Many Sanders Delegates Ready to Fight Over VP Pick
Norman Solomon of Bernie Delegates Network says a survey shows many Sanders’ delegates will openly oppose a right wing Clinton VP selection
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.
In an online survey carried out by RootsAction.org asking Bernie Sanders delegates whether they would accept (and I will explain in a second) the list of potential VP nominees that were asked about, a majority of those that responded to the survey said they would not. This is a survey that went out to about 900 people, at the time, that had signed up to be part of what they’re calling the Bernie Delegates Network. About 270 people responded in an overnight survey, and from about 70 percent upwards–and most of them at over 80 percent–people said no to the kind of candidates that are being talked about, in the media and generally, about being potential vice president picks by Hillary Clinton. So people said no to Senator Mike [Tim] Kaine, HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Senator Mark Warner, Senator Cory Booker, Admiral James Stavridis, Admiral Mike Mullen–anywhere from over 80 percent plus, for most of those, a sort of emphatic no.
The other question that was asked in this survey–and I’ll read it to you: Would you be willing to denounce the vice presidential pick as a clear indication that Hillary Clinton does not intend to seek common ground with the progressive ideals and positions of the Bernie Sanders campaign, nonviolently, emphatically protesting in the convention hall during Clinton’s acceptance speech?
So now joining us to talk about this survey and what it might mean at the convention is Norman Solomon. Norman Solomon is cofounder of the national group RootsAction.org–has about 700,000 active members. He’s the national coordinator for the Bernie Delegates Network, which has about 1,200 of the 1,900 delegates now signed up.
Thanks for joining us, Norman.
NORMAN SOLOMON, NATIONAL COORD., BERNIE DELEGATES NETWORK: Thanks, Paul.
JAY: So let’s talk about the survey first. It’s 270 people responded. These are all delegates. Some people suggest that’s not a very big sampling size when you’re talking 1,900, that the kind of people that might respond are people that are kind of in the same camp with Roots Action. So how do you respond to them?
SOLOMON: Well, it’s a sample survey. I mean, we’re doing a random sample, essentially, of who opened email and responded around the country. It’s not down to the decimal point, but I think it’s so overwhelming, it’s very clear. And this is the only data that is something more than coming from the punditocracy. The New York Times very recently had an article assessing the politics of the Democratic Party and the choice of a VP for the ticket, and the authority they leaned on most heavily was Newt Gingrich. I mean, this is the kind of absurd conjecture and tea-leaf-reading conventional wisdom that we’ve been getting from the mass media. And this survey is the first hard data for where the Bernie delegates are at in terms of a choice for the vice presidential slot on the ticket.
I think the numbers are so overwhelming, where the acceptability rates are in the single digits for almost all of the touted candidates, I think it’s very clear that if Hillary Clinton goes with a corporate militarist onto her ticket there is going to be a very large number of Bernie delegates who are very upset and willing to show that on the convention floor.
JAY: And of all the names of these people that I read that in your survey people found unacceptable, they all essentially support TPP, NAFTA, and such. In other words, they can be considered part of the center or even center-right section of the Democratic Party people call corporate Democrats.
SOLOMON: We chose the people who have been most widely and repeatedly touted in recent days and weeks by the news media, with leaks from the upper reaches of the Clinton campaign, as under serious consideration. And all the indications are, when you actually look at those names and who those people are, is that Hillary Clinton is not showing or indicating an inclination to give any sort of ground towards the Bernie Sanders constituency, including the 13 million voters who went for Bernie by casting their ballots for him in the primaries and caucuses.
What a contrast to how the right-wing operates, where they respect the base. I mean, I think their base is deluded and dangerous, but look at what Trump did. He went to the hard-right, fundamentalist, corporate conservative governor Pence as a nod to his chief competitor, Trump’s chief competitor in the primary, Ted Cruz. After all, Pence was a supporter of Cruz. So what will it mean if Hillary Clinton, rather than trying to find some common ground or give some sort of deference to the huge progressive constituency in the party represented by Bernie Sanders, what would it mean if she actually goes ahead and chooses one of these corporate folks who are at least as corporate as she is and in some cases even more so?
JAY: And if you don’t want people like Tim Kaine and others who are being talked about, who do you think in your delegates network people do want?
SOLOMON: Well, I think it’s clear that if Elizabeth Warren were put on the ticket, that to some degree many, many of the delegates would feel that they had been taken seriously, that they’d been somewhat heard and somewhat validated as part of the Democratic Party and part of the base that Hillary Clinton cares about. So I think clearly Elizabeth Warren–.
