Nominating another Democrat for president would be a mistake - GulfToday

Nominating another Democrat for president would be a mistake

Joe-Biden-L

Joe Biden

Caitlin E. Jewitt, Tribune News Service

Democratic voters and elites are concerned about President Joe Biden’s age and ability to carry out his duties, as well as his lackluster polling against former President Donald Trump. A movement to register dissatisfaction with Biden in Michigan’s primary Tuesday only magnified misgivings.  Some have gone so far as to suggest that the party choose a new standard-bearer at this late date, perhaps through an old-fashioned “brokered convention” that disregards the results of the primary elections. But replacing the presumptive nominee now would be bad for Democrats and democracy.

Biden won’t officially become the nominee until he receives a majority of delegates’ votes at the Democratic National Convention in August. But even though only a few states have voted and less than 1% of the delegates have been allocated, it’s already too late for a new candidate to challenge Biden by entering the primaries. Filing deadlines for most of the states’ ballots have passed, and the states where they haven’t don’t claim enough delegates to win the nomination.  A question I’ve heard a lot is whether the delegates could “go rogue” at the convention and choose another nominee. They could — but they won’t.

Since Democratic delegates are pledged but not legally bound to their candidates, they could vote for someone else. But the delegates will be loyal Biden supporters chosen by his campaign and sent to the convention to vote for him. They won’t abruptly decide to shift their loyalty elsewhere.  The only way that Biden’s delegates would abandon him is if the president decides not to run and encourages them to vote for someone else. For an ambitious incumbent to make that decision would likely take at least a great deal of persuasion from party icons such as former President Obama and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with a clearer sense that he is likelier to lose in November than some other Democrat.  It’s not obvious, however, who that other Democrat would be. The most obvious choice would be Vice President Kamala Harris, but she is polling worse than Biden, making that a risky and improbable scenario. Absent another clear alternative who unites rather than divides the party, which includes a diverse coalition of voters and factions, Democrats are unlikely to be able to agree on a different nominee. The delegates could devolve into chaos and an all-out fight on the convention floor, which certainly would not improve the party’s chances of winning in November.  Before heading down this path, the Democrats should take note of their own history. The delegates used to routinely determine the nominees without direction from voters in primaries and caucuses.

In 1968, the Democrats nominated Vice President Hubert Humphrey for president at their convention in Chicago. Humphrey was not the choice of Democratic voters; he couldn’t have been, because he didn’t participate in a single primary. As he was nominated at the behest of party elites and delegates, protests raged in the streets of Chicago, and police and National Guard troops clashed violently with demonstrators.

Humphrey went on to lose to Richard Nixon, and Democrats, recognizing the internal fissure as a threat to the party, took quick, meaningful steps to repair it. The McGovern-Fraser Commission overhauled the party’s presidential nomination process, taking power out of the “smoke-filled rooms” of party elites. The commission’s recommendations tightened the connection between voters’ preferences and the eventual nominee.

Since then, the Democratic Party has maintained its commitment to giving voters a say. As recently as 2016, when the party established the Unity Reform Commission following the nomination battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the Democrats sought to increase participation by encouraging primaries over caucuses and to enhance trust in the fairness of the nomination process.

Having this year’s delegates vote for anyone other than Biden would undermine these objectives, returning the Democratic Party to the decidedly less democratic era when voters’ preferences didn’t make much of a difference.  I’ve argued that the parties retain more influence in the nomination process than is typically recognized, including by setting the rules of the contests. There is also a case to be made that the parties should have more of a say, an argument that was particularly salient in 2016, when Republicans sought to keep Donald Trump from winning the nomination.

But if either party wants to shift the balance of power back toward party elites, it should do so in a deliberate, transparent fashion — as the Democratic Party repeatedly has — not after the voting is underway.  Perhaps the Democrats would be better served by a different 2024 nominee. But it’s too late for that now. Primary voters had no meaningful choice in the matter not because no serious candidates could step up to run against Biden but because none did. The delegates and the party shouldn’t decide to head in a different direction after any number of potential contenders declined to face the voters.  As the Democrats return to Chicago for another convention this summer, they should keep in mind that while their nomination process is not perfect, it is more democratic than ever. They have good reason to keep it that way.

 

 

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