Matthews: Could we just nominate Schiff at a brokered convention?

Old and busted: Trump versus the Socialist! New hotness: Trump versus the Deep State!

Actually, this suggestion from Chris Matthews serves to remind everyone that just because something can be done does not mean it should be done. Matthews wonders in this panel discussion if a brokered convention could produce a nomination for Adam Schiff to run against Donald Trump, but that’s less an endorsement than an explanation of the grim possibilities now facing Democrats. If no one won enough delegates to seal the nomination on the first few ballots at the Democratic convention, it could go to literally anyone.

Even Adam Schiff, as inadvisable as that might be:

As establishment Democrats grow wary of a Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) nomination, MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews raised the possibility of Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) emerging as the Democratic nominee during a contested convention.

“How about Adam Schiff?” Matthews asked during a discussion about the primary nomination. “Could they all agree let’s give it to Schiff?” …

Matthews raised the possibility of Schiff’s nomination after asking his panel whether anyone could receive the nomination if it’s not decided by the time of the Democratic National Convention this July. He was told the nomination “could go to anyone,” whether they ran in the primary or not.

In a bygone era, national conventions were the actual mechanism by which nominees were selected. After adopting several election reforms in the late 19th century, the US moved toward more open processes that tended to dilute the importance of the convention itself. Primaries became the most common method rather than caucuses and state conventions for selecting delegates, and after this week in Iowa will likely become the only method within the next decade or so.

Open conventions have become rare, with the 1984 Democratic convention being the most recent without a settled nominee by delegate count in recent memory. When they do occur, delegates are usually bound to the voters’ preference (and usually their own) for the first few ballots. After that, though, they can go their own way, and the convention ends up turning into a very large, veeeeerrry public Iowa Caucus. They could pick anyone eligible for the presidency as their nominee — you, me, the sanitation collector, or (ahem) Hillary Clinton, whose name also comes up in this conversation.

We get discussions of open conventions every cycle, usually because pundits salivate over the prospect rather than its likelihood. This is different, however; Democrats might end up praying for an open convention to stop Bernie Sanders from getting the nomination, and might start strategizing to create that situation if he wins in New Hampshire and on Super Tuesday. This won’t be the last or most serious discussion of the open-convention option, especially if Joe Biden can’t get back on track by the last week of the month.

If that’s what happens, though, hoo boy. An open convention that tries to take the nomination away from Sanders in Milwaukee will make 1968 look like 1996. The Bernie Bros will go to war with establishment Democrats and the party will split down the middle as a result. It’d be a nightmare for Democrats and maybe a violent one at that, but it’d be perfect for Donald Trump’s re-election efforts.

Even if it did happen, the alternative would have to be someone who’s either run in this cycle or who has a high enough national profile to overcome concerns about capability. Who would the contenders be? One possibility would be Hillary, but she botched a winnable election with the party (mostly) united behind her in 2016. John Kerry might be a better choice (although he also lost a winnable race in 2004), but I’d bet on Eric Holder being the compromise candidate — enough cred with the establishment, solid links to the progressives, and the ability to check the identity-politics box.

One thing’s for sure: it wouldn’t be Adam Schiff. Not unless Democrats really have a suicide wish in 2020, in which case they’d be better off letting Bernie blow the election and marginalize the radical-progressive wing for years, if not decades. Have fun storming the Milwaukee castle!

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David Strom 8:30 PM | February 22, 2024