Joe Biden and Democrat leaders are pushing to postpone or cancel the party’s nominating convention, a move that could ensure the former vice president becomes the stand bearer with limited opposition.
Biden, who has come under scrutiny for the tactic establishment Democrats have taken to boost his candidacy in recent months, told MSNBC on Tuesday it was “hard to envision” the convention taking place if the Coronavirus pandemic continues ravaging the country.
“We should listen to the scientists. And you know one of the reasons why the Democratic convention was going to be held early was the Olympics were coming after the Republican convention,” Biden said during an interview with Brian Williams.
“We ought to be able to do what we were able to do in the middle of the Civil War … [have] conventions, and primaries, and elections, and still have public safety,” the former vice president added. “We’re able to do both, but the fact is that it may have to be different.”
Biden’s suggestion was echoed on Wednesday by more than 40 state and local Democrat leaders, according to CBS News. Included among the list are top Biden surrogates, like Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO). The Missouri Democrat told Fox News that although the situation remained fluid, the chance of a convention taking place was unlikely.
“I’m not sure we’re going to have a convention,” Cleaver said, adding the he hoped the Democratic National Convention would choose to do “something that won’t bring thousands of people together to kill each other ultimately with COVID-19.”
Left unsaid, though, is that scrapping the convention would all but ensure Joe Biden becomes the Democrat nominee, with little opposition. If the party was unable to convene in person, it is likely that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and his progressive allies would be limited in being able to extort concessions from Biden and the party for their support. It would also prevent any last minute attempts to wrest the nomination away from Biden on the convention floor, much like progressives attempted to do at the 1968 convention.
The prospect of a Biden coronation was first raised last month by another of the former vice president’s top allies, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), ahead of the former vice president’s landslide victory in the Michigan primary.
“I think when the night is over, Joe Biden will be the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination,” Clyburn said. “I think it is time for us to shut this primary down.”
“You don’t do anything but get yourself in trouble if you continue in this contest when it’s obvious that the numbers will not shake out for you,” the majority whip added.
Clyburn’s comments at the time elicited widespread rebuke from Sanders supporters, many of whom alleged the establishment was attempting to rig the nomination against their candidate.