Saturday, May 28, 2016

Editorial: The Usual Bedlam

Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton keep claiming there are irreconcilable differences between the two rivals, but you know in the third act they’re going to end up back together in Philly.

A flareup at the Nevada State Democratic Convention in Las Vegas on May 14 spotlighted the rough side of the political process. Background: Clinton had won the Nevada presidential caucuses by a 5% margin out of 80,000 voters who participated at the local level in February, but only 23 of the state’s 43 national delegates were allocated at that time. Clinton got 13 and Sanders 10. Eight others were superdelegates, party officials who decide on their own who to support. That left 12 delegates up for grabs at the state convention, and the Sanders campaign saw an opportunity to steal a few of Clinton’s national delegates there when many of Clinton’s supporters failed to show up at county conventions in April. But Clinton supporters showed up in force at the state convention, determined to protect what they saw as Hillary’s rightful winnings.

Unfortunately, the Clintonites were a little hamfisted in doing so. State Democratic Chairwoman Roberta Lange laid out the rules for the convention that required that all votes at the convention would be decided by voice, with the ruling of the chairperson being final — and Sanders partisans claimed that Lange seemed to hear the Clinton delegates’ voices better than Sanders delegates’ voices.

PolitiFact’s Riley Snyder, in an examination of the Sanders campaign’s allegations of fraud and misconduct at the convention, noted that the rules have been largely the same since 2008.

The first major fight happened Saturday the morning, with the convention gaveled in nearly 40 minutes after the scheduled 9 a.m. start time (but while some delegates were still checking in).

In a voice vote, Lange approved adoption of a preliminary credentials report showing more Clinton than Sanders delegates. Immediate howls of protests from the Sanders contingent emerged, many of whom rushed the dais and started screaming insults and obscenities directly at Lange.

Although several videos from the event appear to have louder “nays” than “yeas,” both preliminary and final delegate counts showed that Clinton supporters outnumbered Sanders supporters in the room, PolitiFact noted.

In the review, PolitiFact noted that Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said Nevada Democratic Party leaders “hijacked the process on the floor” of the state convention “ignoring the regular procedure and ramming through what they wanted to do.”

Caucuses and delegate math can be incredibly confusing, and the arcane party structures don’t reflect how most people assume presidential selection works, PolitiFact’s Snyder wrote.

But the Sanders campaign’s howls of unfairness and corruption during Nevada’s state Democratic Convention can’t change the simple fact that Clinton’s supporters turned out in larger numbers and helped her solidify her delegate lead in Nevada, Snyder noted for PolitiFact, as he ruled that Jeff Weaver’s claim was “false.”

“There’s no clear evidence the state party ‘hijacked’ the process or ignored ‘regular procedure,’” Snyder wrote. You might have trouble convincing a Sanders partisan of that. But they’ll need to get over their hurt feelings.

This year, Sanders has repeatedly said he does not want to help Republicans win the White House, and he has no interest in undermining Democrats in the general election. As the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders is in line to take over as chairman of that important committee if Democrats regain the Senate majority. They need five seats now held by Republicans — or four seats and the White House, which would make the Democratic vice president the tie-breaker.

Sanders may have signaled that the campaign was nearing acceptance of the inevitability of a second-place finish on May 23 when he agreed to the appointment of five of his supporters to the committee that will draft the platform for the Democratic National Convention. Hillary Clinton will get six members of the committee and Democratic Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz will appoint four members.

If we were running the convention, we’d let Sanders write most of his pet projects into the platform, including his call for a $15 minimum wage, expansion of Medicare and Social Security and a tax on Wall Street securities transactions that would pay for an increase in financial assistance for students to attend college without racking up massive debts. All those points are popular among voters — and it’s not as if party platforms are binding on the president or members of Congress in either the Democratic or Republican parties.

Remember that, in the summer of 2008, as Barack Obama consolidated his lead in the race for the Democratic nomination, multitudes of Hillary Clinton supporters complained that the delegate selection process was rigged. They warned that they would not vote for Obama in the general election. The disgruntled Clinton supporters originally styled themselves as “Party Unity My A**,” or PUMAs, but registered with the Federal Election Commission in June 2008 as a non-affiliated political action committee named “People United Means Action.”

In the days before the 2008 Democratic convention, Gallup found only 47% of former Clinton supporters said they were certain to vote for Obama. After the convention, 65% said they were certain to vote for Obama. The 2008 election exit poll found that Clinton supporters ended up splitting 83-16 for Obama and John McCain. And, of course, Clinton ended up serving as Obama’s secretary of state and now she is running on continuing Obama’s initiatives.

Donald Trump has released the names of 11 far-right jurists who he said represent the kind of people — if not literally the exact people — he’d consider for Supreme Court vacancies. Trump told the National Rifle Association he expects the next president to appoint between three and five justices to the high court.

Five would be an awful lot, Steve Benen noted at In the past century, only Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower appointed that many justices. But three is a distinct possibility. Even if the Senate confirms President Obama’s choice of Judge Merrick Garland to the Court during the lame duck session after the election, by Inauguration Day 2017, two sitting justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy, will be over the age of 80. And Justice Stephen Breyer will be 78 years old when the next president is inaugurated. Clarence Thomas will be 68 and Samuel Alito will be 66.

The Supreme Court now is near ideological deadlock at 4-4. We still think President Obama should tell the Senate that if they don’t confirm Garland, a centrist on the D.C. Court of Appeals, before the election, he’ll withdraw the nomination in deference to the next president. Hillary could then name a solid liberal who could tip the court’s balance toward the left and allow the court to revisit some of the excesses of the Antonio Scalia era, such as Citizens United and the Shelby County decision that declawed the Voting Rights Act, allowing Republican legislatures to proceed with voter suppression laws.

Or Trump could name a right-winger in the Scalia mold who could once again provide the right-wing majority to eliminate labor unions, cripple affordable health care — never mind universal health coverage — and clear the way for the final takeover of the federal and state governments by corporate oligarchy.

Bernie Sanders should take his campaign through the June 7 primaries, where California’s 546 delegates are the biggest prize, but unless he gets the 70% victory margin that he needs in those remaining states to catch up with Clinton in pledged delegates, he should conclude the campaign with the final primary in the District of Columbia on June 14 and approach the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with the goal of he and Clinton putting their differences behind them.

Any of Sanders’ supporters who remain in the “Bernie or Bust” camp, who rule out voting for Hillary Clinton if she wins the Democratic nomination, might well spend the next 20 years denying that they are responsible for the very bad things President Trump would mislead this country into. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2016

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