JAY: Now, just to talk a bit about Warren, there’s been a lot of critique of Warren, that she’s certainly for stronger reforms on Wall Street, but on other issues, certainly foreign policy issues and such, that she really isn’t that different than some of the other corporatist Democrats.
SOLOMON: Well, your question was what the Bernie delegates would have in terms of response to [crosstalk]
JAY: Oh, that’s right. So Warren you think would be acceptable, whatever your critique is.
SOLOMON: Yeah. But the underlying question that you’re raising I think is a very important one. And one of the criticisms that we’ve had of Bernie Sanders and his campaign from RootsAction.org, which is one of the main groups, along with Progressive Democrats of America, assisting the Bernie Delegates Network, is that Bernie has not given much of a critique of U.S. foreign policy. He hasn’t made very much of the even obvious connections, in his campaign, between military spending, Wall Street, corporate America ripping off the middle class and the poor, enriching the oligarchy. All of those issues that have been his forte in the campaign directly dovetail and intersect with the runaway military spending and militarism that needs to be challenged. So definitely that is the case.
Now, our surveys are also showing–a different survey we’ve done just in the last 36 hours of Bernie delegates shows that to some significant degree Bernie’s predilections are reflected in their interest areas. So cutting the military budget does not rank highly in terms of priorities among Bernie delegates. And I think that’s quite sad. And the Bernie campaign has been wonderful in challenging the oligarchy and challenging these corporate trade deals and fighting against the class war being fought from the top down that is usually tacitly embraced by the top of the two major parties, but there are shortcomings there and they need to be acknowledged–and, hopefully, rectified–as campaigns move forward in future years.
JAY: Another critique of, for example, a Warren vice presidency or someone else that’s considered from the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, two things: one is it could shut her up. If you’re vice president–right now Warren has quite a platform to critique things. And if Clinton doesn’t actually take some strong measures to implement some of the reforms that Warren wants for Wall Street, she can say so from the Senate. There’s not much she can say as vice president without resigning the position. Are people not a bit concerned that, one, nominating a Warren type gives Clinton a certain kind of left cover, if you will, or progressive cover, and two, you kind of shut that person up if in fact they become the vice president?
SOLOMON: Well, we’re talking now midweek before the selection has been announced, and I would love to be able to, later on, eat these following words, but I think it’s extremely unlikely that Elizabeth Warren will be put on the ticket. I think that the leaks coming out of the Clinton campaign about Sherrod Brown, for that matter, who’s been anti corporate trade deals or Elizabeth Warren going on the trade ticket, I think it’s sort of a sop to progressives to try to make them feel like they’re being taken seriously in the consideration process. So I think it’s highly unlikely, in part, I mean, not for the reasons you’re bringing up as the reasons for concern for progressives, but because ultimately Hillary Clinton has enormous fidelity and loyalty to the oligarchy and to corporations and all that Wall Street entails. And Elizabeth Warren, even if she were somewhat quieted down, she still is an analytical and rhetorical and ideological threat to the powers that be.
JAY: And I think we should make clear the Sanders campaign has told its delegates–and I know there was a conference call where Sanders spoke to delegates. And I think the guidelines that are coming from the Sanders campaign itself is that the only fight they want to wage is on the rules, the issue of get rid of superdelegates or greatly minimize their role, open primaries across the country. But there does not seem to be any appetite from the Sanders campaign to wage a fight over the vice presidency, vice presidential pick. How is that going to affect how effective all of this opposition might be?
SOLOMON: Well, the Bernie Delegates Network is totally and has always been totally independent of the Bernie campaign. And you’re quite right that, about eight days ago now, Bernie spoke to us on the phone and said the only fight that he thinks has a chance of winning and that he wants to pursue to the convention floor is out of the rules committee, having to do with, as you said, superdelegates and the need for open primaries, which was such a crying need in states like New York, with some really bad results through choking off Democratic lower-case “c” possibilities. So at this point Bernie is saying, hey, we’re not taking on any other fights to the floor as a official campaign than those about the structure and functioning of the Democratic Party.
That does not mean the delegates don’t want to do it and won’t proceed to try to bring platform planks to the floor. When we surveyed our delegates just in the last couple of days, we found that the overwhelming majority, somewhere around 70 percent of the delegates, want to take the TPP to the floor and believe we have a right to do that and an intent to do that. And as well, way upwards of half want to go with the single-payer issue as well, take that to the floor. A full half of them said they want to take the issue of climate change and the global emergency that exists around climate, also take that to the floor. So there’s a, if not disconnect, at least a divergence, which I think is appropriate.
