say, 
no matter who the nominee is for president, we wholeheartedly embrace 
that person,” she said, in a private caucus meeting on Wednesday 
morning, according to an aide in the room.

According to a person familiar with the private conversations, Mr. 
Schumer told people he had so far stayed out of the primary because many 
members of his caucus were running. He argued that there was one school 
of thought that you needed to win the base and one that you needed to 
bring new voters in, and said that he did not yet know which candidate 
would be able to accomplish those goals.

A number of superdelegates dream of a savior candidate who is not now in 
the race, perhaps Mr. Brown, or maybe someone who already dropped out 
the race, like Senator Kamala Harris of California.

Representative Don Beyer of Virginia cast an even wider net, suggesting 
senators from Virginia and Delaware, along with Ms. Pelosi, as possible 

“At some point you could imagine saying, ‘Let’s go get Mark Warner, 
Chris Coons, Nancy Pelosi,’” he said, while preparing to introduce the 
former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., at a campaign event 
near his home on Sunday. “Somebody that could win and we could all get 
behind and celebrate.”

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