A Contested Democratic Convention Is Inevitable


The Democratic National Convention has been moved from mid-July to mid-August because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaigns for both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were consulted before the date was pushed back one month.

Convention CEO Joe Solmonese said, “In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention.” He also said he would follow the advice of health care professionals.

Not just the convention and campaign rallies have been postponed, but also a number of Democrat presidential primaries. To date, 16 primaries have been moved from March, April, and May to June 2020.

The last Democrat debate on March 15th was held in an empty auditorium with Biden and Sanders using social distancing.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the delegate count (1,217 to 914). It takes 1,991 of the 3,979 delegates to win the nomination.

This is the third presidential campaign for both candidates. Biden ran in 1988, 2008, and now in 2020. Sanders ran in 2012, 2016, and again in 2020. Neither of them is likely to give up without a fight on the convention floor.

Both candidates have major health problems. Biden had two brain surgeries in 1988 (right after he dropped out of the presidential race) to repair two brain aneurysms and Sanders had a heart attack last October. On Election Day, Sanders will be 79 years old and Biden will be 77. Ronald Reagan, by comparison, was 73 years old when he was inaugurated for his second term.

The discussion during the entire 2020 presidential campaign has been “electability.” Joe Biden has proven to be a loose cannon and Sanders is a Socialist. Democrats are determined to run a candidate in November who can beat Donald Trump. The general consensus is that neither Biden nor Sanders can do it.

An ABC News/ Washington Post poll showed that 58% of Democrat voters were more interested in defeating Donald Trump than electing a candidate with whom they agree on the issues. That means they could nominate a candidate with an unknown agenda.

What choice, then, do the Democrats have? Risk running Biden or Sanders when they know neither of them can win? Or draft another candidate and risk fracturing the party? This is why a contested convention is likely.

The last Democrat candidate who won the White House after a contested convention was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. The last Republican candidate who won the presidency after a contested convention was Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952.

So, what is a brokered convention? And could 2020 see the next contested convention? They aren’t the same thing.

A brokered convention occurs when one candidate fails to win the majority of delegates. The term conjures up images of smoke-filled rooms where party bosses “broker” for votes.

The modern system is a contested convention. In this scenario, a candidate has the delegate lead, but a win in the first round of voting is doubtful. It puts more control in the hands of the delegates.

However, both brokered and contested conventions hinder “the candidate’s general ability to show they have a united party behind them,” according to Suzanne Chod, associate professor of political science at North Central College in Illinois.

This was most evident during the 1980 Democratic Convention. Future president Jimmy Carter had the majority of delegates but was challenged on the convention floor by Robert Kennedy. The sergeant-at-arms finally had to be called in to restore order.

The Democrat Party changed the rules following the 2016 convention, where Sanders supports felt he was cheated out of the nomination by Hillary Clinton. And since only candidates who won at least 15% of the primary election votes can now earn delegates, it eliminated all but Biden and Sanders in 2020.

What happens to the delegates won by candidates who dropped out of the race? Like Elizabeth Warren, who earned 81 delegates? And Bloomberg, Buttegieg, and Klobuchar, who earned 88 combined? If they all went to Sanders, he would only be 134 delegates behind Biden. What makes the water muddier is that in some states the delegates are not required to cast their ballots at the convention for the candidate who won in that state.

So, if not Biden or Sanders, then who? Any of the two dozen candidates who already dropped out of the presidential race?

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo?

Billionaire Oprah Winfrey?

Former First Lady Michelle Obama?

All this talk about a contested convention may be a moot point if the COVID-19 pandemic has not abated by the summer and Democrats end up with a “virtual” convention. No one even knows what that will look like or how it will work. That’s for the Democrats to hammer out.

I’m just praying for Wednesday, November 4th to hurry up and get here.

Image from: outsidethebeltway.com

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