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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/18/16

State Convention: Another Lesson in Strategic Failure by the Sanders Revolution, and How to Recover

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Message Rob Hager

A Lesson in Strategic Failure

The rigged primary electoral system is overseen for the Democratic wing of the duopoly party at the national level by the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Bernie Sanders, in his non-concession speech, expressed an intent to use the National Convention, and change of DNC leadership, "to transform the Democratic Party." His call "to open its doors" could be interpreted as obliquely referencing reform of the DNC's role in managing the broken primary system that contributed to the theft of the election from Sanders. (The reference was oblique because Sanders immediately diverted his attention from this vaguely possible reference to rigged elections that concerns his followers to the unrelated and safely conventional subjects of a Howard Dean "50-state strategy" and a call for greater progressive participation in state and local elections).

Election theft is initially executed through the state parties. Ballot Bandits expert Greg Palast has explained how California rigged its primary election by elaborate suppression of the independent vote. He calls the California elections a "crime scene." Palast estimated the number of suppressed votes would be at least comparable to Clinton's resulting margin of victory in California. As it turns out, there were more uncounted ballots than Clinton's California vote total. It is reasonable to believe they belong mostly to Sanders. But the plutocratic media's cancellation of Edison's exit polls hid the best evidence.

The California election was the basis for Clinton's coronation by the media and Obama, after she arranged her preemptive coronation by the AP. But it is in fact far from decided. Both coronations were illegitimate. A separate issue is the continued use in California of hackable Sequoia election machines that may have flipped the vote in addition to suppressing voters. Palast says "vote suppression does not come cheap." Like the other tools of plutocracy -- mass media propaganda, lobbying, and influence peddling -- election theft is a product of money in politics.

Another tool used by state parties to maintain their plutocratic control behind democratic window-dressing is the State Convention. Use of the State Convention for democratic purposes requires organization, strategy, and leadership which can be either bought or frustrated by money in politics. Minnesota's June 4 State Convention illustrated some techniques by which the minority of Clinton supporters in control of an undemocratic Democratic Party apparatus can defeat a majority and add to Clinton's delegate margin.

Sanders won the Minnesota caucuses in March by over 61% of the vote. Sanders' landslide victory should have been sufficient for his delegates to take control of the Minnesota party at its State Convention, adopt a favorable agenda for the Convention, enact state rules subjecting its Superdelegates' to the will of the landslide majority, and elect Sanders supporters as members of the DNC to help reform the conduct of future elections. Although Sanders promises reform of "how the next nominee will be elected," none of this happened in Minnesota.

The Convention should have given Sanders at least 57 of Minnesota's 93 delegates, had they simply been divided proportionately. But he has only 46 pledged delegates selected by the Congressional District Conventions and the State Convention, plus three unpledged Superdelegate incumbent politicians who favor Sanders. The rest are either delegates pledged to Clinton or are Clinton-leaning unpledged Superdelegates.

Minnesota Democrats are proud of their states' national blue state status, having sent Democrats to the electoral college for a longer unbroken series of elections than any other state. Minnesota also takes pride in its progressive influence on the rest of the country, and in its relatively clean, democratic brand of politics. Steve Simon, Minnesota's popular Democrat Secretary of State expressed such views in his speech to the State Convention.

If a strong reform message on behalf of the Sanders campaign were to come to Philadelphia from anywhere in the country, it would likely come from a state like Minnesota. But no such message emerged from the Minnesota Democrat's ("DFL") Convention. It is worth telling in some detail why it did not, as a record and example of what is likely happening in other states as well. It is a story of how a soft form of rigging takes place in the state parties, even in a blue state with wide open caucuses. It demonstrates, in the end, how the disorganization of the Sanders campaign played into that rigging. The campaign failed to invest resources into the grassroots organizing needed to reap political advantages from Sanders' Minnesota landslide victor. Resources were invested in questionable advertising instead.

[Note: the following sections are primarily written for those who have participated in attempts to reform the Democratic Party from within. Others who may have less patience for the "inside-baseball" complexities are encouraged to skim over these sections and go straight to the "Conclusion."]

DNC Superdelegates

The most important business transacted at the state convention "to transform the Democratic Party" was the election of Democratic National Committee members. DNC members not only will control the national party going forward, and its next National Convention, but also will be Superdelegates at the next Convention. See Charter, Article 3, Sec. 3.

Each state delegate had four votes to cast for Minnesota's four positions on the DNC. Had the Sanders campaign focussed its delegates' support on just two women and two men candidates by running a qualified and diverse slate clearly vetted and endorsed by the Sanders' campaign, preferably supported by a direct written request from Sanders, and communicated in advance of the Convention to Sanders delegates, there is no reason why the large Sanders majority of delegates should not have been translated into winning all four DNC seats. But the State Convention elected only one announced Sanders supporter of the four members that Minnesota is sending to the DNC. The other three newly elected DNC members were endorsed by the state Party controlled by the Clinton establishment.

Democrats are proactive about diversity and urge their state delegates to vote for diversity. Of the four clearly pro-Sanders candidates for the DNC there was one white and one highly qualified Hispanic among the women candidates, and two white men. One of the men was not particularly impressive, while the other man who supported Sanders narrowly lost to two men who were endorsed by the state party. The Hispanic woman who supported Sanders won. The highest vote of the four went to an up-and-coming young African-American officer in the state party. Without endorsing either Clinton or Sanders he spoke in support of making democratic reforms in the party, which was a message appealing to the Sanders delegates who obviously did vote for him in preference to one of the candidates who had expressly endorsed Sanders.

As it happened, it was not even made clear that the Convention was voting for future Superdelegates by electing the DNC members. No clearly identified spokesperson for the Sanders campaign encouraged unity at the Convention behind the two Sanders candidates of each gender.

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Rob Hager is a public-interest litigator who filed a Supreme Court amicus brief n the 2012 Montana sequel to the Citizens United case, American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, and has worked as an international consultant on legal (more...)
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