First thing is first. It’s early in the Democratic primary process. Less than three percent of the delegates have been allocated, with only three states, two of which were caucuses, voting so far. South Carolina will vote Saturday, with Super Tuesday to follow.
Bernie Sanders has rallied over the past few months to become the front runner in this election. Joe Biden held double digit leads, but has since faded to second or third. Elizabeth Warren surged early, but has faded a bit as well, though a second-wave may be on its way for her. Mayor Pete put together a very strong coalition in Iowa and New Hampshire, and is second in total delegate count. The moderate has found a way to rise above others in his lane – Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar, but not by much, not enough to consolidate the middle around him. It didn’t help that Klobuchar saw her own surge in NH, or that it is somewhat likely that Biden will win South Carolina. The middle is congested.
So let’s talk about lanes. Bernie Sanders is the progressive, pushing the same policies he has always pushed. Elizabeth Warren is operating left of center. You could call her a progressive pragmatist. She has the vision, mixed with some tempering of reality, and the plans to put things in motion. Mayor Pete, Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar are the moderates, each with their own appeal. Newcomer Mike Bloomberg also occupies this lane, a candidate who has spent millions of his own wealth to close the gaps in polling. In many ways, he is an archetype of everything Bernie hopes to defeat – a millionaire buying votes, using personal wealth, not grass roots support, to propel his candidacy.
The congestion of the center is what is complicating the Democratic convention. Sanders is polling extremely well nationally. He stands alone in his lane. Warren splits the left and middle, but doesn’t detract as much from Sanders as she does from the moderates. So Sanders is winning primaries, but not by large margins. Voters have so many options, they can essentially vote to taste. Don’t want a progressive? Here’s five other choices. Don’t want a millionaire? Here’s four other choices. Find Warren obnoxious? Here’s five other choices, etc. In short, Democrats aren’t having trouble finding a candidate they like, but instead, have too many viable choices. So the votes get spread out. Bernie hasn’t yet shown he can build a strong enough lead, and there are too many moderates for voters in the center to consolidate behind one. This spread also enables these candidates to continue forward. The closer the race remains, the more likely it is the field remains packed. I haven’t even mentioned Tom Steyer, but he may actually win some delegates in South Carolina.
Current Democratic National Committee (DNC) rules say that in order for a candidate to win the nomination, they must have a majority of the delegates entering the convention.
In 2016, Super Delegates, additional voters within the Democratic party with power to swing outcomes, were allowed to vote on both the first ballot, as well as any subsequent ballots. Bernie fought this rule after 2016, and it has been changed so that Super Delegates may only vote on the second ballot and beyond. This would allow Bernie to win the nomination based on the will of the people if, and only if, he has a delegate majority on the first ballot.
But if he fails to earn that majority in primaries, we have a problem. Since no candidate would win on the first ballot, a second ballot would come into play, along with 771 Super Delegate votes – more than enough to choose a particular candidate. Many “establishment” democrats fear the left-leaning platform Sanders presents, and are concerned he would alienate moderate voters and endanger down-ballot contests. Therefore, a situation is brewing where Sanders could win a plurality of the People’s vote, but that vote could be turned over by the Super Delegates, awarding, say, Joe Biden the nomination instead.
The Sanders camp says that if they should win more delegates than anyone else prior to the first ballot, they should be awarded the nomination, even without a majority. They say not to do so goes against the will of the people. It’s a tough premise to argue against. How can you not reward the most-voted for candidate with the nomination? How does one (the DNC) justify choosing a candidate that the People did not select?
The DNC, like many of us, want to see the end of the Trump presidency. If we are being honest, Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat. He has always been an Independent. It is not surprising that Democrats would be upset that a lifelong Independent who refused to support the very party he is running within, may win a nomination over candidates who have given decades of support to the party. It’s kind of like having a sports team in a playoff run. Just prior to the playoffs, you add a guy from another team. Your whole team wins the championship, but the new guy didn’t play with you all season, he didn’t go through battle with you. But he still gets to raise the trophy, or wear a ring or whatever. Except in this case, the DNC didn’t trade for Sanders, or add him for value, he just kind of showed up.
The thing is, your whole team still wins that championship. Despite the new guy coming (barging) in, the ultimate outcome was a victory. And in the case of the 2020 election, nothing matters more than the outcome.
The biggest argument against Sanders, outside of emotional disdain, is that his policies may be too far left and may alienate moderates. Universal Healthcare is scary to some people. At the end of the day, many Americans don’t care how much they spend on a product, so long as it isn’t socialism. Bernie is “socialism,” even though he isn’t. The DNC believes the key to success in 2020 is in the middle, with those Republicans who can’t stand Trump, with moderate Democrats afraid of far-left policies.
