(EDITOR’S NOTE, 4/25/19, 10:23 AM ET: The word “plurality” in the fifth paragraph of this article has been changed to “majority,” to more accurately describe a possible scenario at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.)

A widely shared New York Times article about the growing nervousness Democratic Party bosses have about Bernie Sanders includes one comment from a superdelegate that may prove controversial.

On Tuesday, the Times‘ Jonathan Martin published an in-depth look into how the party’s leadership is coping with the seemingly unstoppable surge Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is currently experiencing, going from a fringe radical candidate in 2016 to the clear frontrunner in 2020. Martin’s report shows the party establishment — as well as its chief operatives, like David Brock — is convinced an avowed Democratic socialist like Sanders would lose the general election to President Trump if nominated. And as of right now, Sanders enjoys a strong early lead.

Sen. Sanders is an obvious frontrunner in terms of fundraising, bringing in an impressive $18 million in the first quarter of 2019, with an average donation of just $20. The Vermont senator’s campaign recently recorded its millionth campaign contribution in April after just two months of campaigning — something his 2016 endeavor took five months to accomplish. And a reputable pollster (Emerson) recently ranked Sanders first out of 20 current and prospective candidates, putting him five points in front of his nearest competitor, former Vice President Joe Biden.

In the turbulent 2016 primary between Sanders and Hillary Clinton, hundreds of the party’s so-called “superdelegates” (county and state party bosses and elected officials) rallied around Clinton early, giving her an essentially insurmountable lead months before the first ballots were cast. In February of 2016, for example — just two days after the New Hampshire primary — The Guardian estimated Clinton had 355 superdelegates to Sanders’ 14. But in August of 2018, the DNC changed those rules.

Now, superdelegates don’t get to vote until the second ballot at the Democratic National Convention, meaning the first ballot is just for pledged delegates. In the Democratic Primary, anyone who gets 15% of the vote in any state’s caucus or primary is guaranteed at least some of the pledged delegates. This means that with 19 candidates currently on the ballot, it’s very possible Sanders wouldn’t get a majority of delegates needed to clinch the primary on the first ballot at the party’s convention in July of 2020.

By design, the superdelegate system is there to give a boost to the establishment’s favored candidate. In Martin’s article for the Times, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), who is a DNC superdelegate, admitted that, while reluctant to do so, she may use her vote to kneecap Sanders on the second ballot.

Should no bargain be struck by the time of the first roll call vote at the 2020 convention in Milwaukee — such as a unity ticket between a pair of the leading delegate-winners — the nomination battle would move to a second ballot. And under the new rules crafted after the 2016 race, that is when the party insiders and elected officials known as superdelegates would be able to cast a binding vote.

The specter of superdelegates deciding the nomination, particularly if Mr. Sanders is a finalist, is highly unappetizing to party officials.

“If we have a role, so be it, but I’d much prefer that it be decided in the first round, just from a unity standpoint,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

While the convention is still more than a year away, and nobody will vote for another nine months, it’s possible that the anti–Sanders superdelegate bloc will decide on their nominee after Super Tuesday in March of 2020, when roughly 40% of pledged delegates are on the line. By then, there will likely be a definitive hierarchy as to who will place in the top three, and who will bow out.

 (Featured photo: Marc Nozell)

Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.

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  1. If they do it to Sanders and the progressives again, they may well shove their new pet corporatist candidate into office,(I can’t imagine any progressive voting for Trump under any situation) but no progressive will ever vote democrat again. There will be a new party that actually serves the people of America and not the party’s corporate donors. Maybe it’s time we shed ourselves of these corrupt fossils.

    1. yes…end the super delegates and electoral college!!!!! I cannot begin to express how pissed a lot of people will be if this were to happen……

    2. If the DNC sticks it to Sanders or any other progressive I will, again, not support any “D” in any race. If the DNC behaves in this manner I can’t see how any progressive can stay with such an undemocratic Party. So far the “Ds” have shown themselves to be nothing but 1970s “Rs” without a backbone.

  2. Sounds like some really stupid people inside the DNC didn’t learn a damned thing from the election in 2016.
    Go ahead. Be Stupid Again. And watch a few Million Voters decide to NEVER vote for another Democrat.
    Myself Included. And Maybe we Vote for Bill Weld and tell BOTH the Stupid DNC and the Trump Treason Party to Go to Hell.

  3. The malignant narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths running the party will never change ANYTHING, but their deceptive tactics and the lies they use to manipulate us. It’s time for Bernie and Tulsi to team up and create a third party or to run as Greens. The DNC and party elites with NEVER allow a progressive candidate to challenge their complete servitude and service to oligarchy. That’s just how those millionaires in Congress roll! Corrupt to the core!

  4. The democrats are doing exactly what the republicans do…putting party before country. It is a despicable policy, and those who perpetrate it are utterly without integrity, they are craven greedy corrupt psychopaths; exactly the people we need to reclaim our government from.

  5. If they screw Bernie again, and he won’t even be allowed as a write-in, I will vote Green, or Socialist, again. There is NO WAY that I will vote for any of their corporate whores.

  6. But see, that’s the whole thing. Establishment does not really care if Trump is re-elected. They would rather have one of their own elected, but they will take Trump over Bernie because Trump will still give them their elite life. He will not rock the boat. So if we don’t vote, they still win Trump and maintain their status quo. WE are stuck in a no win spot with these parties. Bernie and Tulsi really do need to run independent and take all the votes from both parties. The interesting thing is we are still a year away from voting in the primaries and all this truth is coming out early. I wonder if Bernie and Tulsi will do anything about this no win problem.

  7. I KNOW we are all outraged. But does anyone have a plan for how to fight this? Who do we write to, who do we petition? I have asked the Sanders campaign for help and advice on what our next step is and am waiting a response. Anyone out there with ideas? Let’s fill these comments with ideas and not sad resignation.

  8. If they screw Bernie, they will be screwing America, again, and I will not Vote Blue, no matter who. They will sow the wind and the nation will reap the whirlwind!

  9. Could move from Feel the Bern to Feel the Burn. Great way to destroy representative government in the backrooms. Just what sort of contract is there with your citizens, after so much concerted effort to allow illegal search and seizure, destruction of free speech, denial of equal justice under the law? One thing Bernie has offered is using a broken system to internally repair it. We are the real patriots, not those beer bellied fatheads you created to get on our nerves. Think deeply about what you are playing with

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