For popular Bernie Sanders, a brokered convention looms

  • Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. AP PHOTO/MATT ROURKE

Published: 3/8/2020 5:19:15 PM

Bernie Sanders’ defense of Democratic Socialism, which is currently the normal guiding political principle governing most successful countries of the world — that Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are Socialist programs, that it is basically a system in which the well-being of the people is of primary concern — is not likely to impress the close-minded folk who expect Donald Trump to improve their lives.

Fox News guests label Bernie a Castro-loving Marxist communist, which of course he has never been. Historic capitalist negative labeling of any who support labor and the poor is conveniently resurrected.

Each of our political parties is dominated by what can be termed an “establishment,” a group of officials and office holders whose intent is to maintain for their party an ideological direction — conservative, progressive or a host of other policy considerations, such as being anti-immigrant. Historically, for Southern Democrats, segregation was such an established ideology.

A major point for individuals in establishment considerations is also making certain their hold on office is secure — that voters will continue to return an incumbent to his or her secure office in future elections.

Democratic super delegates are the current 775 party officials and office holders of the states, not bound to support the candidate chosen by voters of that state in a primary election. They can vote for whomever they choose.

They are akin to the party bosses who controlled choice of presidential candidates, and for lesser offices, well into the 20th century. Money and trading of political and business favors enabled their power.

Harry Truman was Kansas boss Tom Pendergast’s selection to be the senator from Missouri in 1935. William Tweed, known as Boss Tweed, began the organization Tammany Hall in New York, an elaborate system involving patronage, public offices, jobs, favors and the granting of business contracts, largely based on drawing off financial resources of the government. Known to be corrupt, Tammany was invulnerable to change. By also helping the poor, to secure their votes, it remained the city’s political force for over 150 years. From his office as mayor for 21 years, Richard Daley held similar power in Chicago.

The first instance of the people voting in a primary was in 1910 in Oregon. By 1917, all but four states had a system for voters to chose a candidate. Widely held primary elections to select candidates is a development dating back only to 1992.

Judging the people to be unreliable, the Founders left choice of presidents to “electors” chosen by the states. The historic struggle over state versus central government power played a role. Before 1824, presidents and vice presidents were chosen by state legislatures. Even with this beginning of voting by the people, six of the then-existing 18 states did not allow for popular vote.

Hillary Clinton’s 2.9 million popular vote victory was not reflected in the states’ Electoral College results. We remain locked in a 240-year-old undemocratic electoral design of the Founders.

The first Democratic National Convention was held in 1832. At the Republicans’ first such national gathering, three men were favored over Abraham Lincoln. He wasn’t selected until the third ballot. Lincoln brought the other three into his cabinet as what historian Doris Kearns Goodwin called his “team of rivals.”

So that they might, in future, prevent such “outsiders” as Jimmy Carter from gaining a nomination as he did in 1976, the Democratic Party establishment devised its super delegate system. In 2016, nearly all the 713 super delegates supported the establishment candidate Clinton. She proved to be so unpopular that many Democrats didn’t vote.

Many Democratic super delegates announced in advance they would support Clinton, boosting her candidacy over Sanders. Had she not had establishment support, there may have been a brokered convention.

Pressure within the party has forced the establishment to yield ground. When the convention is held July 13-16 in Milwaukee, super delegates will not be allowed to vote on the first ballot. But 2020 presents a challenge to the candidates. There are so many — with names even of those who have exited remaining on ballots — that achieving a necessary majority is likely impossible. Super delegates, representing 16 percent of delegates, can vote from the second ballot on, and are determined to select a less progressive candidate than Sanders.

Their fallacious argument is that Sanders would have a negative “down ballot” effect — loss of House seats and failure to gain Senate seats — as if causing Democrats to choose the opponent or again stay home.

Charlemont resident Carl Doerner is an author and historian currently at work on a re-examination of and challenge to the prevailing “American narrative.”


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