July 2020: A Contested Convention Scenario

February 16, 2020

How Leaders Act in the Future Is Usually Revealed by Past Behavior

By Al Giordano

(Note: This is a fictional account of future events that have not happened yet, but that considers for the personalities and past behaviors of the different candidates and their bases of support, as well as the predictable punditry of political media in the United States.)

Sunday, July 12, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: It’s the eve of the Democratic National Convention at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee and the party’s nominee is still unclear. Senator Bernie Sanders, who enjoys a lead with 30 percent of the pledged delegates, insists he has won the nomination by getting the most votes.

Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir called on DNC chairman Tom Perez to resign, “for refusing to turn over the party organization to the rightful nominee, Senator Sanders.”

Perez released a statement saying, “Nobody has won the nomination yet. The convention will produce a nominee and that’s when we will unite the party around whoever wins.”

Second place finisher Mike Bloomberg, with 20 percent of the delegates, and who defeated Sanders in the June 2 New Jersey primary, 55 percent to 25 percent, winning an outright majority of Garden State delegates, told the NY Times yesterday that he is ready to put his delegates behind a coalition candidate not named Sanders, and hinted that if the convention nominates the Vermont senator he may take his billion-dollar, 2,000-member campaign organization to a third-party candidacy. Polls show that in a three-way race between Trump, Sanders and Bloomberg, the latter two would split the opposition vote evenly and Trump would sail to reelection.

Hawaii US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who abandoned her campaign and endorsed Sanders after Super Tuesday last March after winning no delegates in any contest, called on Sanders to run as a third-party candidate if “corporate Democrats” deny him the nomination. “If Bernie asked me to serve as vice president,” she said, “I would join that ticket.”

Sanders himself told the Washington Post that he will back the Democratic nominee, but campaign surrogate Nina Turner, asked for comment on Gabbard’s statement, said only that, “Tulsi would make a great vice president, but many of us believe Bernie should choose a woman of color from a midwestern state like Ohio instead.”

Polls show all of the leading Democratic candidates would narrowly win hypothetical head to head matchups against President Donald Trump in November, but that if either Sanders or Bloomberg were on the ballot as a third option the Republican president would win reelection in an Electoral College landslide. Trump, for his part, tweeted yesterday, “The Democrat party is rigging the convention to deny Bernie the nomination again.”

“We’re stuck between two rocks and a hard place,” convention rules cochairman Barney Frank told a press gaggle. “Bloomberg and Sanders both are trying to blackmail the convention. But each agreed to the rules in advance when they launched their campaigns, and the rules say that the nominee needs fifty percent plus one. We will enforce the rules fairly without succumbing to either’s threats.”

Former President Barack Obama, who has remained neutral in the contest, returns from an Obama Foundation gathering of developing world leaders in South Africa tomorrow and is slated to speak at the convention, but at his request, only after a nominee is chosen.

Obama’s former White House aide David Axelrod yesterday touted a new CNN poll that showed that a Democratic ticket headed by Elizabeth Warren would still win the Electoral College even if Sanders runs third-party, noting that, “If Senator Warren were the nominee, Sanders’ spoiler vote would shrink from twelve percent to four percent. Even among his most diehard supporters, Warren would be acceptable. Most of them, it turns out, aren’t crazy.” He suggested a ticket with Warren and California Senator Kamala Harris “would be the strongest unity ticket the party could mount.”

The convention result is especially unpredictable because six candidates overall each count with at least nine percent of the delegates. Pete Buttigieg operative Lis Smith was photographed at a Wisconsin diner with Sanders aide Jeff Weaver, fueling yesterday’s story in which unnamed sources told Politico that in exchange for the vice-presidential nomination, Buttigieg would add his 10 percent of the delegates to Sanders’ total in a coalition that would then have 40 percent toward the necessary majority to win the nomination on the first ballot.

The California Sanders delegation at the convention released a statement to the news media calling on Sanders to reject the “neoliberal” Buttigieg and pick a vice president “who the revolution can trust.”

Meanwhile, a letter signed by more than 100 Congressional Democrats, including most of the freshman class elected in 2018’s blue wave, has called on the party to unite behind a coalition candidate, expressing their worry that having the avowed democratic socialist atop the ticket would damage their reelection chances. If the convention goes to a second ballot, they and other elected Democrats will be able to cast votes as super delegates. “Can you blame the members?” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told NBC News outside of her Capitol Hill office yesterday. “We need a nominee who can expand, not end, the Democratic majority in the House – and win back the Senate, too.”

A Wall Street Journal editorial yesterday called on Democrats to nominate Sanders as “the candidate that received a plurality of votes, and therefore deserves the nomination.”

Former Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel, appearing on Face the Nation this morning, said, “So I guess Bernie is the candidate of Wall Street now.”

Senators Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren met yesterday at Warren’s Cambridge, Massachusetts home, but all declined to comment about the content of the meeting to the news media. Warren had met with Sanders last week in Washington DC. Pundits speculated that Sanders had offered Warren the vice-presidential nomination if she were to throw her 16 percent of the delegates behind him. But Warren campaign surrogate US Rep. Ayanna Pressley told Politico that Warren had rejected the offer and instead asked Sanders to stand down and negotiate a unity ticket that could inspire both wings of the party.

Former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, appearing on the Pod Save America podcast, said, “If Bernie thinks that winning 30 percent entitles him to the nomination, I’ll just note that the two women senators won 31 percent of the delegates between them, so by his logic, shouldn’t a woman be the nominee? They got more votes than he did!”

Former vice president Joe Biden, who ended his cash-strapped campaign after losing the Florida primary to Bloomberg last March 17, nonetheless counts with nine percent of the delegates that he won mainly in the South in the March 3rd Super Tuesday contests. A Biden aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity told CNN that the former vice president, according to polls in swing states Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, enjoys the largest lead over Trump and would accept, if offered, the party’s nomination as a coalition candidate.

The tension surrounding the upcoming four-day convention which begins tomorrow includes demonstrations in the streets of Milwaukee by Sanders supporters, some of whom held a sit-in at the entrance of the downtown Brewhouse Inn & Suites where the Georgia and South Carolina delegations are slated to stay. When US Rep. John Lewis arrived yesterday in a wheelchair, after completing chemotherapy treatment for cancer, protesters blocked him from entering the hotel. The protesters chanted “Bernie won! Bernie won!” and “this is what democracy looks like” at the civil rights icon.

House Democratic Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina), pushing Lewis’ wheelchair, responded angrily, “John fought and sacrificed for all our right to vote and now you want to deny him from being able to exercise that right? That’s not what democracy looks like. Have you no shame?” Lewis then stood up from his wheelchair as members of the Congressional Black Caucus joined arm in arm with him, holding the civil rights icon in the air over the seated demonstrators, escorting him into the hotel while singing “Freedom is a constant struggle.”

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