Brokered Convention: How The Swamp And AIPAC Could Select The DNC Nominee

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Written by Dana Sanchez
brokered convention
A small group of lobbyists and party officials could choose the 2020 Democratic nominee due to delegate allocation rules and the absence of a clear frontrunner. Pictured: New York City Rep. Gregory Meeks, the chairman of the Queens Democratic Party, has endorsed billionaire Michael Bloomberg for president. Meeks is a House Financial Services Committee member. (D-N.Y.) (AP Photo/Cliff Owen). San Francisco Mayor London Breed outside City Hall, July 11, 2018. (Gabrielle Lurie/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool). Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs speaks to the Sacramento Press Club, July 10, 2018, in Sacramento. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli). Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks to supporters at a campaign office, Jan. 27, 2020, in Scarborough, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File).

A small group of lobbyists and party officials could potentially choose the Democratic nominee in the 2020 presidential election, thanks in part to delegate allocation rules and the absence of a clear frontrunner among the candidates.

To win the party nomination, a candidate must secure a majority of pledged delegates — 1,991. A brokered or contested convention can happen when a political party fails to choose a nominee on the first round of delegate voting at the party’s nominating convention. With eight candidates still holding out for the nomination, a brokered convention is becoming a more likely scenario, according to The Hill.

If no candidate has a majority of delegates’ votes, the nomination is decided through a process of “smoky backroom deals“, political horse-trading — superdelegate vote trading — and re-votes. Regular delegates who may have been pledged to a particular candidate according to rules which vary from state to state are “released” and can switch allegiance to a different candidate before the next round of voting. The hope is that this extra privilege extended to the delegates will result in a clear majority of delegates for one candidate.

Progressives were concerned in late January when Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez released his picks for the 2020 Democratic National Convention committees. On the list was Bakari Sellers, a CNN commentator and member of the AIPAC national council. Sellers was nominated to sit on the Platform Committee.

AIPAC — the National Council of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — is a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to Congress and the president.

Sellers made history in 2006 when, at age 22, he defeated a 26-year incumbent state representative to become the youngest member of the South Carolina state legislature and the youngest African-American elected official in the country. Sellers practices law at the Strom Law Firm in Columbia, South Carolina.

A Democratic frontrunner, Sen. Bernie Sanders got caught in AIPAC’s crosshairs earlier this year when he called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government racist.

Kevin Gosztola, managing editor of Shadowproof, shared Perez’s list on social media in January, tweeting a reminder that “Sellers drafted letter and spearheaded effort in 2016 to ensure the DNC platform did not adopt language Bernie Sanders supported, which would’ve acknowledged responsibility to confront humanitarian crisis facing Palestinians in Gaza.”

There are other Sanderphobes on the 2020 Democratic National Convention committees, and Salon highlighted some of them. For example, Perez nominated former Rep. Barney Frank to be co-chair of the Rules Committee. Frank wrote a 2015 Politico opinion piece, “Why Progressives Shouldn’t Support Bernie.” Frank also sits on the board of directors of Signature Bank in New York, which a New York Times reported “was a go-to lender for President Donald Trump’s family, as well as Jared Kushner’s family,” Gosztola pointed out.

Political analyst Lauren Martinchek wrote on Medium about what she called “another incredibly questionable choice” — Alex Padilla, vice-chair of the Platform Committee. “Padilla gained notoriety for refusing to count 2 million votes in the 2016 California primary, a move that undeniably favored Clinton and handed a massive disadvantage to the Sanders campaign. He was sued for this,” she wrote.

Campaigns say they are focused on the upcoming primaries but they are thinking more about building out their teams in the event of a brokered convention, sources told The Hill. The money keeps coming in and it’s unlikely any candidates will suspend their campaigns before Super Tuesday on March 3, which accounts for about one-third of total delegate allocation.

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Sanders (I- Vt.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised $34 million and $24 million, respectively, in Q4 2019. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) gained fundraising momentum since her third-place finish in New Hampshire. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Vice President Joe Biden each raised more than $20 million. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg shows no signs of pulling back on spending with his self-funded campaign and has been rising in recent polls.

If no clear frontrunner emerges by the Democratic convention in July, around 764 superdelegates made up of elected officials, party elders, and prominent consultants “unbound by the will of voters” could dramatically remake the path to the nomination, according to The Intercept:

“The Democratic Party added superdelegates in the early 1980s as a sort of insurance policy, giving establishment figures a permanent share of delegates to guard against nominating a candidate they viewed as a political liability. (In 2018) after superdelegates fueled controversy over the party tilting the scales during the 2016 presidential primary, the Democratic National Committee shot down a proposal to remove superdelegates. Instead, the DNC moved to allow superdelegates to continue to hold power, but only vote in the case of a brokered convention.”