We may see in Milwaukee next year an event that few of us have ever experienced. A procedure so interesting, so volatile, so dramatic, that the GOP has not dared to touch it since 1948, the Dems since 1952.
A brokered convention.
By broker we mean that nobody wins on the first ballot and then the horsetrading begins by the “brokers,” the proverbial players in the smoke-filled back rooms. Though with the Dems it could be the hookah smoke-filled back rooms. Given that Dem rules allow the dreaded machine robot superdelegates to enter the fray on a second ballot and beyond, it makes the whole thing, as Hans Landa would say, “a Bin-go!” for political junkies of any persuasion.
The scenario for this to happen is already taking place before our eyes. Lots of Dem contenders, but only a handful in the top tier. As they jostle in the early primaries, several in the second tier could build up enough of a minor delegate count to stop a first ballot victory by any one of the big kids. Now, you say, there have been lots of primary candidates before, like the GOP in 2016, why didn’t it happen then?
The GOP was hungering for a paladin to wipe away the Obama years and was willing to accept an outsider who had few if any IOUs and was beholden to almost nobody. Because of such he represented a wide swath of a party that put ideological purity second to defeating the loathed Mao in a pantsuit.
The Dems could do that too and nominate a perceived moderate like Biden. But they could also, way more amusingly, fragment in such a way that no one has that wide swath. And if identitarian politics continues to hold sway with the Dems, expect candidates of various demographics to carve out niche support, but perhaps not much past that. So instead of the big city bosses of yore you’d have Boss Harris of blacks and some females, Boss Warren of guilty white liberals and some females, and Boss Bernie of the out and out commies. And so on.
There will not be a better political party popcorn moment this cycle aside from possibly election night.
The Dems would come out of it fractured as the GOP did when Dewey lost to Truman in 1948 (even with Thurmond in the mix) and they themselves did when Stevenson lost to Ike in 1952. That would not bode well for their chances in November.
Chaos, mayhem, and disunity. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of Bolshies.