According to the Washington Free Beacon, journalist Nate Silver is suggesting that there exists a high probability that the 2020 Democratic Convention will become a “brokered convention” due to the likely large number of candidates expected to run for president that year. Also, reforms that are intended to decrease the power of superdelegates, party, and elected officials who vote for a nominee, will increase the probability of a drama happening that has not occurred in living memory, since 1952.

What is a brokered convention?

A brokered convention can happen when no candidate wins the majority of delegates on the first ballot.

Then, depending on party rules, delegates can vote according to their conscience and not by who won a state primary or caucus. In the classic scenario, the various candidates start to make deals behind the scenes, even offering up cabinet posts and judgeships to power brokers who promise to vote for them. A play and film written by Gore Vidal, entitled “The Best Man,” captures the intrigue and drama of a brokered convention neatly.

Why do pundits love the idea of a brokered convention?

The question kind of answers itself. The beauty of covering a brokered convention is that no one knows for sure how they will turn out. Reporters will spend endless hours chasing down rumors of the wheeling and dealing in the back rooms (they will no longer be called “smoke-filled rooms” due to modern sensibilities).

On-air experts will be able to offer half-informed speculation about what is “really going on.” Finally, people will make millions writing books about a brokered convention after the fact.

Why are the Democrats doing this?

Everything stems from the use of superdelegates. The Democrats developed the superdelegate rule to prevent the nomination of an unelectable demagogue, the theory being that party elders would know more about who can win and who cannot than the hoi polloi who vote in primaries and caucuses.

The system worked brilliantly in 2016 by stopping Bernie Sanders and nominating Hillary Clinton instead.

The problem is two-fold. First, Hillary Clinton, thought to have an inside shot at being elected president, turned out to be just as unelectable, if not more so that Sanders. No one thought that anyone could lose to Donald Trump, but she managed.

The second problem is that disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters are spearheading the drive to “reform” the rules by stripping the superdelegates of much of their power. That means, if Nate Silver is correct, that in 2020 it will be anyone’s game and anyone can win. Unfortunately, the Democrats will have solved one problem and caused another by having their nominee decided by deal making and not the will of the people.

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