Sanders Admits the Nomination Isn’t Rigged, But Superdelegates Should Swing It

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The only brand of water that quenches Bernie Sanders's thirst for Bernie Sanders's nomination.Photo: MARK RALSTON/This content is subject to copyright.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, whose dominance of the Sunday political show circuit is unmatched, has now elaborated on his views regarding the Democratic Party’s nomination process, calling it only “dumb,” but not “rigged.” However, Sanders is also suggesting that superdelegates swing the nomination to him if they believe he has a better chance of defeating Donald Trump in November, seemingly regardless of who has the most pledged delegates or the majority of the popular vote come convention time.

In an interview with CBS’s John Dickerson that aired Sunday on Face the Nation, Sanders rejected Donald Trump’s recent assertion that the Democrats’ nomination process was “rigged” against Sanders — an assertion which is shared by at least some of Bernie’s own supporters and allies. Instead, Sanders insisted that his campaign knew about the nomination process rules beforehand, but that doesn’t make the process any less “dumb”:

I wouldn’t use the word “rigged” because we knew what the rules were — but what is really dumb is that you have closed primaries, like in New York State, where three million people who were not Democrats or Republicans could not participate. You have a situation where over 400 super delegates came on board Clinton’s campaign before anybody else was in the race, eight months before the first vote was cast. That’s not rigged, I think it’s just a dumb process, which has certainly disadvantaged our campaign.

Sanders also outlined the three paths he believes he still has to the Democratic nomination with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press, with the first and most direct path being that he ends up with more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton, as well as two other scenarios:

Second of all, we’re going to talk to those superdelegates in states where we have won landslide victories, 60, 70, 80 percent of the vote, to say, “Do what the people in your state want. They voted for Bernie Sanders, you as the superdelegates should follow their wishes.”

Third point and most important point, as you know, Chuck, there are over 400 superdelegates who came onto secretary Clinton’s campaign eight months before the first ballot was cast. Before anybody else was in the race. Before they could get a sense of what the campaign was about.

Right now, in every major poll, national poll and statewide poll done in the last month, six weeks, we are defeating Trump often by big numbers, and always at a larger margin than Secretary Clinton is. We’re going to make the case to the superdelegates, “Your job is to make sure that Trump is defeated, that Bernie Sanders, in fact, for a variety of reasons, not just polling, is the strongest candidate.

Todd then accused Sanders of being hypocritical if he was arguing that superdelegates from states he won should follow the will of their state’s voters, while also suggesting that superdelegates from states Clinton won should do the opposite. Sanders rejected that framing:

No, no, no, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, there are over 400 superdelegates who made a decision to vote for Secretary Clinton before anyone else was in the race. Before they got a sense of what the campaign was about. And all that I am saying is for those superdelegates who came onboard before I was even in the race, you have got the very grave responsibility to make sure that Trump does not become elected president of the United States.

Since it’s likely some of those superdelegates would hail from states Hillary won, this isn’t exactly refuting Todd’s point, though Sanders was more explicit with Dickerson in response to a similar question on Face the Nation:

Should I convince superdelegates to vote for me when [Clinton] won that state overwhelmingly? No, I shouldn’t.

But we won states like Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire in landslide victories. And I do believe that the superdelegates, whether it’s Clinton’s or mine, states that we won, superdelegates in states where [a] candidate wins a landslide victory should listen to the people in those states and vote for the candidate chosen by the people.

So it seems that the key distinction Sanders is trying to make is regarding states which overwhelmingly supported one candidate or another. That leaves more than 20 states in which neither candidate won 60 percent or more of the vote, the majority of which were states that Clinton won. So is Sanders suggesting it’s open season on superdelegates from those states, and that they should swing the nomination to him based on an electability argument regardless of how a majority of voters in those states, albeit not an overwhelming majority, have voted?

In addition, caucuses, which Sanders has dominated, are often criticized as undemocratic due to their reliance on activist enthusiasm, difficult scheduling, and arcane procedures. In the case of Washington, a caucus-decided state which Sanders now claims landslide support from, FiveThirtyEight pointed out last week that when you look at the data, it’s not actually clear which candidate enjoys majority support there. Thus an argument can be made that at least some caucus wins are the result of another part of the process which could be reasonably referred to as “dumb,” and even just looking at the case of Washington, it’s a process which could have disadvantaged the Clinton campaign.

Sanders also told Dickerson that while he still doesn’t think much of Clinton’s ongoing email scandal, he believes that superdelegates and the remaining Democratic voters should consider it when making their selection:

The inspector general just came out with a report. It was not a good report for Secretary Clinton. That is something that the American people, Democrats and delegates, are going to have that take a hard look at.

So Sanders now seems to be trying to have it all ways, so long as those ways result in his nomination. He says he wants superdelegates to support him based on vote totals, except perhaps in states where those outcomes were close — which is most of them. He says he still doesn’t care about Clinton’s email scandal, but voters and superdelegates should. And he finally goes on the record as saying that he doesn’t believe the Democratic Party’s nomination process is rigged, but if the outcome he clearly wants actually happens, and superdelegates go ahead and select the party’s nominee independent of what a majority of voters have decided, that would indeed be a demonstration that the system is rigged — not against Sanders and his supporters as Donald Trump pretends to care about — but against the overall Democratic electorate.

Granted this is not a new strategy, but considering the Sanders campaign’s increasingly die-hard tactics, and at least some indications that they may challenge Clinton and her allies at the convention in Philadelphia, it begs the question: Is there any outcome in which Clinton is awarded the nomination that Sanders and his campaign would consider legitimate?