There’s been something fishy about this assortment of Democratic candidates from the start. I remember when the field first started taking shape last spring – back when the hot young newcomer, Mayor Pete, was still a progressive. It seemed as clear as day at the time; the establishment elite was arranging the competition to maximize the odds of Joe Biden sliding into the nomination as everybody’s second or third choice.
There was Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Joe Biden, and, of course, Bernie Sanders, all gearing up for a tightly contested Democratic primary. I remember thinking that the DNC was surrounding Bernie with candidates with relatively progressive ideas, each of which represented a crucial demographic for the Sanders campaign.
It’s always awkward discussing voting blocs due to their connection to race, gender, sexuality, etc. – but it’s nearly impossible to analyze elections without considering these things.
Now, remember – at the time, it seemed like several of these Democratic hopefuls would run on platforms considerably further left than how things played out. I expected more candidates to run the Bernie 2016 campaign, and far fewer to attempt the Obama 2008 playbook.
So, I expected Biden to enjoy the centrist/moderate lane for himself, while Elizabeth Warren catered to “Bernie Bros” who preferred a woman, Beto played the “young Sanders” role, Mayor Pete appealed to LGBTQ voters, Cory Booker – African Americans, Tulsi Gabbard – the fringe, outsider votes, and so on.
Everyone seemed poised to share the Senator’s basic policy ideas – while representing a marginalized group that people of various backgrounds may prefer to an old white guy.
Things didn’t play out that way. The vast majority of the field ran as moderates, and the Democratic electorate remained focused on several key policy issues – healthcare and income inequality, chief among them — while eschewing identity politics to a shocking degree.
Right Answer, Wrong Reasons
Maybe the field of candidates wasn’t manufactured to expertly divide the progressive vote across several hand-picked opponents, each representing a marginalized group with which they’d have more appeal than Bernie. However, the outcome could still be the same.
It’s just that there’s a much easier way to get this done than I originally anticipated. All the DNC needs to do is reach the convention without anyone securing a majority of the pledged delegates available, and the party elite can essentially do whatever they want.
When I glance back over the current field — and the decisions some of them are making — I suspect that’s precisely the scenario some of them are trying to create.
Superdelegate Rule Changes for 2020
But life is all about timing – and when it comes to winning the White House, few people have had worse timing than Hillary. It was “her time” in 2008, before running up against the political buzz saw that was a young Barrack Obama, at his Messiah-like peak (speaking in terms of public perception). Oh well, at least she got a stint as Secretary of State out of the mess — which would only help her resume for 2016.
However, when 2016 finally came, the political landscape had dramatically shifted. After eight years of unfulfilled promises and disappointment, the Democratic electorate wasn’t as enthralled with “hope,” “change,” or “first [insert anything other than ‘old white man’ here] presidents.” The economy had left them behind, and big-money corporate Dems had officially lost the disenfranchised working-class.
So, Bernie started performing shockingly well, with a message politically positioned much further left than what we’re used to in America. Yet, no matter how much support he drew, it never seemed to do him much good in terms of delegate totals.
As the primaries wore on, voters grew acquainted with a thing called “superdelegates.” They were party insiders in every state, who weren’t obligated to vote based on primary or caucus results – and most of them were pledged to Hillary Clinton before the primaries even began.
Naturally, a substantial portion of registered Democrats wasn’t thrilled with the idea. It felt like the establishment elite were just choosing whichever candidate they desired – to hell with what the voters say. And that’s precisely what it was.
Which Brings Us to 2020
So, now we’re here in the heat of the 2020 election cycle, and the superdelegate problem is allegedly fixed – or is it?
Well, at the very least, they got a subtle rebrand. Superdelegates don’t exist anymore, “ Automatic Delegates” do. And they still make up roughly 16% of the total number of available Democratic delegates – so, there’s a solid chance that they’ll be playing a pivotal role in the proceedings once again.
They’ve just been mildly “Nerf’d” this time around. The difference is that in 2020, the neo-superdelegates don’t get to vote on the first ballot at the convention. So, as long as one candidate carries a majority of the pledged delegates – which they expect to require around 1,990 of them– these party insiders don’t get to interfere.
Then, these new free agents can throw their support behind any candidate they so choose, without any concern for their state primaries or caucuses. The entire primary process is undone in an instant, and they can all pick whoever they damn well please.
The Democratic Primary Field Revisited
Which brings me back to this very crowded, very competitive field of Democratic candidates…
You know why Elizabeth Warren is going to stay in the race to the end, despite declining poll numbers, a drop-off in fundraising totals, and without finding a substantial lane in which to fit her campaign? She’s serving a purpose.
Think about all those wealthy candidates who bought their way in and don’t even participate in the debates – the Duval Patrick’s and Michael Bloomberg’s of the world. Just more fodder to thin out the electorate in a few key states.
And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t all hurting Bernie Sanders alone. Mayor Pete draws his support away from Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. Klobuchar shares that same lane as well.
Do you know who does hurt the Senator from Vermont’s chances of building his much-needed majority of pledged delegates, however?
Watch how the media decides to finally treat him like a legitimate contender if Bernie outperforms expectations in Iowa and New Hampshire. Yang appeals to a very similar group of voters, with the same kind of youthful energy driving both campaigns. When the time comes, they’ll be pitted against each other, just enough to ensure Sanders falls short of his majority.
Using the New “Superdelegate” Rules to Bet on the Democratic Nominee
Again, coming just a single pledged delegate short of that majority gives Democratic Party officials carte blanche to nominate anybody they want. That’s the scenario I’m putting my money behind.
As long as the field remains this crowded and Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang continue to nibble away at the edges of his base, through to the very end, Bernie is probably going to fall just short. Once that happens, it won’t matter that he was the second choice of most Warren and Yang supporters – the entire slate is wiped clean.
With all of those previously pledged delegates free to go where they please, the second vote will include a total of 4,745 (including the superdelegates) votes – 2,373 will be needed to secure the majority.
And if I know my Democratic Party, they’ll be choosing between one of two old-school establishment faves: Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton. I’ve been predicting that Hillary’s been itching to ride in on her dragon to steal one last nomination, and I’m not giving up now!
I might throw in a few low-stakes longshots like Bloomberg in there, just in case. He has the cash to throw around to steal a contested convention if need be.
Isn’t that great? While one side needs an emphatic victory to get a fair shot, the other simply gets to lay back and play for the tie.
Favorite Picks to Win the DNC Nomination (Based on a Contested Convention)
Betting odds found at Bovada