A Democratic Contested Convention Could Be As Likely As A Republican One — If Bernie Sanders Keeps This Up
For months, political pundits have speculated — sometimes, with a certain schadenfreude glee if they lean to the left — about whether the Republicans will suffer through a brokered convention that will leave the party bruised and battered from friendly fire as it heads to the general election. A contested convention in Cleveland has been on the lips of every cable news anchor. But after Bernie Sanders' bitter New York loss, maybe more than the Republicans, should the Democrats fear a contested convention?
The possibility of Clinton and Sanders battling it out in Philadelphia for the nomination has been floated a bit before, though hardly with the urgency or regularity that a brokered finagling for the Republicans has been since people realized Donald Trump wasn't going to be laughed out of the race. But after Hillary Clinton decisively beat Sanders in New York Tuesday night, the possibility for a contested Democratic convention seems actually plausible. According to The New York Times, with 99 percent reporting, Clinton snagged 58 percent of New York's Democratic vote, beating Sanders by 16 points. Sure, Sanders had climbed back from what some polls in March predicted would be a 30-plus point loss to Clinton. But it was still a big enough loss that it will be hard for Sanders & co. to make the "momentum" argument (but, you know, they have and probably still will in the coming weeks).
At the same time, people are noticing that the once (sort of) cordial Sanders-Clinton competition got uglier in recent weeks. For example, Sanders said of Clinton earlier this month, "I don't believe she is qualified" to be president, suggested by Mediaite to be a response to Clinton weighing in on his Daily News interview — and the mudslinging only got worse from there. Sure, it was never remotely closely to the Republican race, filled with vile remarks about each other's spouses or juvenile jabs about the size of their genitals (avoiding that whole subject may be the very best part of having a woman as frontrunner for the Democrats), but it seemed seemed pretty low compared to the previous level of discourse.
By the way, it's not as if Clinton's campaign appears to embody the gracious winner. A Clinton staffer reportedly told POLITICO reporter Glenn Thrush of the former Secretary of State's New York win against Sanders, "We kicked his ass tonight. I hope this convinces Bernie to tone it down. If not, f**k him." Compared to the start of 2016, the Democratic race seems more rancorous — and Clinton's winning seems directly correlated to Sanders' digging in his heels to battle at the convention in Philadelphia.
"We believe we have the momentum and we believe we have a path toward victory," Sanders said after the New York defeat, making it clear he had no intention of dropping out and letting Clinton heal and prep for the general election. Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver was even clearer that the Vermont senator would continue until the bitter end, telling MSNBC's Steve Kornacki, "We're going to go to the convention." Weaver also argued (somewhat incredulously to this viewer) that Sanders would successfully convince the Clinton superdelegates to switch teams, even if Sanders hasn't nabbed the popular vote.
I can only imagine the Democratic National Committee is less than thrilled — by which I mean horrified — at the prospect of a contested convention in Philadelphia. For months, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC have been able to boast that at least their party was running an election with civility, respect, and a core value of unity compared to the Republicans and the futile scrambling to block Trump. On NBC's Meet The Press this past Sunday, Wasserman Schultz said of the current Democratic race:
Compared to the Republicans who are in utter chaos, our two candidates have been substantive and robust, they've kept largely to the issues that are important to the American people, talked about how they want to build on President Obama's congressional delegates ... And they have slightly different approaches to how to get there, but it's been a substantive discussion.
However, it's looking like the Democrats may no longer be able to maintain that higher ground and that bragging may have come too soon. Philadelphia could be as chaotic and ugly as Cleveland.