Today was a watershed in the road to the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. It was, of course, the day that two of the four centrist candidates dropped out of the race and announced their endorsement of Joe Biden. But no matter how critical today was, tomorrow will be even more important. Because if Bernie Sanders does well tomorrow, all the political manipulation involved in making today happen will hardly matter.
Despite what Joe Biden claims, the withdrawal of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar was a highly orchestrated event. We don’t know how pressure was exerted and what was promised by whom and to whom. But as sure as the sun’s gonna shine (as the song lyric goes), Biden’s camp–along with the entire Democratic Establishment threatened with being thrown off the gravy-train if Bernie wins–pulled out every stop to get them to exit.
As recently as yesterday, I wrote here that Elizabeth Warren was playing a positive, constructive role in the race and I welcomed her remaining in it. But now the circumstances have changed radically. There is no promise that all her votes would migrate to Bernie if she drops out. But starting today, her continued presence is a distraction from the battle at hand. That is, the battle between a radical, authentic left-wing candidate who represents the working-class and those in solidarity with it; and a Party elite desperately seeking to preserve its prerogatives and the status quo.
The longer Warren stays in, the more likely we will have a brokered convention. And if there is a brokered convention it appears more than likely that it will go to a second-round or beyond; in which case superdelegates, who last time ensured Hillary Clinton’s nomination, will ensure Biden’s.
Glenn Greenwald has sketched out a convincing case for a brokered convention ending up much like the Chicago Democratic convention in 1968. Then, Richard Daley and Hubert Humphrey joined to both beat down the student anti-war activists supporting Eugene McCarthy’s candidacy and engineer a Humphrey takeover of the convention and nominating process. The ensuing riots resulting from their success at manipulating the system. The violent suppression appalled America, shattered the Party, and led to an eventual Nixon victory.
In the event that the Party tries to do this in 2020, I don’t think the level of hatred and violence would be the same. I don’t foresee riots in Milwaukee streets. But the level of rancor will be similar (that’s partly what I wrote about yesterday). Nor will Biden be the type of candidate who can bind up wounds and heal rifts caused by the nominating process. He’s no Abe Lincoln. In that sense, Joe is more like Hubert Humphrey, who was a deer caught in the headlights of violence that spiraled out of his control.
Though it may be difficult to predict the future, I can foresee a Party riven by a sense of betrayal at the theft of the nomination. Sanders will not be the good sport he was after Clinton won the nomination. He will not campaign for Biden. His supporters will not loyally switch their allegiance to the Party-dictated candidate. They will not only stay home, they will actively campaign against Biden. They will protest his rallies. They will embarrass him.
They may do the same to Trump. But that won’t matter. His support will be solid and unwavering. His supporters will go to the polls. They will win. Not only will they win, they will win more decisively than Trump beat Clinton. Biden is, if anything, an even weaker candidate than Clinton. He’s older, he’s more infirm (mentally rather than physically), he’s less coherent in his platform and public presentation. If you add to that the hammering Biden will suffer at the hands of Trump and his digital pirate crew, it won’t be pretty.
What the Party elite is doing now is ugly. I doubt it will work. Tomorrow will tell the tale. With victories in delegate-rich states like Texas and California, Sanders could torpedo this last-ditch effort. Then this closing of ranks will be too little, too late. Then the Party mandarins will have to decide whether they want to join the campaign and create the sort of society and legislation Bernie envisions or sit out like spoiled children who’ve had their toys taken from them.
If, on the other hand, tomorrow is a draw and the elites smell blood in the water, then we will have intra-Party warfare and blood will be drawn. I hope to God it doesn’t happen.