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Representatives considering ignoring voters’ selection for a nominee need a reality check

Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination after presidential primaries in three states and it seems to have generated a panic within the senator’s own party. A lack of faith in Sanders’ electability against Donald Trump and concerns over the divisive potential of his platform has led some party members to push for the Democratic Party to somehow hinder Sanders’ campaign. This is exactly the sort of meddling that creates the division that these politicians want to avoid; if Sanders is the nominee, it will be the responsibility of the party to fall in line and support the decision of the American people. 

If last Tuesday’s Democratic debate in South Carolina was any indication, all of the candidates see Sanders as an immediate threat to their success. There was nary an analysis afterward which didn’t comment on the chaos of the proceedings as candidates frequently shouted over one another, eager to get a piece of the self-espoused Democratic socialist. Sanders himself commented during the debate, tongue firmly in cheek, “I’m hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight. I wonder why?”

The story of Bernie Sanders versus the political establishment is as long as his career, and while this is something which many voters find refreshing about the Vermont senator, other politicians have openly criticized him for his status as a political outsider. Pete Buttigieg echoed the thoughts of many other established Democrats when he argued that the nomination of a far-left candidate would endanger the reelection chances of moderates in traditionally conservative states. 

A New York Times article summarized some of the thoughts, collected from interviews of 93 Democratic Party officials, all superdelegates, regarding the election. The journalists found that the vast majority of the officials opposed the idea of awarding the nomination to Sanders if he should only have a plurality of delegates. To clarify, according to Democratic convention rules which Sanders helped write, to win the nomination a candidate must have the majority of all of the 3,979 delegates. For context, Sanders currently leads with 45 delegates, while Buttigieg and Biden follow him with 25 and 15 respectively. If no candidate earns the majority, then the convention moves to a second round of voting where all of the delegates vote again along with superdelegates, of which there are 771. 

It is with the power of the superdelegates, who consist entirely of Democratic Party officials, that many representatives can see legitimately upsetting Sanders’ election should he only come into the convention with a plurality rather than a majority of delegates. There would be no precedent for this, as superdelegates usually support the candidate with the most pledged delegates, except for the nomination of Adlai Stevenson, in 1952. 

Should this sort of brokered convention come about it would be deeply problematic for the Democratic Party at large, and would likely alienate voters to an irrevocable degree. Fortunately, party leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former President Barack Obama have expressed zero interest in affecting the outcome of the primary election and have refused to endorse any one candidate. 

Regardless of who has the most delegates going into the 2020 Democratic convention, the result of the primary election should be solely a choice made by the people, unaffected by representatives concerned for their job safety. If they are willing to upset the will of the people then they shouldn’t have those jobs in the first place.

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