You know, Bernie has always said, it’s not about me. OK, it’s not about him. Bernie has always said change comes from the bottom up, not the top down. OK, we’re at the bottom, we’re grassroots; we’re going to fight for change in Philadelphia on the convention floor.
JAY: Now, when I talked to people at a conference that took place in Chicago a few weeks ago, about 3,000 people, mostly Bernie Sanders activists, people that have been campaigning for him, there are a lot of people were saying they were kind of furious with the way things had turned out. They felt that the primary itself had not been fair, that some of the votes had been rigged, the role of the DNC did not seem to be very neutral, and so on. There’s a lot of anger about the Democratic Party. And there was talks about sit-ins by delegates at the convention, walkouts. How far do you think this might go? I know Sanders has tried to quiet this down with that phone call. And then there’s the argument, which I guess is being made–I haven’t heard overtly, but I assume it’s being made–that with Trump and what many people characterize the Republican Party as, a kind of neofascism, that you can’t risk a big division and split and fight at the Democratic Party convention without looking chaotic and not fit to govern and so on, and that will help Trump. How much does that concern you as these lines of challenge are pursued?
SOLOMON: Well, here are a few strands of what you mentioned. First, to clarify, Bernie on the call to us delegates never told us what not to do; he just said what he and the campaign are going to pursue. And from that time to this, I’ve never heard, formally or informally–and I don’t think any other delegates, at least that I’m aware of, have heard from the Sanders campaign we do want you to protest or we don’t want you to protest. That’s going to be up to delegates ourselves to figure out.
Of course, there is a huge concern about the fact that the Trump campaign represents some neofascist, certainly racist, outright Xenophobic nativist forces. And I think the Sinclair Lewis novel title is–had alluded to so many decades ago, the idea that It Can’t Happen Here I think is foolish. You don’t have to be dressed like a traditional Nazi storm trooper to be the advanced vanguard for fascist forces. You don’t have to be goose-stepping. As the saying goes, fascism can come wrapped in the American flag. So I really disagree with those who discount the threat of Trump or simply conflate the two parties. I just think that’s objectively wrong.
At the same time, the threat of Trump does not mean that we should quiet our truth-telling or our activism to challenge the militarism, the corporatism represented by, embodied by, now, the candidacy for vice president of Hillary Clinton. So we are in a bind. There are needles to thread.
I think the best way to thread it is to say, look, if you live in a safe state–New York, Maryland, Texas, California–where it’s clear it’s a virtual 100 percent certainty where all those electoral votes are going to go, don’t worry about it if you’re progressive. If you want to vote for Jill Stein, do it. What’s the problem here? Why agonize endlessly about it? The real issue is 12 to 15 states where a minority–but a significant minority–of American voters live that are genuinely swing states. You just go up and down the coast in the midsection of the country. The East Coast you’ve got Florida, you have perhaps Maine, you have Virginia, Ohio, a few other important swing states.
JAY: So, at the convention at some point one of the delegations is going to put into nomination a resolution: we nominate whoever that is, fill in the blank, and for the sake of argument let’s assume you’re right and it’s one of these people on this list of corporate Democrats or someone like that. Do you think we’re going to see some delegations that vote no? Are we going to hear yells and cries, “No”? And might there be a point of confrontation where the gavel is hit and the chair of the convention says, I call for a unanimous vote in favor of (fill in the blank) and we hear a round of nos? Is this what we’re likely to be seeing?
SOLOMON: Well, just to finish the thought, I think in the swing states it’s important. And I agree with Noam Chomsky that hold your nose–I mean, people need to make their own decision, but the rational decision to make–I agree with Noam Chomsky on this–is if you’re in one of those few swing states, hold your nose and vote for Clinton, or at least don’t pretend that you’re helping to stop Trump by voting for a third party in those swing states, ’cause you’re not.
Now, your question about the fill in the blank, at this point, vice presidential choice of Hillary Clinton, in the 2008 convention, when Joe Biden was selected by Obama, there was a voice vote, and that’s all there was. There is no roll call, there was no individual digits provided as to how many votes came out of each delegation. As a matter of fact, as an Obama delegate at the time, history will not record, but I may have been the only person to vote against, ’cause I shouted “no” during the voice vote.
But that’s all pro forma. The only questions are, on the vice presidential question, from a procedural matter, are who the person’s going to be, and then how we’re going to respond as delegates. And I think it’s, to me, from the data, from anecdotal conversations with Bernie delegates around the country, if Hillary Clinton proceeds to choose a corporate militarist for the vice presidential slot, there’s going to be an uproar on the convention floor. And there should be.
JAY: Alright. Thanks very much for joining us, Norman.
SOLOMON: Thank you, Paul.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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