Could Sanders’ Continued Fight Mean Chaos for the Philly DNC in July?

Bernie Sanders says he’s staying in the race. Will he change his tune before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this July?

Bernie Sanders - Solidarity is Power

Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign stop in April at the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Convention in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A month ago, Republicans looked primed to have a contentious summer political convention.

There were still multiple candidates in the race for president. Donald Trump was the frontrunner, but seemed unlikely to get a majority of delegates before the July convention. There were whispers of a brokered convention. Trump said his supporters would riot if there was a brokered convention. “I think you’d have riots,” Trump said on CNN.” “I’m representing a tremendous many, many millions of people.”

Funny how that worked out. Trump hasn’t lost a primary since Wisconsin, on April 5th. He won New York on April 19th. He won five primaries, including Pennsylvania, on April 26th. His remaining rivals dropped out after he won Indiana on May 3rd. Without competition, he’s swept every primary since. He will get enough delegates to be the nominee well before the convention. He’s already released his presumptive Supreme Court nominees.

Meanwhile, the Democratic primary is dragging on. What if, as Harry Reid proposed (albeit mostly rhetorically back in February), it’s the Democratic National Convention — here in Philadelphia from July 25th to 28th — that’s the chaotic one?

Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders in pledged delegates, 1,768 to 1,494. She leads him in superdelegates — party leaders and other folks who can vote for who they want — 525 to 39. That gives her 2,293 delegates in all. She only needs 90 of the remaining 939 delegates up for grabs to get the nomination. It is almost certain she will be the nominee.

But Sanders is sticking around. Sanders split a pair of primaries with Clinton on Tuesday — winning Oregon and losing a close race in Kentucky. “Let me be as clear as I can be,” Sanders said that night. “We are in till the last ballot is cast!” Sanders’ supporters are saying the primary has been rigged, or at least tilted, in Clinton’s favor: Sanders has attacked closed primaries that don’t allow independents to vote, while Sanders’ supporters caused havoc at the Nevada convention after they felt it wasn’t fair to their candidate.

Sanders backers threatened Nevada Democratic leaders. One man texted Democratic state party chairwoman Roberta Lange to tell her that “someone will hurt you.” Another text read: “We know where you live, where you work, where you eat.” While Sanders decried violence in a statement, he added that “the Democratic leadership used its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place.”

And, citing exit polls, Academy Award-winning actor Tim Robbins says the election is rigged. Other Bernie backers allege outright vote-machine hacking by the Clinton camp.

This could all blow over. Eight years ago this month, it was Hillary Clinton who vowed to stay in the race. Much like today, prominent party officials said Clinton’s stance was damaging to party unity. Up to half of Clinton supporters said they wouldn’t vote for Obama. The Democrats were in disarray!

Clinton then dropped out of the race in early June, and Obama won easily in November. That may happen again. Joe Biden is calm about the whole thing: “I’m confident that Bernie will be supportive if Hillary wins, which the numbers indicate will happen. So I’m not worried. There’s no fundamental split in the Democratic Party.”

But so far, Sanders has vowed to fight on. The New York Times reported this week Sanders was “newly resolved to remain in the race, seeing an aggressive campaign as his only chance to pressure Democrats into making fundamental changes to how presidential primaries and debates are held in the future.” He’s also holding out hope, the report says, that some screwup by Clinton will hand him the nomination.

“The only thing that matters is what happens between now and [the last primary on] June 14th,” Sanders adviser Tad Devine told the Times. “We have to put the blinders on and focus on the best case to make in the upcoming states. If we do that, we can be in a strong position to make the best closing argument before the convention. If not, everyone will know in mid-June, and we’ll have to take a hard look at where things stand.”

Meanwhile, yesterday Sanders supporters said they would stage protests at this summer’s Democratic National Convention. The Inquirer reports the city approved four Sanders supporters’ protest permits. Those protesters, who plan marches and convention-long rallies at FDR Park in South Philadelphia, say they’ll have up to 35,000 attendees.

Political observers predict, as they did eight years ago, that this Democratic disarray is helping Republicans. Dick Polman calls it “Bernie Sanders’ sore-loser decision to wreak havoc on Hillary Clinton and thus serve as a useful idiot for Donald Trump.”

Basically, Hillary Clinton is going to wrap up the nomination sometime in the next few weeks. But Sanders wants changes to the Democratic platform and to future nominating rules. He’s going to try to use the political capital he’s earned in the last year to get them. That could happen before the convention, at the convention, or not at all.

Democratic infighting didn’t continue to the convention in 2008. It remains to be seen whether it will continue until 2016. Either way, it’s looking like the Philadelphia convention could be a messy one this year.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.