But one thing Bernie does have, unequivocally, is an enthusiastic and passionate base. And this matters. Enthusiasm is what drove Obama’s campaign and eventual election to office, fueled by record turnout. Voting for someone because you are excited about them is way more fun than voting for someone because you’re supposed to vote. And people do things that are fun. People will vote if it is fun.
Young people will vote if it is fun.
Millennial and Gen Z will make up 35% of the electorate this year, compared to 28% for Boomers, and 25% for Gen X. Younger people love Bernie. They are simply on board with him and there is no fighting it, at least not to this point. If Bernie can convince some of the older crown to vote for him, a path to victory in a general election is clear. And Independents disapprove of Trump 56% to just 39% who approve. And they are a key group to consider.
The vast majority of Democrats say they will support whoever the nominee is. Very few say they will vote for Trump over Sanders. He would have Democratic support, Independent support, and even some Republican support.
There was also a conversation in 2016 about Bernie voters voting for Trump. This hasn’t been brought up much in 2020, but Bernie and Trump both have mass appeal to the working class. Bernie can win over the rust-belt just as easily as Trump did. Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin are all in play with Bernie. He leads Trump in all latest polls in this state. Bernie is also with 2 points of Trump in Texas. Let me rephrase this….Bernie is within striking distance of turning Texas blue. Texas.
So the numbers are there for Bernie, the youth is there for Bernie and so far the votes are there for Bernie. But the DNC isn’t (quite) yet there for Bernie.
I heard an argument the other day that said Trump has been so far right, so divisive, so radical, that Democrats would look to put up their own far-left, divisive, radical candidate to counter. This would be “reactionary.” But I think what is left out is that Trump is not the baseline. Obama was the baseline. Donald Trump is the Republican payback for America electing its first black President. Donald Trump is the reactionary, conservative “middle finger” to a population who would dare to elect a black president, and who would dare to pass a “socialist” healthcare plan in the ACA, which grows more and more popular daily. Bernie Sanders would be a return to the norm. Left-leaning? Yes. Big ideas? Yes. Divisive? Maybe, but only in policy, not in personality. A return to reason and dignity is a return to normalcy. The fear of some Democrats that Bernie is “overcompensating for Trump,” seems outlandish.
In no uncertain terms, a Super Delegate vote to deny Bernie the nomination would be disastrous for the Democratic party.
The only reasonable purpose in denying Sanders the nomination, even after he wins a plurality, would be because Democrats think he would tank in the general. In casting a vote with this outcome, Democrats would be handing Trump the election.
The enthusiasm of the Sanders campaign would yield to bitterness and disgust – the establishment bucking the will of the people. The party that is supposed to best represent the common man turning their backs on their members in favor of a hand-picked “safe” option. Young people would leave the party in droves, and worse, they won’t turn up at the ballot box, not for the Presidential nominee, and not for down ballot nominees.
And those voters will be gone for a long time. Because they will feel that, two elections in a row, they were conspired against. And if I felt that way, I wouldn’t come back either. I’d go vote for the Independent, or not vote at all. Or for the new third party candidate, born out of the ensuing chaos. And there is no worse nightmare for the Democrats than a left-wing third party.
The census is at stake in 2020, which means redistricting is at stake in 2020. Supreme Court vacancies and lower court vacancies are at stake. A Republican win in 2020 could mean a conservative super majority on the Supreme Court for decades…goodbye civil liberties. And should a third party form to the left… winning a Presidency could be difficult for either of those parties up against a consolidated right. Not to blow this out of proportion, but a second ballot vote denying Bernie the nomination, should it come to that, could change the landscape of America for a century, and in all the worst ways.
The only way a candidate not named Bernie Sanders will win big in the general is if they beat Bernie handily in the primary, which is still a possibility. And Bernie supporters will only accept them if the DNC allows a fair game to be played. Bernie supporters weren’t mad Bernie lost in 2016, they were mad that they felt they were cheated and conspired against. They can be given no reason to feel that way this year. So far, Bernie has had strong showings, which puts suspicion at ease. But if Bernie starts losing, there cannot be controversy or stories released about the DNC funneling cash here, or pulling strings there to disadvantage the Sanders campaign.
Bernie can beat Trump in 2020. Honestly, any one of the remaining candidates can beat Trump in 2020. But that requires a unified Democratic front. Super Delegates cannot influence this outcome in any way. It will divide the base. Bernie Sanders is not a dud. He has held together support for five years. The DNC would do best to get out of its own way, look at the reality before them, and embrace Sanders and a younger generation.
There is far too much at stake here to be petty.